Life Review and Life Tribute Ceremony

by Deborah Grassman

This is an outline of a ceremony that can be used to enact the life review, and a sample ceremony.

I encourage patients to take every opportunity to enhance the meaningfulness in their family’s life. These forms are one way to enhance this precious time. The forms also become precious keepsakes after a loved one’s death and can provide a meaningful basis for developing a eulogy or other tribute.

I also encourage patients to complete a Life Review form on each young family member so it can be given to them as they grow older. The young person will then know the meaning they had in the dying person’s life, and help give them a sense of their history.

The forms can also be used at other times in peoples’ lives. Many people have collected Life Review forms from friends and family members to present to someone for their birthday or a holiday event.

The Life Review form has two parts. One is for the patient to complete on his or her own life, although family or friends should assist. I tell people to ask the questions and get the patient talking while the family/friend jots down some of the responses. It’s not so much about completing the form; rather, it’s about sharing the stories. The other part of the form is for the patient to complete on other family members and for family members to complete on the patient. I encourage them to consider mailing Life Review forms to family members unable to be present.

I encourage people to come together as a group and share what each has written. This meeting can be a very powerful and meaningful time together. It is a time of recalling stories and sharing them with one another, a final gift that often creates tears, laughter, and cherished memories.


Sample Life Story Tribute

This is the Life Tribute that I did for my father at his funeral. It is actually what propelled me to initially develop the Life Review forms so that a Tribute could be delivered before someone dies. This example will help you see how stories gathered from the biographical information forms plus the Life Review forms can be compiled into a meaningful narrative. Here is my father’s Life Review:

“I always pictured your childhood like the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Maybe it’s because I heard how you canoed behind the paddle boats on the Ohio River. Maybe it’s because you were such a prankster. There was the time your Mother told you to escort your teenage sister home from work so she wouldn’t be scared. You escorted her all right. You hid behind trees making her think someone was following her, and she ran screaming all the way home. There was the time you put the kittens in the butter churn to see if they could save you work by churning the butter for you. There was the time the coal wagon driver told you “Whatever you do, don’t touch the mules’ heels or they will spook.” Little did he know who he was talking to. They say the mules didn’t stop until the edge of town. But it was little brother, Morgan, who took the brunt of most of your pranks. There was the time you were walking the train trestle, and you pretended your foot was caught in the switch. You told Morgan, “I guess I’ll be here when the train comes. But, you go on. Save yourself.” Morgan started crying and stayed there with you, saying, “I won’t leave you, Brother.” Morgan didn’t leave you that day, and he never left you a day after that either.

I didn’t hear too much about your high school years except that you only weighed 97 pounds, and you helped the baseball team win the 1937 state championship. You also tried out for the St. Louis Browns. They told you to come back after you gained 40 pounds. Mainly, I heard stories about how you courted a girl named Juanita. Nothing slowed you down in your pursuit. When you broke your ankle and were on crutches, it didn’t stop you from walking the mile to her house. When she was quarantined with scarlet fever, you came to see her each day, pushing the crack in her window through so you could touch fingers. You conspired to get Juanita to marry you by hedging your bet: paying a month’s rent on an apartment and then asking her to marry you so you wouldn’t lose your deposit.

You started working for a paint and varnish company. You started out washing beakers and cleaning the lab. That led to an interest in chemistry and taking classes at the University of Evansville. Your career had begun.
Meanwhile, you and Juanita had bought a little house where you could raise a few chickens and grow a fine garden. Soon you had a baby son and a few years later, a daughter. With your family growing and your job more secure as the manager of the varnish plant, you decided to build a house, a house you would live in until your death. Shortly after you built your home, I was born.

By now, your son was picking up the baseball mitt you had retired and many a summer was filled with your coaching and managing the Little League and Pony League teams. You won some county championships, and I suppose that was important; but I think you taught the boys more than how to play baseball. There was the time the umpire couldn’t see if your boy was tagged out on second base. The ump said since he didn’t see it, he would call your boy “safe.” But you simply turned to the boy and asked him if he had been tagged and the boy said “yes.” You ended up losing that game, and many criticized you because your action changed the call. However, you were like that. The truth was the truth, and that made things pretty simple. In fact, I don’t think you ever told a lie in your whole life, leastways in your adult life.

Your children were growing up now. Juanita says you two had always wanted four children, but you just couldn’t make up your minds. The years went by, and I guess in your indecision, your fourth child had to make up your mind for you. So in your mid-40s, you were finally blessed with the daughter who completed your family.

There were lots of Sunday morning breakfasts at Lincoln State Park with family and friends. There were Thanksgiving meals and summer reunions in Kankakee at your sister’s farm. Then, there was your 50th wedding anniversary at French Lick. There was music, dancing, and snowman-making, hiking, skiing, and much joy and laughter.

You were also a great outdoorsman and naturalist. You knew most of the woods around Evansville and had spent almost all your life hunting squirrel, rabbit, or quail. Sometimes, you went with your birddog, sometimes you went with your brother, sometimes you went with your son, and sometimes you went by yourself. However, you always went with God. You said you always felt close to God when you were out there in the world of nature and beauty. You had a wonderful appreciation for His world and you knew so much about His wonders. You could talk in great detail about most any bird, fish, animal, plant, tree, or natural phenomena. You told me recently it was beyond you how anybody could study the order and beauty of the universe and not know for sure that there was a God.

You also loved to play golf. It wasn’t so much the golf, but being outdoors that delighted you. Tee-off time was 6 A.M. Saturdays, and I was usually at your side as your caddy. Then there’s the fishing. I remember fishing with you many a morning when I was a little girl. You caught bass, croppy, and blue gill. Then, you discovered saltwater fishing in Florida. Fishermen are known for their patience and persistence. You definitely had persistence, but you had a most impatient style. No matter where the boat was anchored, you were sure the fish were 50 yards in a different direction. Most holes were fished out in 10 minutes if you weren’t getting a bite. Hardly a day went by you weren’t calculating tides, buying shrimp bait, and plotting weather reports in your quest to outsmart those fish. With great enthusiasm you would tell of your catches: trout, catfish, pin fish, flounder, a few shark, and sting rays. It didn’t matter. It was all fun to you. Anything you caught was an adventure.

Actually, almost everything was an adventure to you. You were interested in about everything and that made you interesting. Even food was an adventure. I don’t think there was any food you didn’t like: pickled pig’s feet, Limburger cheese, dandelion greens, morels, raw corn, raw soybeans out of the field. It didn’t matter. And then there was your cooking. Ann always said about you, “Old chemists don’t retire, they just move to the kitchen.” The kitchen became your new laboratory, and recipes were your new formulas. Unfortunately, you also continued to enjoy your consumption of beer. I say “unfortunately” because by the end of the day, you were sometimes withdrawn and distant, and we missed you.

As I said earlier, you loved kids, and your grandkids were no exception. You loved to be with them, and they loved to be with you. They spent summers and vacations with you and you instilled biology and chemistry lessons in them whether you all were fishing, or hiking, or feeding the squirrels, or setting up feeders for your birds, or building a fire in the fireplace. You weren’t much on hugging or cuddling, but you were big on patting and pinching cheeks, and you were very big on making them feel important.

Just like that train trestle, your brother Morgan never left your side. He said it began as hero-worship when he was a child and developed into respect as an adult. You worked at the same paint and varnish company together, golfed, went to the race track, hunted, watched football, and vacationed together. Morgan says that in all these times, he can never remember an argument. He says he’s known and loved you all of his 69 years, and he has a hole in his heart that no one else will be able to fill.

Your children share similar sentiments. Jeff will remember that you were always there for him. Whenever he had a need, he could count on you for help and support. Sidney says what will always remain with her is that you were a plain-spoken man who was never impressed with the flashiness of the world because you knew and lived the truth. Your gifts to Ann have been your humor and your love as a father and grandfather. You taught her many things including the importance of responsibility and self-discipline. For myself, your gift to me was simply that you loved me; you loved my husband; you loved my children; you loved my brother and sisters; you loved my Mom. By doing that, you made my world a better place for me to live.

I guess the real measure of a man may well be how he loves his wife. Your love was tested when Mom had her stroke four years ago. Your devotion was beyond words. We were worried about how long you could maintain the energy and effort it took to care of her, but it never seemed to phase you. You told me: “I love her. I want to do it,” saying it was not a sacrifice.

So, you can see how hard it is for us to let you go. We hold on to those things we love and we love you. But, as hard as it is, we let you go today. You go to join your brother and sister who preceded you, and your Mother and Father before them. And it will only be a blink of an eye, before the rest of us here today will join you too. You have lived a good life Edwin Jones, and as God welcomes you home to His kingdom today, He says to you: “Thank you for loving my people.” We thank you for loving us too.

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