DIY Celebration of Life


If you could plan your own celebration of life party, where would it take place and what would be the theme?

Good question. Celebrations of life can be as unique as every individual. We all have a story, a legacy, a life worth celebrating. Why not gift your loved ones with your own creative input in the process? 

Mine would take place at the beach. My absolute favorite location. The place where I go to clear my mind, soothe my soul, and be at peace. I’d encourage planners of my celebration of life to schedule a pre-sunset gathering, maybe a paddle-out ceremony on surfboards and SUP’s with stories told by a circle of friends before scattering my ashes and fragrant floral leis into the deep blue sea. A delicious feast, magnificent sunset, and bonding moments over memories shared would follow. The theme? Serenity and all things that bring comfort. Warm blankets, a candlelit glow, shared delicacies, strong coffee, and lots of chocolate. My parting gift: a reminder to always find your “beach” -- a place on this earth that soothes your soul, connects you with nature and embodies the beautiful simplicities of life. 

If by chance, I knew my time was limited and coming to a certain end, I would definitely consider a “living wake.” Also called a living funeral, this type of ceremonial farewell is pretty much the same as a wake but allows the person being memorialized to hear the sentiments and feel the love from family and friends before they go. The thought of attending can freak some people out. Others have found it to be a rather profound experience. The person being honored also needs to be on board and comfortable with the plan.

I’ve never been to a living wake but can imagine the initial awkwardness of the affair. The thought of attending gives many people pause. It’s not something we typically do at end of life...or is it? Many times we do visit those facing death to say our final goodbyes. At home, in the care of hospice or at a hospital bedside, our final goodbyes are often anxiety-provoking experiences of not knowing what to say, how to act or, for some, not being able to show up at all. A somber tone is typically set. Our limited exposure to these conversations leads to lots of second-guessing and discomfort in the process.

A living wake can be a communal event with a lighter tone. Thoughtful planning can provide an emotionally safe space to share or just listen to loving thoughts and stories. A prepared facilitator setting the proper tone and comfort level for this shared experience can help guide participants through the ceremony. This type of event can be heavy and emotional, and can also include time to speak and forgive grievances, but allows for a gentle way to come to terms with the inevitable and give loving space for meaningful goodbyes. 

After contemplating plans for my DIY celebration of life party, I realized these ideas could also become the blueprint for my living wake. If given a choice between the two, I’d really love to be there as it sounds like the makings of a memorable event. A gathering of friends and family sharing favorite memories, tributes, toasts and roasts directly with me -- and I with them -- before exiting this world would indeed be the ultimate parting gift.

For more information on how to plan a living wake visit to download a toolkit.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published