Just wondering if anyone has given or taken part in a "Celebration of Life" for a loved one who is dying. I have a friend who is in the last stages of cancer. We are having a celebration of her life while she is still alive. It is going to be on Oct. 19, so in the meantime I am looking for suggestions from you guys about things you might do at such an event.
I am one of the organizers, and I am in the process of making a DVD of pictures of her life set to music. The songs are:
"Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison (he's her favorite singer)
"Your Smiling Face" by James Taylor
"Wildflowers" by Tom Petty and
"They Can't Take that Away From Me" by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
Her boyfriend is going to play the trumpet, and her son will play the bass. I believe another of our friends is going to sing a song.
We will have a meditation and people will talk about their favorite memories or times spent with her.
Of course, they'll be food and drinks and socializing.
I was just wondering if anyone had any other ideas. Or comments, suggestions, etc. about a party they have been to. I've never done this before and I want it to be special for her.
thanks for all the thoughts and wishes. the tree planting IS a good idea. Its going to be held at her daughter's house. I wonder if they want a new tree in their backyard? its a bit small back there. the pool takes up the whole yard. perhaps we can plant a tree somewhere else and just tell her about it.
I appreciate all your thoughts. I am hoping someone will at least videotape people telling their memories. Not sure I can get anyone to write anything down at this point.
there were two basic parts, one was sharing memories and love and the other was jean moving to her death (she actually died later that same evening). In the first part, everyone shared their favorite memories which were complied into a nice book--and then had it bound and printed. It was really a beautiful book. They were all narrow little books, each one separated by topic. We had them called "Mother," "Wife," "Sister," "Daughter" and "Friend." Each one held the memories of family and friends, and were set in beautiful bindings. I was very impressed with the work, and the cost wasn't terrible--as we all chipped in.
Everyone looked at the books, shared food and drink, shared with each other. After the dinner came the "cleaning out" for our friend. She had decided that she would give many things away to friends and family, so that her husband didn't have to do it after she was gone. It was a number of interesting rituals, where people were given various objects and she was relieved of her life in objects (she said). Finally, we had the commissioning of co-parenting or village parenting of her two young daughters (9 and 11). This was an extra special ceremony that she and i co-wrote to describe how much her mother loved her, and would give that love to them always through friends and family. Once she passed, it would be our responsibility to care for those girls, to make sure that they became strong and beautiful young women.
Prior to the party, we had written another book for the girls titled "My Blessing, Bethany" and "My Blessing, Sarah." In these books, she told her story of being a mother, how she loved her daughters, and her hopes for them in the future. It was a beautiful process.
After the party, we were cleaning up and she called her husband and children to her. It was that nite, only a few hours later, that she died.
can you give me more of an idea about the books? where did you take them to get printed? how were they compiled? how far in advance did you begin planning them? who contributed to them?
fortunately, rami's children are all adults. I imagine it was very emotional to have young children involved. were the children involved in the celebration?
this has been a very interesting process for me. I highly recommend it to anyone in similar situations if the dying person and the family is amenable to the idea.
the min. the invites began arriving, people automatically began calling her to reconnect. she's been sick for 2 years and many didnt know it had gotten to this point. much nicer I think than a phone call that she was already gone.
as for songs perhaps you could adk her husband what was her fav song or maybe 'their' song to play
what a truly beautiful idea
i hope it all goes well
and my heart goes out to you in two senses: for caring so much and helping to organise such an event and for the grieve process
The songs ended up like this: (for those curious) Some songs have more than one topic/section
Growing Up- Japanese folk music that she lent me.
Her with her brother- "Two of Us" by the Beatles
Her looking sexy throughout her life- "Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison
The men in her life- "Send for Me" by Nat King Cole
Her children- "Your Smiling Face" by James Taylor
Her and her children, her grandchildren- "They Can't Take That Away From
Me" by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
In Nature (she's really outdoorsy), With her dogs- "Wildflowers" by Tom Petty
Good times (at parties, etc), Her spiritual teachers, and Diamond Way Buddhism (the group we are in where she had most of her fun times with her friends that will be at the party)- "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang
So I tried to end it on a super fun happy note. I think before this, she was almost dreading the party and worried even though she deep down wanted to have it. She wanted to do it, but there was a big fear about how it would feel, if it would be too sad, etc. She said now that she had seen the program and the video, she feels so much better and is feeling excited for it.
I can't tell you how much I recommend doing this for someone if they are open to it. There's something special about watching a video of your life in pictures. You can make such beautiful things with iMovie and iDVD on macs.... This was the best purchase I ever made.
I'll write and recap the event after we have it on Sunday and let you know how it all went.
Thanks for all your support and concern.
It sounds great!!! I'm so glad that she's in a good space.
as for the answer to your questions: yes, the kids were involved from the very beginning. they helps us plan, they helped their mom label things to give away, they helped plan the foods to be offered, then invited friends of their own, and they helped with the books as well.
as for those books, they can be printed by a vanity press and bound. We got cloth bindings with silver lettering. it was failry affordable--about $200 for all of the books to be printed and bound. So, not bad.
Anyway, i hope everything goes well!
it was FANTASTIC! better than I could have ever imagined. Rami really showed such courage and style. It was the biggest inspiration to everyone.
We started off the party by showing the DVD presentation I made and Rami narrated with a microphone. Then she told us about her life, how things led her to certain places at certain times, and how she felt she was guided to this point in her life. She was graceful, stylish, and only teared up a few times (as compared to the guest who were crying on and off throughout the day). She was gracious and loving, and she warmly accepted people's love and gratitude without any reservation or embarrassment.
Our friend Bonnie sang the song "Time In a Bottle" and then lightened things up with a folky song (that we were given a sheet to sing along too). "I'm just an old lump of coal, but I'm gonna be a diamond some day..." which was sweet and meaningful because our group is called Diamond Way Buddhism. Then we all sang "Happy Trails" which was VERY emotional for everyone. Then her friend Debbie played "Misty" on the flute. She said she was playing "Misty" because thats how she felt. After that we broke for food. Which was lovely catered by Central Market.
Rami got back on the mike shortly after and said "Okay, everyone, I think its time we started celebrating again." She was just fantastic! We regrouped and this time it was our turn to take turns at the mike.
People came from all different time frames in her life. Her second husband flew all the way from Hawaii on short notice and talked about their relationship and how they were really on journeys of self discovery when they were married and how that benefitted them. One of her son's friends from Chicago was there to tearfully tell the story about how Rami gave her a safe home in highschool when her life was crumbling around her. Rami stood up to the mike and told everyone how proud she was of Allison and was glad she could be there for her and we had a round of applause for her because she was completing law school this semester. Countless people from california were there to tell about how Rami healed their bodies through her Somatic movement body work. They talked about learning that they were able to do more than they ever could. It was clear that they thought so much of that time and how when they were proud of themselves, Rami was proud of them. People shared about her grace and her ability to enjoy life. Many of us knew her as being a woman with cancer. She had it for 2 years which is when many of the buddhist group knew her. She was praised for how she LIVED with the disease. How her strength, and warmth, and dedication was so admired by all. It was an amazing day of teaching for everyone involved.
After the sharing of memories, her boyfriend played a song on his trumpet for her. Then her son and her boyfriend played the blues together. After that, her son James talked about how music has played such an important role in his life. Her son is very much an individual. In every family photo from a very young age, he was always dressed in the wild clothes, double breasted suits, funky glasses, etc. In highschool he was a total nonconformist, who actually drove a hearse as his car for 3 years. Rami was his number one supporter. He told the story about how highschool was a very bad environment for him. That he had differences with many of the staff and students there. He ran for class president making wild promises about spending the money on beer rather than silly programs, etc. Very very out there. He said that at the end of his junior year, he was just miserable at the thought of another year in that environment. And Rami said "why don't you just quit and get your GED and start college now?" and James said "you can do that?!" And it was just such a relief to get out of that environment. He said that most people talk about supportive mothers. When he wanted to learn to play guitar, she didnt just support him, she GOT A GUITAR AND TOOK LESSONS WITH HIM! He talked about how he has really learned in his life that the meaning of life lies in relating to other people. and he said "That came from you mom. Everything I know about life and love. That came from you, Mom." Then he played two songs (one Duke Ellington and one from SUN RA). It was such an incredible tribute.
After that, we all got a balloon with her name on it. then we let them go in the front yard. It was so totally beautiful. Then we came inside and presented her with a tibetan blessing bundle which was a conglomeration of notes and wishes from everyone at the party, along with small objects of meaning.
It was such a wonderful day. Her brother told me that he thought he would be totally sad after the party and that he wasnt. He was feeling so happy and full of love..
I can't recommend anything more highly. It was wonderful. Here is a link to the photos from the day:
Thanks for all the love and support!
I am so glad I found your post. My cousin Brenda was told on Monday, April 15, 2013 she has 2 weeks. She called me several hours later and said she was having a Celebration of Life at her church on Sunday, April 21, 2013. I had/have NEVER heard of this or been to one. After reading your board I feel a whole lot better. Thanks for all your comments. My cousin is a fun, optimistic person and I know we will have fun.