Whether there will or won’t be a commemoration or celebration of a person’s life when they die, there are certainly lots of options. There are some widely used terms and some choose to call them a send-off, leave-taking, farewell or thanksgiving services. There is no right or wrong way of referring to the event that marks the passing of a life.
Funerals are usually conducted between three and ten days after a person has died. Funerals can be conducted anywhere that allows a coffin to be present. Some venues will not permit a coffin to be brought into their premises. In other venues it is simply not practical to bring a coffin on site. It is the presence of a coffin that determines when the word funeral is applied to a farewell.
Memorials can be held anywhere from three days to a year after a person has died. Memorials differ from funerals in that the coffin is not present at a memorial. Some may choose to have a person’s ashes at a memorial service. Others may choose to hold a memorial service following a private burial. A wider variety of alternate venues are available for memorials due to both practical logistics and management preferences.
A more unique alternative to funerals or memorials is “One last round of golf or bowls”, “One last tennis match”, “One last surf” or even “One last round of football or netball”. An opportunity can be tailored for people to be involved in a remembrance of someone’s great passion. Their story and tributes can be creatively woven into any event in a more than fitting send-off that is more than the usual and sometimes totally unique.
Some families elect to forgo a funeral or memorial service in favour of a shorter graveside service. Depending on religious preferences, burials can occur between one and ten days after a person has died. Some graveside or burial services are attended by very few people and in other circumstances large farewells can be conducted at the time of burial.
Some families elect to forgo any type of attended service. Depending on religious, cultural, familial or individual preferences, burials can be conducted by cemetery staff and funeral directors, between one and ten days after a person has died.
A direct cremation is similar to a private burial in that there is no attended service. Depending on religious, cultural, familial or individual preferences, direct cremations are another option. Direct cremations are organised by funeral directors, between one and ten days after a person has died.
A witness cremation is available at some major cemeteries. Again, depending on religious, cultural, familial or individual preferences, some families attend a witness cremation. Witness cremations may be held in conjunction with a funeral service. They are organised by funeral directors, in conjunction with the crematorium staff and can occur between one and ten days after a person has died.
Cremation versus Committal
People have been known to mistakenly think that they have witnessed a cremation at a crematorium chapel when they see a coffin lowered from a platform (known as a catafalque). The lowering of a coffin in a chapel is known as the committal. It is not when the cremation occurs. A variety of methods of committal are available in various cemetery or crematorium chapels in addition to lowering, such as a rotating door, a curtain closing or glass being raised as a coffin is lowered.
So, hopefully that helps clarify some of the names that are used to describe the ceremonies or events that can mark the passing of a life.
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Jacqui Chaplin is a Lifetime & End-of-Life Commemoration Specialist (a funeral celebrant among other things) based in Melbourne, Australia. She loves capturing stories about the nature of life and being human, as well as, celebrating and commemorating well lived lives and lives that have ended. Jacqui has a passion for bringing the conversations that many of us find difficult to think about, let alone speak about, out in the open so we can see how our stories, values and beliefs influence our attitudes.
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