7 Of The Most Beautiful Funerals And Memorials Of All TimeDecember 8th, 2015
Funeral professionals know better than most the amazing healing power beautiful funerals can bring to grieving friends and family. But when you add in a touch of personalization, the opportunity for healing becomes a full blown celebration of life that completely turns grief on its head.
Why? Because you’re not just walking through the steps of grief and going through the motions. You are actually reflecting on the specific highlights of a person’s life and the moments you shared together… laughing at the good and reminiscing about the bad.
After all, every person’s life is completely unique, special and individual to them… so shouldn’t their funeral service be the same?
Here are seven beautiful funerals and memorials that really got it right when it comes to personalization. From the rich and famous, to those who led lives just as extraordinary… get ready to be inspired!
Although she was divorced from the Prince of Wales at the time of her passing in 1997, Diana was largely regarded as The People’s Princess… and her funeral reflected that sentiment. Millions of people from all over the world tuned in (and another million lined the streets of London) as her procession took her from Westminster Abbey to her service. Five hundred representatives of the various charities that Princess Diana had been involved with followed behind in the funeral cortege. Once she arrived, Elton John sang a special version of his hit song “Candle In The Wind” as a tribute to her.
However, the personalized tribute did not stop at the service. Diana was laid to rest on an island known as The Round Oval at her family’s Althrop Park Gardens. The path to her memorial is lined with thirty-six oak trees, one to represent each year of her life, and the lake along the island is scattered with water lilies – one of Diana’s favorite flowers. Her family made sure that both her service and her lasting memorial was a contrast of modern and traditional – a metaphor for Diana. “A modern woman with a classic, established environment.”
Kyle was a well-decorated United States Navy SEAL and largely considered the most lethal sniper in United State’s military history. In fact, his time in the military was so noteworthy, along with the inspiring and passionate work he was doing back home for veterans who suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), his story became the subject of the Academy Award-nominated movie American Sniper in 2014. Therefore, it came as a shock to the entire country when news was released that he was shot and killed by a U.S. Marine Corps vet that he was hoping to help.
Kyle received one of the most honorable military funerals imaginable, with nearly 7,000 people attending his funeral service at Cowboys Stadium in Texas. Dozens of military personnel were seated in the front row to pay their respects, and Kyle’s flag-draped coffin was placed mid-field. One of his favorite singers, Randy Travis, sang “Whisper My Name” and “Amazing Grace” after Kyle’s wife, Taya, read the eulogy. However, the people present at Cowboy’s Stadium weren’t the only ones who showed up to salute the veteran.
The next day, as the funeral procession of 200 motorcycles, police cars, motor coaches and other vehicles drove the 200 miles to Austin’s Texas State Cemetery, hundreds of people braved the cold to line the roads and show their respect. Across the entire 200 miles, policemen held their hats over their hearts, veterans saluted the motorcade, children waved flags, and people from all across the country showed up to say their goodbyes to the fallen hero.
When Margarita Suarez passed away, it wasn’t just a loss to her friends and family, but to all of the creatures who resided in her city of Merida in Mexico. Suarez was not just a loving and thoughtful mother, but she was also well-known by everyone in her city for her kindness, especially towards animals. Her daughter reported that she fed 20 cats a day, and would go out of her way to feed any dog she saw in the street. So when she passed away, it was truly a loss for the entire community and a day for everyone to mourn… and we mean everyone.
Suarez’s daughter took to social media the day of her mother’s funeral to share an incredible story of mourning that would have filled her mother’s heart:
“I’ll share photos of the saddest day of my life, only because something marvelous happened that I want to share. My mother was an animal lover – she couldn’t come across any without giving them a little bit of food. Upon arrival at her wake, out of nowhere a group of dogs came into the salon and stayed there all night as if on guard. This morning they left and couldn’t be found anywhere, but one hour before we brought my mom out the dogs came back and grouped around as if to say goodbye. I swear by God that it was beautiful, marvelous.”
Who says a funeral service should just be for human friends and family?
It may come as no surprise that the beloved Hollywood starlet, Elizabeth Taylor, had a funeral service befitting a star ﹘ an $11,000 mahogany casket lined with red velvet, and a service overseen by the rabbi to the stars. But the most beautiful part of Miss Taylor’s service was the small, personalized details that were woven in.
The location of her service – the Warner Brothers Studio Lot in Burbank – had particular significance to the actress, and represented such a large, meaningful part of her life. And to top it all off, the service was scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., but started late… at Miss Taylor’s request. When asked why, her representative simply said that even in death, Elizabeth Taylor wanted to arrive fashionably late.
Ronnie Lee Toler
Similar to Chris Kyle, Ronnie Lee Toler was a respected military veteran… only without all of the public supporters. In fact, when Toler passed away this past August at the age of 66, no family came forward to identify him or begin planning his funeral service. Luckily, a local funeral director, Robert Rhoads, came forward to give this “unclaimed vet” the funeral that he deserved. However, he didn’t want to be the only one in attendance when it came time to pay his respects, so he took to Facebook:
“To all Family and Friends. We have an Unclaimed Veteran at Dickson Funeral Home. His name is Ronnie Lee Toler. We will be having his service Monday September 21, 2015 at 9 am at Middle Tennessee Veterans Cemetery with Military Honors. If you would like to show your support for our veterans please come to the service if you are able. Thank Y’all very much.”
What Rhodes didn’t expect was the post to go viral. His Facebook call for supporters was shared over 940 times, and hundreds of strangers showed up in Dickson, Tennessee to pay their final respects to veteran Ronnie Lee Toler… including a crowd of veterans and active duty soldiers who stood by to give Toler a final salute.
You would be hard pressed to find a memorial service that better represented the person it was honoring than John Lennon’s. While the Beatles’ singer did not have an official funeral after he was shot and killed outside of his New York apartment (his wife, Yoko Ono, decided against an organized service), it was asked that people around the world come together to “pray for John’s soul” at a designated time. So, on December 14th, 1980, fans around the world gathered in public places to celebrate Lennon.
Many spent the day playing their favorite John Lennon songs and sharing stories with one another. In Central Park, more than 100,000 people assembled and turned the memorial into a daylong event. Then, at 2 p.m. EST, all of the celebrations came to a halt and all gatherings went silent in remembrance of the fallen singer. However, the one aspect of the event that honored John Lennon the most? More than 300 police officers were set to Central Park as a security precaution, but the gathering was nothing but peaceful.
With hundreds of comments, Facebook shares, and candles lit in his honor, it’s safe to say that Benjamin Wheeler’s social memorial website is as beautiful as a funeral memorial can get. Sadly, 6-year-old Benjamin was killed in the tragic Sandy Hook event that made national headlines in December 2012, and people from all over the world were looking for appropriate ways to express their sympathy for the families affected by this horrific event in whatever way they could.
Luckily, B.C. Bailey Funeral Home, who was responsible for Benjamin’s service, became very active in their community and gave people a place where they could show their support to the family – an online memorial page. On this page, people could send gifts to Benjamin’s family, leave words of comfort and support, and even light a candle in his honor. In fact, people from all over the world still log on to Benjamin’s page 3 years later to share their thoughts and prayers, and show that they are still supporting the young boys family long after the funeral is over.
If you would like to learn more about how you can incorporate this powerful online memorial feature into your funeral home website, click here.
What are some of the most beautiful funerals and memorials you have ever seen? Be sure to share them with us in the comments below!