Planning The End Of Life Celebration
We recently put up a post about the goodbye party. One may think that this is frivolous stuff, but perhaps it is something more. The way you approach the end of your life can be an act of compassion for others. Here is an excerpt from our caregiving book about how to plan your end of life celebration.
As you gain acceptance and get more comfortable with your own death, you may want to start planning your or your loved one’s end of life celebration. It is a ceremony that lets you say goodbye. It’s actually an act of compassion for those around you. Everything is taken care of – all the arrangements have been made as per your work with the planning the end of your life – “a modest proposal” above. In planning the ceremony, you may discover things that you have left unfinished, so this is your chance to clear them up now and celebrate your efforts.
End of Life Celebrations are put in place like a wedding planner organizes a wedding. The idea is to celebrate a person’s life by honoring all that was important to him, with details becoming as elaborate as one’s imagination will take them. There can be a theme, a play, a dance, a musical or concert, a costume party, a reading, etc. There might be someone who has put together a video presentation of the person’s life or some other artistic endeavor to represent the person’s life and memory. Maybe the person enjoyed some particular food, scent, sound, color or image that can be included in the event. Perhaps that person loved a particular actor, car, flower. Maybe they had an impressive career that they would like to honor. The venue can be representative of that particular love: a garden, a park, a church, the vet center, a special building or museum. The point is that this celebration would be an experience for those attending, where the life of the deceased would be honored and celebrated rather than just strictly mourned.
For some who find themselves at the end of life, it is possible that they would like to have this end of life celebration before they die so that they can attend. This is always an option. Or, if the person does not wish to attend while living, he may wish to participate in the planning of it, like he would a funeral. This particular dialogue can be very heart-warming and helpful to all involved, as they face the letting go of a loved one. Although there is obvious sadness in the notion of losing a loved one, there can be joy, laughter, storytelling and reflection — all part of the actual planning and implementation of the celebration itself.
The details of the planning are important. The end of life planner needs to organize every aspect of the celebration: from the venue to the table settings, napkins, nut cups and, of course, the menu. There will be the guest list and seating arrangements and the sequence of events for the celebration. The particular events can be as elaborate or as simple as the family wishes and are likely to reflect the style in which the honoree lived his or her life. This requires that the EOL (End of Life) planner research the deceased’s life and get “a feel” for what that life represented and what was important to that person. The feel of the event, the mood, the activities themselves will all represent the various aspects of the person’s life that he or she would enjoy if attending the event.
The target audience will be those people who felt they actually lived a life worth celebrating. It is important in the celebration planning to get to know what the deceased loved and enjoyed in life, and then with imagination, begin to create a celebration that is the image of those things. The family can choose to participate as little or as much in the planning as they wish. Sometimes it is nice for them to not have to deal with the planning of the details in their grief, and a good EOL planner can relieve many worries. The EOL planner is like a guide for the family in creating a special and memorable celebration, walking them through the details of the celebration itself, which is guided by learning about the important details of the person’s life that is being celebrated. It is a community event, pulling together the loved ones of the deceased as well as the larger community – for those who knew the deceased and those merchants in the community that offer services for floral arrangements, catering, ice sculptures, the local musical group, clothing stores, etc. An EOL Celebration requires as much community effort as a wedding and can have the same joyous impact and effort. Certainly if religious or spiritual practices are important, there should be inclusion of those rituals and/or practitioners.
The EOL celebration is different than a funeral. It is a celebration that reflects the person’s life through all venues of expression that can be imagined. With a wedding, all emotions are felt and good wishes for the newlyweds are expressed. With an EOL celebration, good wishes for the deceased are offered for their life and their journey on, beyond this world.