7 Amazing Celebrations of Life to Inspire You For 2014


Photo Credit: Artmakesmesmile via Flickr

We’re quickly approaching a new year…That means it’s time to reflect on our greatest achievements this year, and to inspire ourselves for next year’s goals! And what better way to be inspired for a new year than to reflect on 2013’s best celebration’s of life.

I encourage you to think about how you can create a celebration of life just as personal, unique, meaningful or beautiful as these. You never know…one of them might spark an idea for your next funeral service. Either way, watch them, read them, take them in. And most importantly, be inspired.

What are you waiting for? Here are the seven most AMAZING celebrations of life to inspire you for 2014!


#1 – Jen Merendino – “A picture worth a thousand words”

When photographer Angelo Merendino met the love of his life, Jennifer, it was love at first sight. But five months after they got married, his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. After series of chemotherapy, radiation and reconstructive surgeries and remissions, Jen lost her battle to cancer after just two years. Through their struggle together, Angelo photographed the most memorable moments with intimate photographs. Their hope was that people could understand how difficult it is to fight cancer by documenting their journey. When Jen passed away, Angelo posted the photographs with this beautiful message:

My photographs show this daily life. They humanize the face of cancer, on the face of my wife. They show the challenge, difficulty, fear, sadness and loneliness that we faced, that Jennifer faced, as she battled this disease. Most important of all, they show our Love. These photographs do not define us, but they are us.

To view the entire photo essay of Jen’s battle, click here.

#2 – Lorraine Stobaugh – “Oh Sweet Lorraine”

Fred Stobaugh of Peoria, Illinois, isn’t a songwriter. In fact, he’s only written two songs in his life. One of the songs he wrote is the one we’re nominating as a beautiful celebration of life today. Fred wrote the song “Oh Sweet Lorraine” for his late wife, Lorraine, documenting their 75-year amazing romance.

Fred submitted his wonderful story and beautiful song to a contest hosted by Peoria’s Green Shoe Studio. They loved his song so much, they created a soundtrack using his lyrics and showed up at his home to surprise him with it. After hearing it for the first time, Fred, with tears in his eyes, called it “Wonderful. Just wonderful.”

Watch the video below to hear the song and find out more about Fred’s amazing story:


#3 – Zach Sobiech – “My Last Days”

When Zach Sobiech was just 14 years old, he found out that he had a rare form of terminal cancer. So, for the last years of his life, he made it his personal mission to inspire people with music. To share his message with the world, he created a Youtube video episode called “My Last Days” which included his hit single “Clouds”. It went viral on the Internet, hit a top spot on iTunes, and his touching music video won over the hearts of people everywhere.

After Zach lost his battle to cancer, a slew of celebrities – including Colbie Caillait, Jason Mraz, Sara Bareilles, The Lumineers, Phillip Phillips and Ashley Tisdale – created a beautiful tribute for him in effort to raise awareness and funds to help find a cure for childhood cancer. Watch their touching tribute for Zach below:


#4 – Jim Kelley – “Run in peace, Jim”

Jim Kelley, an avid runner of nearly 30 years, had his life cut short when he was struck by a car while running one day. Jim was a very influential person in his community and he inspired many.

That’s why his friends and wife wanted to pay tribute to him in the most personal way possible, so they worked with the funeral directors to come up with this genius idea: Jim’s running friends would run his behind his hearse to the cemetery to represent “one last run”. People who ran behind Jim’s hearse said it was an amazing experience because instead of mourning and sadness, there was laughter and enjoyment while they paid tribute to an amazing life lived. My favorite part about this amazing and unique tribute? Instead of saying “Rest in peace”, his family and friends said “Run in peace, Jim.”


#5 – Jeffery Port – “A letter for Daddy”

There aren’t many connections out there that are more powerful than the one between a father and his daughter. So when Whitney Port, former Teen Vogue contributor, lost her father to kidney cancer, she was devastated. As a writer, Whitney wanted to pay tribute to her father in the most fitting way possible… by writing his eulogy.

The eulogy was in the form of a letter written to him, and it’s one of the most beautifully written eulogies I’ve ever read. My favorite part is the conclusion where she says “…through the wind we hear your whisper. We will feel your glow from the sun. In the lake we will see your reflection and through the air we will embrace your hug”. Read the full eulogy for Whitney’s father below:


#6 – Jim Vester – The power of generosity

When Iraq war veteran and Indiana National Guardsman Jim Vester, 32, was tragically murdered when purchasing an iPad from two men on Craigslist, his community was absolutely devastated. That’s why people in his community got together and raised more than $85,000 from 1,600 donors with this online campaign for his wife, Jamie, and one-year-old son.

We think this is one of the best celebrations of life because it’s not everyday that people can come together to make a difference in someone’s life after a loss. Because of the people who helped out, Jim’s wife and son can now live a good life, so he can rest at peace knowing that his family will be taken care of. In response to the amazing outcry of people willing to help out, Jamie’s friend said “Humanity is beautiful and the love and support that you all have shown to Jamie and Gavin is indescribable”.


# 7 – Harry Stamps – The “best obituary ever”

Harry Stamps was quite the character during his life, so it works out quite perfectly that his death would leave us laughing as well. His daughter captured his life through this hilarious and, at times, downright inappropriate obituary coined as the “best obituary ever” by many.

Ironically, Harry, who hated Daylight Savings Time, actually died the day he would have to turn his clocks forward. Harry’s service was held at Bradford O’Keefe Funeral Home, and his social memorial wall has received tens of thousands of messages and condolences. View Harry’s quirky obituary and live social memorial wall here. When asked how her dad would feel about his obituary going viral, she said, “He wouldn’t know what going viral means. He would have thought that was a disease he contracted, which would have excited him to have another illness to lord over folks”.



What is the most amazing celebration of life you saw in 2013? Tell us about it in the comments below!


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  5. Val Kerry

    Hi Rochelle Rietow, Pixsy alerted me to the use of one of my images which is at the top of this post. (Hand holding stone) which was taken from my Flickr account ‘Artmakesmesmile’ I do not mind you using it but as I said in my original post on Flickr anyone using my images should credit my work. Thanks

  6. Krystal Penrose

    Hi Val thank you we’ve added your name and profile to credit the photo. Great photo btw! Thanks.