How to Create Meaningful Memorial Activities

How can estate planning attorneys help families hold meaningful, memorable memorial activities, especially with the restrictions of a global pandemic?

Kyle Tevlin, founder of I Want a Fun Funeral, spoke about “Raising the Bar on Our Funeral Traditions” at the fourth annual Before I Die New Mexico Virtual Festival.

She showed a cartoon featuring two homo sapiens making cave paintings. The father had drawn a stick figure animal and the son had produced an illustration of a deer. The father says, “No Og, no! That’s not how we’ve always done it.”

“This is my analogy for funerals,” Tevlin explained. “We have this picture of what we think is great and we have no idea that there was something so much better, more elegant, and beautiful.”

Tevlin suggests making a memorial service a project that can help make the world a better place, take on a life of its own, and preserve the story of a loved one. She shared the inspiring example of Aaron Collins.

Aaron Collins died on July 7, 2012 at the age of 30. He left a note requesting that his family go out to eat and leave an “awesome tip,” suggesting $500 for a pizza. The experience was recorded and uploaded to YouTube by Aaron’s brother, Seth.

Generous people all over the world donated to reproduce “Aaron’s Last Wish” again and again. More than $60,000 was raised, Seth gave $500 tips to more than 100 waiters and waitresses. As a result, Aaron’s life story gets told over and over.

“From sadness and tragedy, now his family gets to talk about that loss with joy, a smile, and Aaron becomes a superhero who makes people happy,” said Tevlin. “This all only happened because Aaron Collins wrote this down ahead of time. The family only planned to do it once, but that’s all the more reason to do something little, because you don’t know where it’s going to take you.”

Tips for Engaging Memorial Actions

So, what do you do to be an engaged creator of a good goodbye? Tevlin recommends these seven tips to raise the bar on our funeral traditions.

  1. Brainstorm an objective for what you will do to honor a person. Find a theme, a vision related to the essence of that person. An objective makes it easier for people to contribute, participate, and generate a wonderful memory.
  2. Make your person’s personality shine, keyed to a hobby, passion, trait or quirk everyone will recognize. It can be fun or solemn, anything that is fitting.
  3. Decide the scope of the tribute, from an event for immediate family to a global affair on the Internet. Bigger isn’t necessarily better, but step outside your comfort zone a bit for a greater reward.
  4. “Roll Up Your Sleeves” means DIY as much as possible, enlisting the talents, contributions, creative ideas and resources within your circle. Involvement is where the bonding happens.
  5. Enjoy the process. While sadness is unavoidable, these activities should bring joy. It’s a way of thanking the person for being in your life, warming your heart and providing an uplifting feeling.
  6. Perfection is not required. Do what you can in whatever way you can, generating personal engagement and emotional connections.
  7. There’s no time limit. Whatever the action or event, it does not need to be done immediately. It can easily be held on an anniversary, birthday, or other meaningful date.

Whatever is done in honor of a loved one, make it an event. Give it a name. Almost any activity can be made into a contest, which is practically guaranteed to be fun and memorable.