How to create meaningful memorial activities

How can estate planning attorneys help families make meaningful and memorable memorial activities, especially with the constraints of a global pandemic?

Kyle Tifflin, founder of I Want a Funeral, spoke about “raising our funeral traditions” at the 4th Annual Before I Die in New Mexico virtual festival.

I showed a cartoon featuring two A wise man Making cave paintings. The father had drawn an animal in the form of a stick and the son made an illustration of a deer. The father says, “No Og, no! This is not the way we have always done it.”

“That’s my analogy to funerals,” Tevlin explained. “We have this picture of what we think is cool and have no idea there is something much better, more elegant and more beautiful.”

Tevlin suggests making a memorial service a project that can help make the world a better place, take a life of its own, and preserve the story of a loved one. I shared Aaron Collins’ inspiring example.

Aaron Collins passed away on July 7, 2012 at the age of 30. He left a note asking his family to go out to eat and left a “great tip”, suggesting them $500 to buy a pizza. The experience was recorded and uploaded to YouTube by Aaron’s brother, Seth.

Generous people from all over the world have donated to reproduce “Aaron’s Last Wish” over and over again. More than $60,000 was raised, and Seth gave $500 a tip to more than 100 waiters and waitresses. As a result, Aaron’s life story is told over and over again.

“Out of grief and tragedy, his family can now talk about that loss with joy and a smile, and Aaron has become a superhero that makes people happy,” said Teflin. “It all just happened because Aaron Collins wrote this early. The family only planned to do it once, but that’s all the more reason to do something simple, because you don’t know where it’s going to take you.”

Tips for getting involved in memorial work

So, what do you do to be creative and committed to goodbye? Tevlin recommends these seven tips for upgrading our funeral traditions.

  1. Think of a goal for what you would do to honor someone. Find a topic, a vision that relates to the essence of that person. The goal makes it easier for people to contribute, share and generate great memory.
  2. Make your character shine through, and relate to a hobby, passion, trait or quirk that everyone will recognize. It can be fun or formal, whatever is appropriate.
  3. Scope the honor, from an immediate family event to a global online affair. Bigger isn’t necessarily better, but get a little out of your comfort zone for a bigger reward.
  4. “Roll up your sleeves” means “make your own” as much as possible, recruiting talents, contributions, creative ideas and resources within your circle. Sharing is where bonding takes place.
  5. Enjoy the process. While grief is inevitable, these activities should bring joy. It is a way of thanking the person for being in your life, warming your heart and giving a sense of relief.
  6. Perfection is not required. Do what you can in any way you can, and generate personal interaction and emotional connections.
  7. There is no time limit. Whatever the action or event, there is no need to do it right away. It can easily be held on an anniversary, birthday or any other meaningful date.

Everything that is done in honor of a loved one, make it an event. Give him a name. Almost any activity can be turned into a competition, which is practically guaranteed to be fun and memorable.

You can watch Kyle Teflin’s talk, as well as other speakers and panel discussions from the festival, on the festival’s videos page at

Jill Rubin, Certified Secondary Specialist and The Doyenne of Death®, is a leading educator in the field of death education. She uses humor, funny movie clips, and out-of-the-box activities to teach end-of-life pre-planning. She coordinated the Before I Die New Mexico Festival, which won first place in the ICCFA’s 2018 KIP Award for Best Event. She is also the author of three books on end-of-life issues and a certified funeral celebrant. Her website is

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