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Pre-planning a memorial service

By Chaplain Diane Gunsolley

I was blessed with a wonderful grandmother named Lucile. She was upbeat and lived life to the fullest. She was also one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I’ve known. As a little girl, every visit to grandma’s house was filled with love.

When I left for college, she sent me a letter every week without fail, knowing how much I missed being home. When grandma passed away, I found out that she had chosen the hymns and the scripture for her service. She had even written her own obituary except for the final date.

Twenty some years later, my mother passed away. She had basically done the same except she also ran four copies of her wishes (one for each child) and mailed them to us years before her passing. She explained that she had more life to live but just wanted to “take care of business so we wouldn’t have to.” She even told us where to look on her bookshelf for a music CD containing a special song that she wanted played. It was a beautiful duet titled “The Prayer” that Celine Dion sang with Andrea Bocelli. Even today, over 15 years later, I shed a tear every time I hear it because it connects me with her.

Looking back, I know it was such a tremendous blessing to be able to just follow a plan instead of trying to figure things out during such an emotional time. It was also wonderful to sit and hear the music and scripture that had been meaningful to them. My own life story and over 10 years of experience as a chaplain give me understanding of the value of a pre-planned memorial service.

Some of you are like my Grandma Lucile and have planned everything. The only thing that you have left to do is stop by my office and fill me in so that I can be prepared, too. For others of you reading this, the thought of pre-planning your own service has absolutely no appeal. You’ve made your decisions regarding business affairs but prefer that your family make decisions regarding a service. If that’s you, stop reading this article and place it in your children’s hands. It may help them to gain understanding of what is available here at Aberdeen Village. I encourage them to set up an appointment for pre-planning.

For the rest of you, I recommend that you stop by my office and we can open a pre-planning file. This process is by no means a morbid one: on the contrary, it is a positive and even comforting step by minimizing the chance that complications will arise later. The pre-planning file will contain your choices for the service as well as state what type of service or services will be held. The following overview may help demystify the options.

Memorial service at Aberdeen Village

A Memorial Service differs from a funeral service in that the casket/urn is not present. Our policy is to offer only memorial services at Aberdeen Village.

Choosing to have a memorial service at Aberdeen Village makes it easier for residents and staff to attend. Most services are open but occasionally families prefer a private service. This religious service can be offered in addition to the church/funeral home service, or it can be the only service.

Our Brandt Chapel has a maximum capacity of 50 and parking near the front entrance is limited. For larger services, chairs are set up in the wings outside the chapel and parking must overflow to other lots. Following the memorial service there is often a reception. Light refreshments are served which are provided by the family. Our dining services department is available for catering should you so desire.

Our Aberdeen Village Memorial Service policy contains important information.

Service at a local church or funeral home

Sometimes, the best option is for the service to be at a local church or funeral home. Families with a strong connection to a local church feel comforted by their pastor within their faith tradition. Larger memorial services may require a location with better parking options. When the service is at another location, the Aberdeen chaplain may still be available to officiate the service should you so desire.

Some Aberdeen Village residents wish to attend services. Transportation may be available for our residents if the service is nearby. It is important that we be notified of the funeral details as soon as possible for transportation to be scheduled effectively. If the church/funeral home plans to web stream the service, please communicate details so residents may participate.

Graveside service

This brief service is held in lieu of a traditional funeral service. The Aberdeen chaplain may be available to officiate the service should you so desire. Residents typically do not attend due to logistical concerns.

Informal neighborhood memorial service

This special memorial occurs in the Highlands assisted living and health care neighborhoods, typically where the person lived. The chaplain leads a brief neighborhood memorial service just before lunch so residents and staff may more easily attend. During the service, memories are shared. Family is warmly invited to be part of this informal service and many times chooses to attend. Family should notify the chaplain if they plan to be present.

Aberdeen Village remembrance reception

In lieu of a memorial service, a remembrance reception is an option. Typically, the family will provide refreshments and make itself available to friends who wish to express their sympathy directly. The friends may arrive at any time during the posted visiting hours. A slide show or photos with memorabilia are sometimes displayed. This reception may be held in the chapel or in the second floor living room of assisted living.

Please contact me at, 913-213-1686 or stop by my office and we can go over which options might be best for you or your loved one.

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