Personalizing My Grandpa’s Funeral and the Value of his Funeral Ceremony

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Four years ago my Grandpa passed away. This was the first funeral that I had to attend in my life. Being somebody that has worked in the funeral profession for over fifteen years, it was interesting to finally have to experience the loss of a loved one for the very first time.

At my Grandpa’s funeral we used many products to further personalize the funeral to give the best possible experience for our friends and family. We created the ultimate funeral register book with tons of photos that we had of my Grandpa. Every year all the grandchildren went back to Minnesota to hunt with my Grandpa. So as you can imagine, we had a lot of hunting photos throughout the register book. Some other information we included were family recipes, like my Grandpa’s favorite chocolate chip cookies and chicken and dumplings. We included a couple veteran pages and put in his old military photos from the Korean war. We even inserted his birth certificate and death certificate.

Other family members liked the funeral register book so much, that we made additional copies and handed them out so they could take the register book home as a keepsake. Since the register book we used has a photo that you can insert on the front of it, all of our family members have it displayed on a shelf or on the coffee table at home.

Another item that we produced was the personalized funeral candle. We chose a hunting theme for the background. Then picked out our five most favorite photos and included them on the front and the sides of the candle. On the back of the candle, we included our favorite poem. At the visitation, we lit the candle and sat it next to the register book. It had a soft glowing effect and gave life to all the photos. As our guests walked through the door, they all commented about the funeral candle and said how wonderful they thought it looked. For me personally, the funeral candle gave off a feeling of peace and comfort. I think the funeral candle created a very nice touch and enhanced the overall experience for everyone.

The funeral program was the next thing that we wanted to be the most personalized item possible. Most funeral homes today use a simple two up memorial folder that is kind of small and only allows for a few photos and some text. However, we used a full legal size sheet of paper that we then tri-folded to make the ultimate funeral program. The funeral program included about ten different photos, my Grandpa's life story, and the service information. It was very important to us that every single person who attend the funeral had my Grandpa’s life story that they could take home with them. We felt there was no better way than the funeral program.

One of my most favorite things that we created for my Grandpa’s funeral was the memorial tribute video. I personally worked with my mom to help gather all the photos throughout my Grandpa’s life. We tried to include photos from when he was a baby all the way up to when he passed. The thing that was most important to me was that we could play the tribute video at the church and have it be the last thing that we do. The reason why that was important to me was because I wanted everyone to remember all the photos, and remember him with how he looked during his life, not what he looked like when he was in the casket. I think the neatest thing about the tribute video was how we used the very last photo. Since my Grandpa was a truck driver all his life, we had special photo with my grandpa sitting in his truck and waving good bye out the window. This particular photo was the last trip my Grandpa had to make before he retired. But the significance of him waving good bye and inserting that as our last photo in the tribute video was pretty overwhelming. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the entire church.

Although I had been in the funeral profession for over fifteen years, I still did not really truly understand the value of the funeral ceremony until I had to experience it for myself. Since my Grandpa was a Korean war veteran, we had a full twenty one gun salute with military honors. Leading up to the twenty one gun salute, I personally was doing pretty well. To that point I did not shed a tear. Looking at it hindsight, things were building up inside that I did not know. After the twenty one gun salute and flag folding, it was then at that time, it was my job, along with my brothers (we were pallbearers) to load my Grandpa into the back of the hearse. I remember very distinctly, the moment I heard and saw the back door of the hearse slam shut, that’s when I finally came to the realization that was Grandpa is no longer here. That’s when all the emotion came out and I could begin the healing process. Today, I still believe, without that funeral ceremony, I would have never let out the emotion I needed to in order to start healing.

For all the people in the world who have decided to do direct cremation with no service just to save a few dollars, I urge you to strongly reconsider. The funeral is not for you. The funeral is for your friends and family to be able to start the healing process.

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