When you think of a funeral, you might imagine people standing together, wishing they could say things they never expressed to their loved one. Whether a traditional ceremony, a wake, or other form of funeral, these all share something: their loved one can’t hear them.

An emerging tradition is changing all that. It’s called a living funeral and it’s a way to celebrate someone while they’re still alive – and there to hear everything friends and family want to share.

Why would someone choose a living funeral?

Ceremonies are memorable because of how they bring people together. For instance, weddings often have speeches, celebrating the couple and creating a bond between everyone. Why not include a similar experience in another facet of life that we all share – death? Why not embrace death as part of life and make it as full of connection as possible?

In the book Tuesdays with Morrie, Morrie reflects on his colleague’s passing. “What a waste,” he said. “All those people saying all those wonderful things, and Irv never got to hear any of it.” Morrie had a better idea. He made some calls. He chose a date. And on a cold Sunday afternoon, he was joined in his home by a small group of friends and family for his own living funeral.

This approach allows people to choose how they’d like to celebrate their life. When you plan your own living funeral, you can have a gathering that fits how you want to be remembered.

Saying goodbyes together can help you feel peace and empowerment in preparing for end-of-life. It’s a way to create closure between everyone, and leave nothing unsaid.

What is a living funeral like?

Another great thing about this approach is you can create it in any way you imagine.

You can include religious elements like hymns and prayers. It could be more like a retirement party, with speeches and festive decorations. Dinner, dancing, sharing stories and slide shows are common. Sometimes a person will read their will out loud to avoid confusion after they’re gone.

Another common ritual is visiting your final resting place and spending time there before you die. This can bring amazing peace, empowerment, and comfort.

At a place like Better Place Forests Berkshires – where people can choose a memorial tree as their resting place – visiting the forest is a beautiful way to do this. They can bring friends and family to explore the woods and help them choose their tree. They can visit as much as they like and develop a relationship with the land. This can help them come to terms with mortality in a soothing, even joyful, way. If you’re curious about this option, call us at 877-830-8311 – we’re happy to answer any questions.

“The idea of being part of a forest brought me peace and joy. This is what my tree, our walk through the forest, and my daughter’s understanding as we walked together brought me — and why I chose the tree I did. It was an incredible moment in time for us, and an opportunity for my only child and I to face my mortality with peace and love.” - Better Place Forests customer, Julia O.

In this setting, a living funeral is always an option. Including nature can bring ease and beauty to the event. And everyone will be included in the legacy of caring for the planet that takes care of us all.

How to plan a living funeral

The sky is the limit! You can create it in any way you like. Here are some starting points to help you plan.

  • Set the tone for the event. Do you want it to be somber or joyful, religious or agnostic? Your answers will influence the rest of your planning.
  • Choose a location. Living funerals can be in your home, favorite restaurant, community center, place of worship, local banquet hall, or any place of significance.
  • Ask guests to bring mementos like photos, jewelry, or other trinkets that symbolize a memory or special connection. These can be helpful icebreakers when sharing stories.
  • Appoint a friend or relative to act as the MC, or hire an officiant to help manage the flow of speakers and activities.
  • Cater — or ask friends to cook — your favorite foods. Food brings comfort, and sharing meals can be bonding.
  • Hire a videographer. The recording can be shared later and enjoyed during your final days.
  • Curate a playlist of your favorite music. Introduce people to your favorite songs, and celebrate with dancing.

Planning your end-of-life celebration is deeply personal. It can be just as unique as you are. If you’re curious about choosing a memorial tree as your resting place – and making conservation your legacy – schedule an online forest tour with us. We can help you start exploring your end-of-life plans and see if a tree in our Berkshires forest is right for you. For any questions, just give us a call at 877-830-8311.