Fairhaven Blog

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A Very Special Goodbye

- Monday, December 16, 2013

Our president, Marla Noel, shares how memorial services can be special.

“My goodness, Uncle Ed certainly would have loved being here today. It was exactly the kind of ‘send off’ he would have enjoyed.” 

I think most of us have heard something like this spoken at the end of a funeral we have attended. Sometimes, these end-of-life celebrations just happen. The person is so well understood, and his or her family is so tuned in, it just turns out that way.

Unfortunately, many times the family is so filled with grief, they can’t stop and think about how to best say goodbye to their loved one. In those cases, the funerals are fine, but not really special.

In my role at Fairhaven, I’ve seen it all. And I know when it “works.” I’d like to share one funeral we helped create that truly “worked.”

Sally (not her real name) was a respected businesswoman here in Orange County and much beloved by her large, close-knit family. It came as a shock when she received a diagnosis of cancer – and a form of cancer that was almost impossible to fight. She was told she had less than six months to live.

Sally was stunned and chose not to tell anyone but her immediate family. But after the shock wore off, she began aggressive treatments and wound up living nearly two years. During that extended period, she also thought about how she would like to say farewell. She had so many people to say goodbye to – family, friends, clients, business associates.

She decided to make a video in which she shared her thoughts – about life and about dying. She talked about the joy her family brought her and how much she cherished her friendships. She thanked her loyal clients.

Sally did all this while strolling through her expansive rose garden, another part of her life that she enjoyed. She did this before her health deteriorated so she still looked and sounded like the Sally everyone knew and loved. Yes, a little thinner, but still Sally.

The video was played during her service, which was held in our Rose Window Chapel. Every pew was filled and, by the end, tears flowed. They were tears of sadness at losing Sally but also tears of joy at remembering just how wonderful she was. And the video was played again at her reception at a nearby hotel.

I’ve seen many funeral ceremonies. I remember many of them, especially the special ones like Sally’s. These special ceremonies can be created whether the loved one is buried below ground, above ground or cremated.

I know Sally would have loved being at her funeral – we all felt she was there.


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