Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

WRITING A LIFESTORY -TIPS

The lifestory/biography is usually the main part of a Humanist FUNERAL/MEMORIAL service or DEDICATION ceremony. I THINK WE SHOULD BE HOLDING DEDICATION CEREMONIES TO HONOUR SOMEONE  SPECIAL IN OUR LIVES.  So often people remark to me after a funeral how much the deceased would have appreciated it all. My obvious response is DO IT WHILE THEY ARE ALIVE. I also believe that EVERY funeral should be a CELEBRATION OF A PERSON’S LIFE. I reckon that such a funeral helps the mourners and bereavement if the deceased was NOT a religious believer. This is why there should be a fourtyfold increase non-religious funerals!

I very much encourage clients/next 0f-kin to put the lifestory together as they then are in control of what they want said. They mostly get the celebtrant/me to read it but sometimes they/a family member decides that they want to do it. It is simplest to do it chronologically in the style of THIS IS YOUR LIFE   but  it can be introduced with a statement about the deceased. Here is my checklist for clients. Remember HUMOUR IS IMPORTANT

DATE OF BIRTH

NAME OF PARENTS/ SIBLINGS

WHERE THEY WERE BORN

EARLY YEARS/FAMILY PETS/ FAMILY LORE/ANECDOTES

WHERE THEY WENT TO SCHOOL/QUOTES FROM SCHOOL REPORTS

TEENGAE YEARS/THEIR FRIENDS/WHAT MUSIC/FASHION THEY LIKED/ SPORTS/INTERESTS/HOBBIES etc

FAMILY HOLIDAYS/REMEMBERED DAY TRIPS/REMINISCENCES OF EVENTS/CHRISTAMS/BIRTHDAYS/ FAMILY TRADITIONS

COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY/STARTING WORK

HOLIDAYS

RELATIONSHIPS/MARRIAGE/STARTING A FAMILY/PARENT/GRANDPARENT

FAMILY HOLIDAYS

WORK /CAREER

INTERESTS/POLITICAL VIEWS /BOOKS/READING/NEWSPAPER/FILM/ART/MUSIC/HOBBIES/SPORT/PETS/GARDENING/FOOD/SOCIALISING/

LIKES/DISLIKES/WHAT MADE THEM LAUGH, ANGRY,HAPPY/QUIRKS/CLOTHES/FASHION/

LATER YEARS

THE END

MEMORIES/ANECDOTES/STORIES/THOUGHTS FROM FAMILY/CHILDREN/GRANDCHILDREN/FRIENDS/COLLEAGUES/NEIGHBOURS/QUOTES FROM CARDS/EMAILS/LETTERS/CONVERSATIONS/NEWSPAPERS

HUMOUR is very important

Usually, the biography/lifestory comes first followed by tributes and memories.  You will need to decide how long/how many pages of lifestory to do. I regard a page of A4 font 14 ( even with reading glasses!)  to take 3 minutes. Typically it would be 3-6 pages depending on having other speakers. TIMINGS ARE FAIRLY CRUCIAL FOR ANY EVENT  and careful consideration given to the number/variety/order of speakers. Often a double time slot is necessary for a funeral. With DEDICATIONS/MEMORIALS there is less pressure on time.

Sometimes the LIFESTORY/TRIBUTE gets divided chronologically and contributions/tributes/memories from people who knew them at each stage would speak/have their contribution read by someone else – either because they can’t be there or would find it too difficult.

With DEDICATIONS/MEMORIALS  there is time to prepare and maybe a booklet can be put together as a memento accompanied by photos, illustrations,copies of newspaper cuttings, certificates etc.

EVERY LIFESTORY IS INTERESTING  AND UNIQUE and deserves to be recorded and shared.  Although some of the people attending a ceremony/funeral know some of the story it is important to 1)  put it all in context 2) People may only be aware of parts of the lifestory, colleagues like to hear the personal story, family like to hear about other aspects, grandchildren and others learn something new and intriguing 4) Different perspectives from children, siblings, parents, grandparents, friends old and new, colleagues, pupils, neighbours, comrades etc  are important in depicting a person’s chartacter as fully as possible and 5)  it is something for posterity.

I WISH EVERYONE WOULD WRITE THEIR OWN LIFESTORY/MEMOIRS FOR THEIR FUNERAL AS THEY WANT IT TOLD!                                       I STRONGLY RECOMMEND FAMILIES TO ASK THEIR OLDER MEMBERS/PARENTS/GRANDPARENTS TO RECORD THEIR LIVES AND TO DISCUSS/ASK QUESTIONS BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE. This way you can add your and other own perspectives and say the important things that YOU wish to say.

Good luck , enjoy and I am sure that if you do write  a shortbiography/lifestory that you will learn something new, fascinating and inspiring and be so glad that you did it.

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