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Memorial Services

Saying goodbye to a loved one is never easy, and this is something that we understand all too well. Our goal at Soxman Funeral Home is to make sure that you have the best possible experience, and that your family is able to properly say goodbye to the deceased.

Soxman Funeral Home thinks that it is very important that you understand our affordable memorial services in Pittsburgh that are available, so we have put together a few reference pages to educate you and help you decide.

 


 

What is a Memorial Service?

Unlike a traditional funeral, a memorial service is a gathering where a casket is not present (although the urn with the cremated remains may be on display). A memorial service can be held weeks or even months after the death.

A memorial service can be held in a church, the funeral home, or a community hall, or somewhere of importance to the deceased and family. There is usually music, selected readings, and a eulogy. Memorial services can be further personalized as a celebration-of-life.

Memorial Service Ideas

Our experience has shown us that many of today's families want more than a traditional funeral. This can be done by bringing more of the personality and lifestyle of the deceased into the arrangements. By displaying photographs or staging the event around a favorite pastime, a memorial service can become more personal and meaningful.

If a personalized memorial service suits the needs of your family, we suggest you consider the following questions:

  • What did your loved one like to do?
  • What was he or she like as an individual?
  • What was their profession and how did that shape their life?
  • Was your loved one spiritual?
  • Was he or she proud of their cultural or ethnic heritage?

We're Here to Advise, Assist, and Guide You

Using the above five questions as our guide, we will spend the time to help create a fitting memorial service for your loved one. Please call us to learn the details of our memorial service planning process.

Why a Memorial Service?

Rather than opting to do things "the same old way", many families today want to celebrate the life of a loved one. Many funeral service professionals see this change as one of the many contributions to social change made by "Baby Boomers". The National Funeral Directors Association notes, "As baby boomers age and find themselves having to plan funerals for loved ones and themselves, they are making funeral choices based on values that are different than previous generations. Baby boomers see funerals as a valuable part of the grieving process and are seeking ways to make them meaningful." If you too desire to make the funeral for a loved one more engaging and personally meaningful, a celebration-of-life may be the perfect concept to build on.

How Does a Celebration of Life Differ from a Traditional Funeral?

As mentioned in the page Traditional Funeral Services, there are four basic components which make up the conventional approach to funerals:

  1. A Visitation
  2. The Funeral Service
  3. A Committal Service
  4. The Funeral Reception

A traditional funeral then is a series of events; it's a ritualized process where the deceased, and the attendees, pass from one social status to another; a process where the torn fabric of a family and community is repaired. According to the online article "Six Characteristics of Helpful Ceremonies", by William Hoy, Director of Grief Connect, this is done by including:

  • Symbols of shared significance intended to communicate beyond words
  • Ritual actions shared by a group of individuals
  • Gathered people providing comfort to one another
  • Connection to heritage through recognized readings
  • Increased physical contact between attendees provide comfort
  • Witnessing the transition of the body through burial or cremation

In knowing these characteristics, you can design a Celebration of Life as unique as the life of your loved. Learn how to create a Celebration of Life.

 


 

Celebration of Life Information

Many families today want a service which celebrates the life of their loved one. We introduce them to the concept of a celebration of life, and provide support in designing a celebration of life that is as unique as the life of their loved one.

We always enjoy working together with families in planning a celebration of life for their loved one. While it can be a challenge to put together an event that both pays tribute to and celebrates the life and spirit of a complex individual, it's also one of the most rewarding things any one of us can do for someone we've loved and lost.

Sarah York opens her beautifully-crafted book, Remembering Well, with the very personal story about how her family chose to pay tribute to her mother. "My mother died in April 1983... She didn't want a funeral. 'Get together and have a party,' she had said when the topic was allowed to come up." However, she was quick to tell readers that the survivors did not honor the request. "We needed the ritual. We needed to say good-bye, but we also needed a ritual that would honor her spirit and would be faithful to her values and beliefs."

When Ms. York acknowledges the position of her family—that they needed not a party but a ritual—she teaches us all something important: the celebration of life events we plan with families should be shaped as much by their own emotional and spiritual needs as their desire to celebrate the life lived.

While celebrations of life are not burdened by social expectations—they can be pretty much anything you want them to be—it's important to realize that the event you're planning should meet the emotional needs of the guests. So, think about exactly who will be there, and what they're likely to want or need. Then, bring in those unique lifestyle and personality characteristics of the deceased; perhaps add live music or refreshments, and you've got the beginnings of a remarkable celebration of life.

Sources:

  • Remembering Well: Rituals for Celebrating Life & Mourning Death, Sara York

 


 

How to Plan a Celebration of Life

It's really a process of asking–and answering–questions. Sit down with other family members, at least once—but maybe even more than once—to explore the celebration of life ideas which arise from answering these questions:

  1. Who will be invited? The number of guests define the where, when, and how of your celebration of life. Write down the names of everyone you think would want to be there and then set it aside. You can add new names to the list as you go along.

  2. Where, and when, should the event take place? Here's where your imagination is tempered by any scheduling or travel-related issues facing those who will be invited. Be sure to check in with out-of-town relatives and friends about their situation before settling on these critical details.

  3. Who will orchestrate or conduct the event? If your loved one was religious, you may opt to have their pastor or church minister perform these tasks. However, many families today hire a non-denominational celebrant to oversee the celebration of life.

  4. Who wishes to speak at the event? Many times family members or friends will be very direct about their desire to make a short presentation at the celebration of life; other times you need to come out and ask folks if they would be willing to publicly share their thoughts and feelings. Either way, you'll want to select those people who have shared a close relationship with the deceased and have something meaningful to contribute.

  5. What group activities would be appropriate? We've heard some exciting celebration-of-life ideas over the years. This question involves thinking about what your loved one liked most about their life and gives everyone a remarkable space to share memories, laugh, and even cry together.

  6. What food or beverages should be served? What you serve may depend on the theme of your celebration of life, or may be based on your loved one's favorite dishes. It's entirely up to you; we've even seen "pot luck" celebrations of life where guests actually sign up to bring select foods and beverages.

  7. What readings and music should you include? Music is an integral part of life for many people, and a celebration of life is the perfect event in which to showcase the meaningful music of your loved one's life. But, if your loved one didn't appreciate music (and lots of folks don’t), it may be more appropriate to read chosen spiritual selections, or excerpts from literature.

  8. What details of your loved one's life do you want to share with guests? Not every biographical detail needs to be highlighted; rather you're trying to capture their essence by telling revealing anecdotes or stories. Sometimes you can reveal their character by detailing one short moment in their life experience.

  9. What decorations will you have? Many families create a tribute video and use it as the centerpiece of the event. Others choose to use a memory table of photographs and other memorabilia instead.

Let Us Help with the Celebration of Life

We know that's a lot to think about. But we urge you to take your time; be thoughtful, and don't hesitate to explore all the celebrations of life ideas which arise as part of this experience.

As we've said, we've got the experience which could make planning a celebration-of-life easier for you and your family. Don't hesitate to pick up the phone & call us. Let's talk about your loved one's life; share some stories with us. We're confident that, together, we can come up with the perfect celebration of life event to suit your needs and expectations.

 


 

FAQ: Memorial Services

What is a memorial service?

What is a memorial service?

Here's an interesting way to answer the question: a memorial service is not a funeral. Picture what you believe to be the traditional funeral, and then mentally tear up the image. Both ceremonies have structure; both are intended to bring community together in support and remembrance. But one is far more formal than the other; a memorial service is not lead by clergy, but guided by a celebrant or master-of-ceremonies. It provides all who attend the service an opportunity to participate on some level, not just to observe and reflect.

How does it differ from a celebration-of-life or funeral?

How does it differ from a celebration-of-life or funeral?

Visualize a memorial service as a mid-point on the spectrum of service format possibilities. On one end is the more formally-structured, clergy-led funeral service (often with three component parts: the visitation, funeral and a committal service held at the cemetery). At the other end is the celebration-of-life; an event where the life of the deceased–their passions, intellectual pursuits and personal accomplishments–are the focus of attention. A funeral isn't truly celebratory, where a celebration-of-life is all about celebration. A memorial service could be said to be a gentle mix of the two; but in all honesty, each memorial service is unique. Speak with your funeral professional for further insights.

Which type of service format is right for me and my family?

Which type of service format is right for me and my family?

There's really no way we can tell you which service would be the best in your situation. In fact, we don't believe it's even part of our job to tell you; instead, our work is in showing you the spectrum of possibilities. We can explain your options, make suggestions; all with the goal of empowering you to arrive at the best possible decision.

How much will a memorial service cost?

How much will a memorial service cost?

This is a lot like asking "how much will it cost to buy a car?" The answer is totally dependent upon the 'bells & whistles'–the special features–you've selected during the arrangement conference. When you sit down with a funeral director to discuss service costs, you'll receive a copy of the firm's General Price List which will detail all the basic professional services included in the price of your loved one's memorial service, as well as the cost of any ancillary products or services you've purchased. Call us to get a better idea of what your loved one's memorial service will do for you, as well as what it will cost.

What "extra" fees or charges will I need to pay?

What "extra" fees or charges will I need to pay?

Some of the things you'll discuss with your funeral director involve purchases made from outside vendors, and you will be asked to pay for those items at the time of the arrangement conference. One of the most common is the fee charged by a newspaper to print your loved one's obituary. Another cash advance charge could be for clergy or musician's fees, floral arrangements, reception necessities, such as food/beverage or facility rental. Your funeral director will provide you with a detailed invoice for all cash advance items.

What are "cash advance items"?

What are "cash advance items"?

Some of the things you'll discuss with your funeral director involve purchases made from outside vendors, and you will be asked to pay for those items at the time of the arrangement conference. One of the most common is the fee charged by a newspaper to print your loved one's obituary. Another cash advance charge could be for clergy or musician's fees, floral arrangements, reception necessities, such as food/beverage or facility rental. Your funeral director will provide you with a detailed invoice for all cash advance items.

Why must I pay for these items ahead of time?

Why must I pay for these items ahead of time?

The vendors we work with the newspapers, florists, caterers and musicians, all require us to pay for goods and services when ordered or at the time of delivery. Our "good faith" relationship with them requires us to charge you for them at the close of the arrangement conference. Your funeral director will take time to explain any and all of the necessary cash advance expenses incurred as part of your service planning.

How and when should I pay?

How and when should I pay?

A good rule of thumb is to expect to pay at the time the service contract is signed (at the time of the arrangement conference, or soon afterwards). Speak with your funeral director to learn more.

What's involved in planning a memorial service?

What's involved in planning a memorial service?

We've actually written a number of pages on memorial service planning, but the short answer would include the tasks of selecting the location, date and time of the service. You'll be asked to identify the specific readings, musical selections, food or beverages, and/or the activities you'd like to feature, as well as the people you would like to participate in the service itself. Memorial service planning isn't difficult; it's empowering. After all, you've got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show the world how much your loved one meant to you. We invite you to speak with one of our service planning professionals to learn more.

How much will I have to be involved?

How much will I have to be involved?

How much would you like to be involved? Certainly, your funeral director will need you to specify certain details: the where and when, for example. Together you'll make important decisions about other specifics, but once those decisions are made, you can "step back" and let us handle everything or have as much input as you please.

What items will I need to bring to the funeral home?

What items will I need to bring to the funeral home?

You'll need to provide the documents/information required to complete your loved one's death certificate and obituary. You may also wish to bring in a collection of family photographs to be used in making a tribute video or in the decoration of the service location. Other items may be needed at some point, depending on the arrangements made. Your funeral director will provide you with an exact list of the things he or should would like you to bring along to the arrangement conference.

What is a civil celebrant? How can he or she help?

What is a civil celebrant? How can he or she help?

A celebrant is a person who has been trained to conduct formal ceremonies, such as weddings, baptisms and funerals. They are not clergy; instead they are experienced masters-of-ceremony and story-tellers. A celebrant works closely with surviving family to create a ceremony which reflects the beliefs, cultural background, values and aspirations of your deceased loved one, and your family. If you think you would be best served by a celebrant, please speak with your funeral director.

Will I, or another family member, need to write the obituary?

Will I, or another family member, need to write the obituary?

Commonly the funeral director who met with you during the arrangement conference will assume the responsibility of writing the obituary. You will support them in doing so by providing them with the necessary legal documents (birth certificates, military records, and marriage or divorce decrees) and other important details about your loved one's life. If you, or another family member or friend, wish to write the obituary, we can help to guide you through the process.

Soxman Funeral Home
Phone: (412) 793-3000
Fax: (412) 798-9897
Email: staff@soxmanfuneralhomes.com
7450 Saltsburg Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15235


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