A HUMANIST MEMORIAL SERVICE
Compiled by Larry Reyka
Humanist Society of Friends
ORDER OF SERVICE:
[About 20 minutes of appropriate music, live or recorded, to be
played as family and friends gather.]
Let us be honest with death. Let us not pretend that it is less
than it is. It is separation. It is sorrow. It is grief. But
let us neither pretend that death is more than it is. It is not
annihilation. As long as memory endures, her influence will be
felt. It is not an end to love -- humanity's need for love from
each of us is boundless. It is not an end to joy and laughter --
nothing would less honor one so vibrant than to make our lives
drab in counterfeit respect! Let us be honest with death, for in
that honesty we will understand her better and ourselves more
No one entering this world can ever escape sadness. Each in turn
must bear burdens, though he or she be rich or poor, and in turn
bid loved ones farewell as they set out upon life's ventures.
Each one must suffer that sad farewell when loved one's embark on
the last voyage, and each in turn must take that final journey.
But for those who make this life a pledge to the human spirit,
there comes the assurance of a victory that redeems life's pain.
[LIGHT CANDLE] Though we be but the feeble glow of a single flame,
for the one who keeps it burning bravely to the end, death is not
defeat. We light our candle today to honor the life and living of
We have gathered here in this room to acknowledge the death of
Jane Doe whom we have known and loved. When someone we have cared
for dies, family and friends gather with sorrow in their hearts.
At times when we must face death and loss, we need one another's
company for understanding and support. Just to be together, to
look into one another's faces, takes away some of our loneliness
and draws our hearts together in the healing which we can offer
one another. At such times, the ways that sustain us separately
come together in a virtual harmony that acts across all creeds and
assures us of the permanence of human goodness and hope. So we are
gathered here today in grief and sorrow, but we have also gathered
to celebrate a life. We have come together to give thanks we knew
this vibrant person, to express our gratitude for the days and
years we were able to share with her. We are here to remember and
memorialize a good and caring life. By remembering the best of
this person, by recalling some her finest qualities, by honoring
the principles, values, and dreams which guided her life, some of
Jane's enduring nobility flows into us, that we ourselves might be
more noble in the days ahead. We are gathered for all these
things. But our first task is to face, full and unafraid, the
reality of this death and the grief and loss we feel.
Centuries ago the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote:
"In the presence of death, we must continue to sing the song of
life. We must be able to accept death and go from it's presence
better able to bear our burdens and to lighten the load of others.
Out of our sorrows should come understanding. Through our
sorrows, we join with all of those before who have had to suffer
and all of those who will yet have to do so. Let us not be
gripped by the fear of death. If another day be added to our
lives, let us joyfully receive it, but let us not anxiously depend
on our tomorrows. Though we grieve the deaths of our loved ones,
we accept them and hold on to our memories as precious gifts. Let
us make the best of our loved ones while they are with us, and let
us not bury our love with death."
No one person can sum up the life of another. Life is too
precious to be passed over with mere words which ring empty.
Rather it must remain as it is remembered by those who loved and
watched and shared. For such memories are alive, unbounded by
events of birth and death. And as living memories, we possess the
greatest gift one person can give another. It is each of you,
then, that the living memories of Jane's life are committed. To
your hearts and minds go the enduring remembrances of this life.
There will now be a period of silence. I ask that each of you use
these moments to remember Jane as only you can. Let us enter this
meditation with reverence and with love.
[After roughly 1-3 minutes . . . ]
Now, as your spirit moves you to do so, please share your living
memories of Jane with the rest of her family and friends.
Some of you have selected several readings which are appropriate
on this day as we acknowledge the death and celebrate the life of
Jane Doe. [Readings are shared.]
And finally, the Native American Ishi people of the Pacific
Northwest, who imagined that their dead spoke to them saying "When
I am dead, cry for me a little, think of me sometimes, but not too
much. It is not good for you to allow your thoughts to dwell too
long upon the dead. Think of me now and again as I was in life, at
some moment which is pleasant to recall, but not for too long.
Leave me in peace, as I shall too leave you in peace. While you
live, let your thoughts be with the living."
It is done. We have bid loving farewell to Jane Doe.
We are profoundly glad that Jane Doe lived. We are glad that we
saw her face and felt the glow of her friendship and love. We
cherish the memory of her words and deeds and character. Carrying
her thus in our hearts, let us now proceed from this place in
comfort and in peace, assured that even in this time of loss and
sorrow, life remains precious and good. May we also on this day
rekindle in our hearts an appreciation for the gifts of life and
other persons. Let us honor the life of Jane Doe by living,
ourselves, more nobly and loving in the days ahead. As you return
to the routines of your lives, go in love, and may an abiding
peace go with you.