“Today you are you, that is truer than true, there is no one alive, who is youer than you.” -Dr. Seuss



My boss stepped into an arrangement to talk with a woman who just lost her husband. As is typical when he says hello to a family, he immediately found something in common with them and had them laughing within minutes.

Somehow, the conversation led to baseball and eventually Twinkies. My boss offered to get her some Twinkies for everyone at the visitation to enjoy as much as her husband had enjoyed them. The initial reaction was, “Can we do that?”

After further conversation, the family became extremely excited and the whole mentality of the visitation changed. From that point forward, it was not referred to as a visitation or funeral anymore, it was going to be a celebration.


Every person who was involved in the arrangement decided to put their imprint on the service somehow. There was a daughter in charge of the Cracker Jacks and peanuts, there was a grandchild in charge of a memory tree, and another in charge of getting cribbage boards set up to play during the celebration.

Before long, everything was falling together and they were honoring the man perfectly.

During the celebration, people would come into the funeral home quietly and look to where to sign the book. However, they were greeted with laughter and a celebration. People were enjoying all kinds of baseball game goodies, people singing along to the Beach Boys in the background, and all kinds of wonderful memories being shared.


There were people who left in a hurry from the celebration because they were late for something else. Most of them could not believe how quickly time flew by. The truth is, they were actually enjoying themselves and they were enjoying paying tribute in this unique way.

I guarantee that each person at that celebration who eats a Twinkie in the future is going to think of this man. When they do think of him, hopefully they will pick up the phone and call someone in the family to see how they are doing.


Personalizing a service seems like it would be useful only after someone has passed away. However, it is almost more relevant to the pre-need side of the industry than after the fact.

No one knows you better than yourself. So, use that concept when other people are planning their services. Find out what they want to be remembered for, find out their favorite foods or treats, find out their favorite songs, find out all the unique information you can find out about them.

Oftentimes, people look at the general items when they are putting money towards their funeral. Make them think about the extras that they could be planning for and get their minds thinking about what makes them so special.


There was a man who loved Burger King so his family went through the drive-thru during his funeral procession and everyone received a Whopper. You will never know if someone wants to put money aside for hundreds of Whoppers if you do not ask.

We had a service for a woman who loved the Minnesota Twins. She chose a specialty Twins urn and her grandchildren all signed the ball that was under a glass globe on top. When the Major League Baseball team found out about this 84 year old superfan, they stepped in to offer her family a luxury suite so they could enjoy one last game together. If someone was a huge baseball fan, why  not help them plan to send their family to a game after the service instead of a luncheon?

Another example is a very social and well known man who passed away last year. His pride and joy was his street rods and attending different car shows around the state. We took the doors off the building and somehow got one of his cars inside and placed his urn in the driver’s seat. Throughout the day, over 58 other street rods came to pay tribute at his service. Eventually the street was shut down for people to be outside looking at the different vehicles. If someone has a car or motorcycle they love, encourage them to plan for it to be at their service.

Not ever person has to have something extremely unique to have their funeral service represent them someday. Put money aside to have their favorite candy placed around the gathering, put money aside to have a live violin group come play in the lobby, or put money aside to have a tree planted in their name.

There are so many resources on how to personalize a funeral service, you just have to be aware of those ideas before you can help someone to personalize their own life. Let’s start planning celebrations instead of funerals.


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