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Final arrangements can take many forms

 

When former professional football player and sportscaster Frank Gifford died recently, his widow, television personality Kathie Lee Gifford, did something unusual: She bypassed a funeral altogether.

“Frank hated funerals,” Kathie Lee explained on the “Today” show. “He hated boxes. He hated to be put in boxes. He hated to get in an elevator, so we played Frank Sinatra all day long and we partied. The only criteria was, if you were there you had to be somebody that he adored, so it kept it nice and small.”

Some of us would find the idea of not having a funeral shocking and the idea of having a party even more so. As a society, we have a long-held funeral tradition that involves mourning, sadness and above all, seriousness, not music, gaiety and celebration.

There are many people who, for one reason or another, don’t want a funeral when they pass. Sometimes that can be difficult for mourners who want the outlet for their grief that a funeral provides. Some believe, as John Green writes in “The Fault in Our Stars,” that “Funerals are for the living.” And a funeral as defined by the bloggers at whatsyourgrief.com is “(often, not always) a place to start the process of mourning with friends and family as our grief is first unfolding.” So, being deprived of a funeral service may deeply upset some family members.

However, funerals are also for the dead: They are held to honor and remember a loved one. If a loved one asks that there not be a funeral when he or she dies, what better way to honor them then by following their wishes for their final commitment?

While Kathie Lee doesn’t say whether her husband explicitly requested that there be no funeral in the event of his death, she clearly made her decision on what she thought he would have wanted. But in the aftermath of Frank Gifford’s death, the outpouring of sympathy made her realize that having some sort of event so that fans can pay their respects for her late husband might be a good idea – perhaps a celebration of his life. It won’t be a “service” she told the press, because “he’ll boomerang [that].”

The bottom line is that there’s no one-size-fits-all way to say goodbye to a loved one. An event can be large, small, public, private, somber, joyous, traditional or not. If a loved one doesn’t want a funeral service, but you do, consider a celebration of life instead.

The “right” way to lay your loved one rest will often involve balancing several considerations. The important thing is to honor his or her wishes the best you can, while giving friends and family an opportunity to start the grieving process. These days there are many alternatives available; your local funeral director can help you find the one that best meets your needs and honors your loved one in life and death.

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Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium has served the public since 1906. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we operate three full-service funeral homes, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels, and a cremation society. Contact us and we can assist you in planning final arrangements, whatever they might be. 

 

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