Until you’ve had the honour of being a part of someone’s final celebration you have no idea what the true meaning of what we do is. I’ve said it before and I will say it every time I am asked to be a part of a celebration of life, this is by far the most rewarding work I have ever done.
There is such a range of emotion that happens while planning events like these. There is an instant need because once someone passes away the family would like the formalities to be taken care of within a few days so on our end everything stops. Everything else we are working on stops and the focus is now entirely on preparing for an event that is now only days away. We spend the next couple of days learning some of the most intimate details about our client’s family member – their favourite foods, their favourite colours, their prize possessions and along with that often comes the pleasure of hearing many wonderful stories about these individuals too. If we are on site during the event we see the pain and the sorrow of all the people who loved the individual. But we also see the joy in their eyes when they talk about wonderful moments with him or her. With all the emotions in the room our job is stay focussed and do our best to not get caught up in the feelings.
This particular celebration was a little more meaningful for me then usual because I knew Michelle. I didn’t know her well but I had had the pleasure of working with her on an event about a year ago for a friend of hers. When I received the call from her circle of friends, the same friends I had worked with previously, I was of course honoured that they asked me to help. Within the hour I was on site for our one and only meeting that would happen before the event that was only now days away.
Our team takes a lot of pride in making sure every detail is perfect, especially in the case of a celebration of life where our job is to ensure everyone in attendance feels that the individual we are celebrating is reflected in the colours, the food, the memorabilia around the room. In Michelle’s case the choice of flowers was easily made by her friends and from there the rest of the design concept we were in charge of was easy.
My favourite part of a celebration of life is including the one item, the one special thing that would be the perfect reminder of him or her. In Michelle’s case it was the two adirondack chairs, the gorgeous red chairs. Her friends’ faces lit up when they thought of the chairs and they said “they are her”. I love those moments. To see that look in their eyes and you know they are seeing her sitting in those chairs, probably having shared many a glass of wine with her in them.
The death of someone you love is such a difficult moment. A moment you wish you could never experience. Trying to make decisions at a time like that is so hard, you can hardly think straight let alone make a decision that matters. I know when my time comes the last thing I want is to be remembered in a long line of people standing in a funeral home as they shuffle by my family. That works for some people and I understand but for those that would prefer not to be remembered that way, a celebration of your life is such a wonderful option. Rules about funerals have changed and now you can be celebrated the way you want to be. I encourage you to think about it and make some decisions about what exactly you want when your time comes, and let your family know. We had a friend who passed away this year and if the decision had been mine the service would have been on our local baseball diamond where he grew up and where I know he would have loved to be. I recently saw a post for a celebration and the name of the event was “The Party that Patty Wanted”. I didn’t get to check out the details but from the sounds of it, it was the celebration of life for a woman who knew exactly what she wanted when her time came and her family and friends were honouring that.
A celebration of life helps to remind people of the wonderful moments everyone shared, not so much about the fact that they’re gone. I truly believe it is a more wonderful way to manage a very difficult time and leaves everyone feeling grateful for having known him or her.
"Again, thank you to you and your team for making the room look so warm and welcoming. Several people, including the mayor, commented that they have never seen the community centre look so good! And it was such a relief to Anita, Jenny and me to know that the décor portion of the event was in good hands. The entire day was actually quite a happy one (despite floods of tears at the service); we all needed to let go of the sadness and celebrate!"