Personal Wishes for a Memorial or Funeral Service

Preparing for Death

Establish your personal relationship with God in Christ. Life eternal begins now, not at the time of death. Maintain a life of worship, study, and service, in constant dependence upon the grace of God, and continuous obedience to the call of Christ.

Provide for the care of your dependents—wife or husband, children under age, and other dependents. Periodically review your total insurance and investment program. Make sure you know what protection is needed for each one who depends on you. Make a careful list of all your assets and where papers for each may be found.

Prepare for the disposition of you property. Make your Will or Living Trust and update it periodically with your attorney. The Bel Air Presbyterian Church Endowment Fund also available to assist and offers “Your Guide to a Christian Will”, prepared by the Presbyterian Foundation. Give particular attention to these questions: Who will have custody of my children? How will each dependent be cared for? What persons and institutions will receive gifts and bequests?

Select the form of burial service and the disposition of your body. In consultation with your family and your pastor, review the Christian memorial or funeral service. Record your wishes and file one copy with the church. Indicate your preference with regard to the disposal of your body (earth burial, vault entombment, cremation). Consider the donation of your body for medical research.

By planning ahead and considering the aforementioned, we can spare our loved ones extra unnecessary burdens and, at the same time, insure that our service will be a witness to the Resurrection.

About the Christian Memorial/Funeral Service

Three notes should sound throughout the Christian service, which we designate as “A Witness to the Resurrection”: thanks to God for the life of the deceased; expression of the grief based on a realistic recognition of the separation made by death; and victory over death made manifest by God’s act of raising Jesus from the dead. A Christian service is always forward-looking, but this does not keep us from remembering what is past with gratitude and forgiveness.

We suggest the following for your prayerful consideration:
Consider a service that will best express the Christian faith. Remember that the church, which has nurtured you and stood beside you throughout your life, will continue to surround you and your loved ones at the time of your death. This ministry will be enhanced by your witness made clear ahead of time, including the selection of scripture, music, and hymns.

Consider the church as the place to hold the service.
Remember that it is in the church that we were baptized and dedicated to God. It was here that we made our confession of faith and became members. Again, it was in the Sanctuary of our church that we took our wedding vows. Finally, we have continued to meet in this place week after week to renew our commitment and to worship the Almighty God. Should not our witness to the Resurrection also be celebrated in the church?

Consider a closed casket.
Our local funeral homes have viewing rooms. Certainly, at the discretion of the family, a viewing can serve the purpose of showing our sympathy and solidarity with the bereaved. For the funeral service itself, you may decide ahead of time that the casket be closed. Experience has shown that this practice helps the family and friends by focusing attention away from the body to the triumph of the Resurrection.

Consider discretion and moderation in the selection of the casket and other displays.
We are counseled by the Directory of Worship in the furnishing of a casket, flowers, and other appointments to avoid ostentation and undue expense.

Some Questions About Related Matters

What about cremation?
There is much to say in favor of cremation. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has no official position with regard to cremation, nor does it seek to guide its members toward one form of disposal of the body rather than another. Earth burial, vault entombment, or cremation are all morally acceptable means of disposition.

How may a body be donated for medical purposes?
Forms for designating organs or parts of the body, followed by death, are available at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

How can I avoid life-sustaining procedure when they would only prolong my suffering and death?
You may draw up a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care that should be filed with your records, your doctor, and your attorney.

What are the legal requirements of the State of California regarding disposition of the body?
If death occurs without a physician in attendance, the Coroner or the local law enforcement authorities must be notified immediately.

What about a living memorial?
It is inevitable that when you die, your friends will honor you and comfort your loved ones with sympathy cards, notes, and flowers. We accept these as loving instruments of comfort and support. In addition, if you wish, your family may be able to direct memorial tributes to meet specific capital or program needs of your church, school, or other charitable organizations as a worthy way of continuing your witness.

Click here to download a form that will help us get started.

When Death Comes…
If I should die before I talk with you
about the reality of my own death,
how will you know about the celebration?
How will you know where to come,
what to expect, what songs to sing?

I tell you now because
tomorrow is not promised to everyone.

I will tell you now so that your good-bye can be
whispered, not in deep and terrible grief,
but in the sure knowledge
that we can come at last to a time of splendor.

When I die, come to church
and worship with our friends.
Comfort them with your nearness,
your love, your faith. Bring a solemn joy,
but when you sing, let it be
a mighty hymn of the church,
a gospel message of strength
and love and triumph.

And, if at the end, you think to sing,
“I Am the Resurrection and the Life,”
and clap your hands, there will be little doubt
that you know me well, and will have sung,
for me at least, the very best good-bye.

From: “A Time of Splendor”
By Roberta Liddiard