Anytime a loved one dies, there is pain involved. It doesn’t really matter if the death is anticipated or a surprise, the sorrow is deep and real. Along with handling these emotions, a memorial service needs to be planned. This is where things can often go south and miss the mark quickly. Here’s why…
Other than perhaps a ninety-five-year-old dying in his or her sleep, death promises to be an extremely painful experience. The younger the deceased, the more painful it becomes. When you combine this challenge with the responsibility required to plan a memorial service, things can become very disorientating and confusing. “What should we do?” “How should we do it?” “What should we say?” “Who should say it?” All questions that need to be answered when emotions are at an all time high. But probably the better question to ask and answer is, “What does God want you to do?”
Ecclesiastes 7:2, 4 – It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart… The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
Simply stated, it is better to go to a memorial service than a party because of the lessons that can be learned. This means memorial services have a purpose and can be productive if done in the right way.
So what is the right way? How can we hit the mark?
1. Address Death Head On
A memorial service takes place because someone has died and we have to continue life without that person. That is hard! It is painful! But within this pain, Scripture highlights there are things we can learn. In other words, in death, there are things that will help us live.
Unfortunately, many memorial services today try to minimize the pain of death by avoiding the topic altogether. We use terms like “celebration” or “passing”, rather than “memorial” or “died” in order to feel better about the situation. Although this may appear to minimize the sting of death, it will only delay the pain to a later date and also hinder the important life lessons to be learned.
The reality is death is hard and no one likes it, yet we are all going to die (John 11:35). The reality is God never intended us to die, but our sin has caused death to enter the world (Genesis 2:15-3:7). The reality is Jesus came to pay for our sin, so there is hope beyond the grave (John 11:25-26). These are all important topics to ponder at a memorial service and they can have a life changing impact on how we live. It will cause a reassessment of priorities and what is truly important in life.
It will cause a reassessment about eternity and how to prepare for it. It will provide a path for healthy grieving rather than denial and avoidance. It addresses what has really taken place and also provides life-changing opportunities for the future. Addressing death head on may not feel good, but it will lead to good and help with the grieving process (see also my blog post, My Near Death Experience).
2. Balance Death With Life
The death of a loved one is simply the final moment of their life; it doesn’t define their life. Death is only a small part of their story. Even in suicide situations, a person’s life should not be defined by their final moment (see my blog post, Suicide: The Unforgivable Sin?).
Scripture says that God has created life and every person reflects His image in varying ways (Genesis 1:26). In other words, every person’s life is significant and has value and meaning. This is something that should be honored, celebrated, and always remembered. Memorial services are important times for this to take place. When we cry over the loss of a loved one, it means they have touched our lives, they have held a special place in our hearts. That needs to be acknowledged and celebrated. Memorial services should always be a balance between life and death. This provides a complete picture of a person’s life, honoring their impact and influence, as well as the legacy they leave behind. There are important lessons to be learned from a person’s life and death as long as the balance takes place.
Agreed, no one likes the topic of death or dying. No one looks forward to attending a memorial service. But if we approach them in the proper way and don’t miss the mark, they can be life changing and honoring both for the living and those who have died.
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