The Cassia Life

Plan Ahead to Make Final Service a Celebration

We sat quietly awaiting the start of the service of celebration for the life of a close family friend. The Washburn-McReavy Funeral Chapel in Edina, Minn., a Minneapolis suburb, was filled to capacity. We’d arrived almost late and were seated toward the back of the large chapel.

Suddenly the wide entry doors behind us swung open and an Irish-dressed man playing the bagpipe stepped in and strode briskly toward the front of the chapel as he played.                                                                             

Bagpiping? How surprised we were, and certainly entertained. I telephoned for answers.

Turns out bagpipe music at funerals and memorial services in the USA isn’t unusual at all.  “We have it in a service on average of about once every two months,” said my contact. “We have a bagpiper sort of on staff that we call on when needed.”

Planning for bagpiping is rather easy way to add drama to a service that might otherwise be ordinary. And the cost isn’t extreme, currently $200 at Washburn-McReavy. 

Some other ways to add flourish come to mind, some bringing good results, some being no more than dreams. 

  • Bring in a harp soloist. The harp is that tall triangular instrument with multiple strings of different lengths that is played with the fingers. The harp makes beautiful, mellow music.
  • Record or video tape the service or just the music, reproduce in quantity, and distribute copies to family members and others.
  • Speaking of music, a friend hired the Stone Arch Bridge Jazz Band of Minneapolis to provide music for his Dad’s service, then did a recording and distributed it.

Walker United Methodist Church in South Minneapolis uses a pickup band on Sunday mornings, then carries its usage on into memorial services if desired. The band usually includes guitars, piano, vocals, slide trombone, French horn, clarinet and harmonica. 

An idea that occurred to me when managing a family memorial service involved the deceased person’s collection of small art objects, costume jewelry, and various keepsakes. We displayed them on a table in the church waiting area, put a person in charge, and gave the items away to funeral attendees piece by piece as chosen. Items were limited to one per person. The recipient of a small carved jewelry box wrote:  “. . I have a little wooden box the shape of a heart from the memorial. I use it to put my jewelry in. I think Pat would approve of the sparkles! May her spirit live on in your love as she dances in heaven.Julie Buchholty, Grace Hospice

Grace Hospice is a division of Cassia, providing end-of-life services as requested by residents and their families of all Cassia communities. The Pat mentioned and her family received memorial service pre-planning help, including where and when the memorial service would be held, and who would present what parts.

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