What is the Difference between a Celebration of Life and a Funeral?

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When did you attend your last funeral? Think about when and where you were. Did you walk out of the service feeling like the person being memorialized was really described in a way that made you glad to have known them? Or did you feel like you were in the exact same kind of funeral service that you’ve been attending for years? Did it feel personal and helpful for you to attend?

Traditional funerals are often held in a church, with 90% of the words of comfort offered being the same as with all of your other friends’ services. It truly helps when there’s a minister or clergy member who’s known your loved one for many years. They describe their life so personally that you feel confident they truly knew your loved one and liked them.

Although standard funerals can be held in churches, both traditional services and Celebrations of Life can be held in church sanctuaries. Your goal is to exit the service, having said a proper goodbye to the one you loved or regarded and feel like the impact of that life here was noted and stated. Traditional funerals focus on family trees and where someone fits into the family generations. It’s often about the person you once knew.

What is a Celebration of Life?

Celebrations of life are focused entirely on bringing to the front of focus the things, people, fur babies, and good times of a life that was unforgettable. Some people are beloved for different reasons, and that’s when it helps to have a storyteller to gather perspective, stories, and memories from family and friends and craft together the story of a life well lived.

Music, videos, and reminiscences are used to accent the best times together with your loved one. We can do this in our Funeral Center, in a church, and at graveside. Our Certified Life Celebrant, Dawn Lee Wakefield, was specifically trained to create services that are as comforting as her custom tributes she writes.

Funerals are meant to be a gathering where friends and family come together to remember a loved one, and all present join to show appreciation for having had someone special in his or her life.

By sharing memories of the person who passed, you make sure that their life is always remembered, especially during their best times. But to reach that point, you have to consider how it is you see a funeral at this point in your life. The kind of funeral you think you want for your loved one is based in some part by the experiences you had at the most formative times of your life. Your mind first jumps to everything you ever experienced that made you say, “That is not about to happen in my funeral.”

I describe services that our families have called “exemplary,” “unforgettable,” and “simply perfect.” It’s the first step we offer in helping your future planning. We are here for you. So the first thing we do is listen to you as you tell us what you do and don’t want in a funeral service. We don’t try to force you into decisions; what you want is the most important thing we want to hear.

Whether or not you have a burial, cremation, or a graveside service, we recommend setting aside a time for visitation, before or after the service itself. Experience has shown us that people who care about you need to come together to share with one another how much you meant in their lifetimes.

Many people insist, “I don’t want a fuss made over me. You don’t even have to have a ceremony.” And yes, at the time they say it, they are actually thinking about things that way. The one thing they stop to consider, though, if they’re thinking that, is it relates directly to others’ feelings. People basically want to tell their loved ones and beloved friends “goodbye.” The exact site and situation that includes that goodbye is important to you, but is very much more important to the ones left behind.

In the past five years we have been conducting our newer offerings, Celebrations of Life, we have added our own Certified Life Celebrant to create, or help you create, the kind of funeral service that you feel good about leaving those who mourn. You’re assuring them a chance to gather, remember the people important in your life, at all ages of your life. Your loved ones focus on the arrangement of our facility rooms as they set up a visitation where people see photographs, watch tribute videos, maybe enjoy beverages and light foods, and take the time to relax and reflect on what your life meant to them.

The reasons Celebrations of Life have become so popular is that, together with our 35-foot video wall, we can play the songs of any genre that you loved in your lifetime. Some of them form the true musical soundtrack of your life. Or they might have special meaning to you for specific reasons. They have an entirely different “feel” to them in that those gathered can be seated around large tables (in a socially distant and safe fashion), as they enjoy a meal after the formal service is concluded.

Callaway-Jones works with multiple local caterers, who are able to feed all your guests. They come and set up everything you need, and you are relieved of the pressure of everyone relocating to a local restaurant or coming to your home and then your survivors are left with the cleanup task at the end of a very long, emotional day.

Graveside services are popular right now so some people choose a visitation for friends and family here at our Funeral Center on one day and the next day, they’ll gather at the cemetery for a regular graveside funeral. Outdoor services, however, are very dependent on the weather conditions. Temperatures lately have been at an all-time high, so there’s that to consider. Fall is in the air, though, so we are seeing a willingness to invite guests to join together outdoors.

Another way we offer funerals is in the sanctuary of your church home. There are some cases where your home church is a setting for the Celebration of Life and our celebrant coordinates with your pastor on the structure of the ceremony to make certain the rituals and traditions of funerals according to your faith are conducted, yet with room to expand the memories beyond the traditional solo format of a church-based funeral on its own, which can seem at times to be a little bit like every other funeral you’ve ever attended.

The place, day, time, and format of saying goodbye to your friends and family is a highly personal decision, and the sooner you start to think about this matter, and to perhaps even discuss it with your oldest children or next of kin, in advance, helps others to know your specific rituals, especially after you are no longer here.

Be aware that whomever you name as your executor does more than just distribute money. They have agreed long before your passing that when the time comes, they would be there for you, at least one  last time. And your specific final wishes as you perceive you want them will be carried out.

It’s the words that are said and heard, the music that is shared, and a celebrant who can take family member’s requests and suggestions to heart and give you, their loved one, the kind of send-off that makes them say, “I’m so glad I came today. I got to learn a few new things about my longtime friend or family member.

Traditional classic burials are still part of what we do every day. Yet, we’re seeing more of the funerals and visitations in our new facility instead of churches. That we have a neutral site can be attractive to people who don’t want sorrow to be part of the day and let’s face it, there are times when a familiar church organ can bring you to tears with the beautiful, swell of pipes holding on during an instrumental.

Whatever you need or want, we are here to discuss your choices with you and offer full pricing, transparently, up front so you can actually plan the service ahead of time. It’s the best thing you can do with your days of good health and when you’re flush in funds.

No matter your choice, when you take the time to plan ahead you will always be making the right decision! We offer regular seminars together with our funeral directors, who stay current on the latest ideas in custom funeral design.

Good luck in your planning process!

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