“Life is what you celebrate. All of it. Even its end.” ― Joanne Harris, Chocolat

I used to think I wanted to fade away without any fanfare into eternity. Maybe it’s because in life I’m uncomfortable with any sort of extra attention. I’ve never been an “all eyes on me” type gal. I realize that this is a self-centered way to look at death. After all, I won’t even be around to attend my own ceremony. The end of life celebration is really about those who are left behind. It is our family and friends who will need to adjust to life without us, and they deserve some closure.

Why We Need End of Life Celebrations

Celebrating A Life To Acknowledge It Had Meaning

When I think of my family and friends, I can’t imagine not celebrating their lives once they leave this earth. Each one of these lovely individuals made a difference in my life while they were here. To celebrate them is my way of expressing gratitude and acknowledging that their life brought meaning and purpose to my own. Failing to memorialize these beautiful souls would leave me empty and numb inside. Ultimately, the failure to recognize a life is a failure to recognize our own humanity.

With the advent of social media, our society is willing to discuss a lot of matters, but death is still not one of them. And when death visits, we get it over with as soon as possible. Even the traditional two day viewing with the funeral on the third is giving way to a quick memorial service.

I can count the times I’ve heard people declare, “I hate funerals!” myself included.

Discussing End-Of-Life Celebrations

Yes, they are uncomfortable and awkward and sad. Recently, I brought up the subject with my mom as I didn’t know her end of life wishes. I could see a cringe spread across her face.

I forged ahead. “Do you want a service in Florida or Michigan? A mass or a memorial service? Where would you like the luncheon?”

I followed my barrage of questions with an explanation. Being more traditional, I wanted to make sure she was honored according to her wishes. It’s a good thing I asked because some of her answers surprised me.

Remembering Friends in Unique Ways

I’ve noticed that we often refer to memorials and funerals as end-of-life celebrations. I’m glad we’ve made the switch. A celebration carries a much better vibe than the word funeral. When I think of the people closest to me, I imagine celebrating their lives in unique ways.

For instance, I couldn’t say goodbye to one good friend without raising a mug of Oberon. With another, I picture a more traditional goodbye. Finally, there’s that one person whom I know would want her ashes scattered on a party boat out at sea. I hope the rise of direct cremations doesn’t negate the need for a celebration.

Why We Need End of Life Celebrations

De-Stigmatizing Death

Whether it be with family or friends, talking about death, asking about a person’s wishes, and celebrating a life shouldn’t be a taboo or uncomfortable topic. Watch the news; the media bombards us with death. It’s ironic that we are surrounded with death in movies, TV, and the news, yet struggle to hold a conversation with our loved ones about the topic.

In his book, The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker writes, “The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else.” I think we will live our best lives when we stop tiptoeing around our fear of death and face what is a natural part of life. If we forgo an end of life celebration, we are essentially avoiding our own mortality while failing to celebrate the miracle that is life.