How To Write A Tribute To A Loved One

Writing a tribute to a loved one to read at a funeral can seem a daunting prospect, can’t it. I mean, where do you start? Often we are writing these at one of the saddest moments of our lives and it can be hard to think of the things that made this person great, when it breaks your heart to recall these things you will miss.

But equally, putting to paper the things about your loved one that made you smile can be therapeutic and help us in our time of sadness.
So where do you start? There is no real answer to this – just write the first things that come to mind. If it is easier, make a list of everything that reminds you of them. you can always flesh the list out afterwards – or not! Some people just like to read out a list as a tribute – there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to sharing how your loved one made you feel.

If you are really stuck, here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Three words you think of when you think of your loved one
  • What colour does your loved one remind you of?
  • Would your loved one have a ‘soundtrack’ to life? For example, if you could imagine music to accompany the life and the things they did, what would it be?
  • If you were making a recipe of your loved one, what would you put in it (eg, a scoop of love, a pinch of reason, a spritz of chanel no 5…)
  • What are three significant moments or milestones you shared with your loved one?
Lastly, it might help to create a ‘mood board’ of things your loved one liked, with pictures of them. Even just describing the mood board is a great tribute.
when it comes to writing your tribute, there are no rules- you don’t have to go in time-order, and you could even write sentences down and randomise them – like a poem, or link the sentences with a ‘catch phrase’ (some examples of this style of ‘poem’ below)

One the Day:

You might be a bit nervous about reading you tribute out on this emotional occasion. Here’s a few tips:

  • Take some tissues – remember it’s okay to feel emotional, everyone will understand if you feel emotional during your tribute
  • Your celebrant will be there to help you! Send them a copy of your tribute and let them know if you would like them to read it on your behalf. We are happy to do this, and we are just as happy to stand by and if you give us the nod, to pick up your tribute if you feel like you can’t continue reading it. We are here to catch you, basically.
  • Take your time to read it, take a breath after each sentence.
  • Remember, you are surrounded by loved ones, and people your loved one knew and loved. They are not there to judge you at all, they are there to share your lovely words about the person who they also loved.
  • Print your reading out with a large font size – the lighting is typically soft in a funeral venue so your usual font size might be difficult to read – the bigger the better!

Who Was St Valentine?

Typically, in history, the origin of some of our saints and festivals morph into one and St Valentine is no different – he is many people morphed into one. Here we take a look at the origins of who he might have been, and why they are associated with the most romantic day of the year…

They say that some lose their heads for love… Well, this is certainly true of St Valentine

The first St Valentine is a Christian saint who was doing his business around 3rd century Rome. Remember, Christians were persecuted by the Romans – chucked to the lions so in many places around the world (like in Egypt) their societies had to operate in secret because what they were doing could have them killed.

The first St Valentine was part of a secret underground Christian movement at the time of Claudius II (Claudius Gothicus – and not because he was the first to listen to Sisters Of Mercy and wear black) and he is associated with love because he married Christian couples in secrecy (he also helped fellow Christians who were being persecuted and thrown to the lions by Claudius but that bit isn’t relevant to today’s post…)

Claudius had him slammed in jail and while he was awaiting execution, he tried to convert Claudius from his pagan ways. Obviously Claudius was fuming – why would he want to convert to a more sedate Christianity? Paganism followed MANY gods and had many parties celebrating these many gods – not to mention the mystery gods… Or the sacrifices, or the days partying hard on wine and women – and men (this 3rd century St Valentine wasn’t up for partying hard, Andrew WK style, basically).

He was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate and you can visit his reliquary (pictured above) in the basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. Apparently, his bones and a vial of blood ended up in Dublin’s Whitefriar Street Church. But before he died, he sent a message to the jailer’s daughter, who he had fallen in love with, that said, ‘From your Valentine’.

He is said to be executed on February 14th – a bit of a convenient date, considering a lot of important dates have been muddied with Pagan parties- remember, the Lupercalia is on the 15th… and when Christianity cleansed the world of the debauchery that was happening in the name of religion, a lot of Pagan celebrations just so happened to fall on the same date as this new religion…

Back in history, Valentine was a popular name. Like John or Chris… It was used a lot because Valentinus meant powerful and strong… And butch. But of the Valentines we know about (there are effing loads of ‘ordinary blokes’ with this name noted in history), it doesn’t seem to be a lucky name.

Aside from St Valentine of Rome, who you’ve just read was beheaded, there was another Valentine, the Bishop of Terni. Because this bloke lived around the same time and was also apparently beheaded by Claudius II, some believe this to be the same bloke. The Catholic church has a massive list of Saints and there are many named St Valentine, and there was even a Pope Valentine (he served only 40 days).

One Valentine who fared a bit better was St Valentine Berrio-Ochoa, a Dominican order Spaniard, who traveled to Vietnam and served as bishop. Then in true St Valentine tradition, he too had his head chopped off in 1861.

Real Life ” I Do”! Rachael’s Scrap Book Proposal

Continuing our proposal inspiration, we asked real-life bride to be Rachael how she popped the question to her intended, Neil… She had to get creative because lockdown scuppered the original plans, but we think this is beautiful! This is what she said…

THE SCRAPBOOK PROPOSAL

I had already decided in December 2019 that I was going to propose to my partner. I knew he wanted to get married, as did I, but was being a bit slow about proposing. He’s not really a jewellery or big spontaneous gesture kind of person, so flash mobs, public proposals and engagement rings were out of the question.

We’ve always referred to each other as adventuring buddies both think Up! is romantic (the first bit) and I like crafts. So I decided to make him a scrap book to propose with. We have an in joke, and 15a means ‘I love you’. So clearly sections of the scrap book needed to be numbered up to 15b being ‘marry me’. I set about the book in January 2020, including lots of tickets, photos, napkins, cards, anything to spark a joyous memory.

But when to propose? On a nice weekend away was obvious. We had two suitable trips planned, the last weekend in February and then in May. We’ll, there was no way I was proposing on the only day in 4 years where women are traditionally allowed to (29th Feb), so May it was. Then covid, ill health, furlough and all sorts of things hit. Needless to say the trip in May did not happen. But I couldn’t wait for all this to be over as it dragged in into August with no end in sight. So, with the scrap book ready, I ordered a wonderful set of cheeses from our local cheesemonger, as it was something special. I tidied the dining room (we rarely eat in there, so it felt like being somewhere other than the house we hadn’t left in 4 months) and set it up to look like a Parisian restaurant (our last holiday was Paris) with Moulin Rouge on the lap top (a film we both adore and have amazing memories of the Secret Cinema version). We ate. We drank. I gave him the book and got very nervous! He beamed looking through all of the sections and memories and when he got to 15b, grinned at me, said yes, gave me a kiss, and ran off!

He returned with a little box with a ring and asked me the same question! He had been planning to propose on the May trip too! Of course I said yes! We then video called parents and announced on social media. I was so pleased that it managed to all feel magical despite being at home. It was a very ‘us’ proposal.”

I Love the way Rachael proposed to Neil – thanks so much to her for sharing this fabulous and inspiring proposal! It really sums up the story of their life together so far… They get married in October 2020 ❤

All pics by Rachael Eyre

Proposal Ideas Pt 2

If you are looking for a different way to pop the question on St Valentine’s Day, here are a few more ideas…

GIVE THEM THE KEY… TO YOUR HEART.

Well, it might sound a bit obvious, but it’s fun, right? And these days, asking for permission and finding a formal moment to “do it” all sounds a bit serious, doesn’t it? So why not have a bit of fun? A key that fits a locked box, which has a ring inside is a really cute way to propose… But if you want to make it even more special, why not put inside some of your favourite photos from your story so far – moments that have been magical. If you are like me, you may have kept tickets or “souvenirs” from things you did together… why not pop them inside the box as well! If you are poetic, why not include a poem, or some lyrics to your favourite song?

MATRYOSHKA!

Are you crafty? Do you love folklore? Then why not hide the question inside a set of Russian nesting dolls? You can get some really cool ones around now, based on any theme, and I’m told that a certain UK hobby shop even does ones you can paint yourself – so you can make your own mini Matryoshkas based on yourselves!

LOVE BY THE BOOK…

Photo-books are really easy to create these days. Most of the major printing sites make them and you can caption each page yourself, so why not give your loved one your love story so far? Don’t be put off by the thought of it being a difficult thing to create as most sites have templates and you just click on the photo upload area and choose your pics. Don’t forget to pop the question in the book! and it is noce to leave a “to be continued…” page to make it clear that that isn’t the end of the story!

If photo uploads aren’t your thing, you could do a really low-key proposal, simply by putting the ring in a book and asking your intended to pass you the book. This is a nice idea as it’s quite relaxed and if you choose your moment correctly it will be unexpected and delightful!

BY VIDEO

These days, everyone seems to be doing things by video, so why not propose… but the key thing here is to make it special, and not some quick recorded message sent to their inbox without a thought, because you are scared to ask in person! This is not the alternative of being scared to ask in person! Some ideas for you include choosing your background – you want to make it look like you’ve put some special thoughts into it. you can make a physical background by decorating a wall or some curtains with love hearts, or even letters… Talking to camera works – make sure you look down the lens, though, so your loved one feels like you are talking directly to them, and ensure you are nicely lit – a light in front that illuminates your face is best, as back lit will cause shadows. If you want to make it humorous you could lip sync to a song and there are editing packages that are really easy to use now, so if you wanted to play different characters, wear different outfits, or incorporate clips from friends, then you can. How you choose to send it is up to you, but unless you are really confident of the answer, and sure your intended wont hit the roof because everyone has seen this first, it’s probably not the best idea to put it up publicly on social media or youtube. And choose your moment to send it! Make sure it hits their inbox at a special moment…

More proposal hints and tips coming tomorrow!

Will You?

Yes, we all know it’s a cliche and only to be expected on St Valentine’s Day – but so what? If you want to pop the question, then why not?

Any day is a good day for love! Here are a few ideas to make it a bit different…

TREASURE HUNT

We’ve all been on those treasure hunts, where clues lead to other clues and the winner gets, well? What? I don’t think I can remember winning any actual treasure… However, now is your chance to change all that, where the winner (or should I say, only contestant) gets to win your heart and a sparkler to put on their finger.

Granted, during lockdown, this might be a bit more difficult as we’re not allowed to go anywhere, which means you will have to be a bit more creative when you lay down your clues around your house and/or garden… and also, choosing the time of day might make it feel more special – eg, doing it after the sun has gone down by candlelight… Your clues could be simple post it notes cut into the shape of a heart and each clue leads your intended to a different, but special location – perhaps one clue could lead to an unforgettable photograph, and the next lead to the kitchen, where there is a treat (like your last rollo?) or to their favourite dish or ingredient, the next to the wardrobe and to an item of clothing or shoes they were wearing when you first met? You get the idea, make your clues part of your story together and it will be a fun and memorable proposal.

If you want to wait until lockdown is over for your love adventure, then you can make an even bigger treasure hunt that leads to special places, such as the place where you first kissed, somewhere you have your first date, etc.

In both cases, just make sure you keep the treasure on your person as you really don’t want the ring falling into the wrong hands… and make the last clue one that leads to your heart, so you have the chance to propose! If you want to make that more fun, you could hide and they have to find you for the treasure!

and don’t forget, you don’t have to make it a paper trail! you can go low-tech and do it on text messages, or by sending part of a picture of where the next clue is, so they have to guess the whole picture. When they’ve found the place, why not attach the story to the item – eg, “These were the shoes you were wearing when we first met”? This shows you have thought about the details of your relationship and have taken notice!

More ideas coming tomorrow!

And Then The Sun Came Out…

Most of us, when we attend the funeral of a loved one, even if we don’t believe in the after life, look for a sign that they are still with us. Yes, it might be wishful thinking, but we take comfort in signs, it makes us feel like our loved one is there, looking over us, and death isn’t the full stop at the end of life.

At yesterday’s service, it really felt like there was a sign. It was a freezing cold day, there were even a few wisps of snow, starting to whisper out of the sky, but as soon as the hearse arrived, the sun came out. Without the bitter temperature, you would be forgiven for thinking it was a lovely summer’s day. The sun stayed out, and bright until the curtains were closed at the committal. If there was anyone at that service, looking for a sign, then that would have been all the reassurance they needed.

Here’s an inspiring poem, which I read as part of the service…

When I’m Gone By Mosiah Lyman Hancock

When I come to the end of my journey
And I travel my last weary mile
Just forget if you can, that I ever frowned
And remember only the smile 

Forget unkind words I have spoken
Remember some good I have done
Forget that I ever had heartache
And remember I’ve had loads of fun 

Forget that I’ve stumbled and blundered
And sometimes fell by the way
Remember I have fought some hard battles
And won, ere the close of the day 

Then forget to grieve for my going
I would not have you sad for a day
But in summer just gather some flowers
And remember the place where I lay 

And come in the shade of evening
When the sun paints the sky in the west
Stand for a few moments beside me
And remember only my best

From The Heart…

As St Valentine’s Day approaches, here are some more historical facts about the heart…

did you know, the heart has been associated with our feelings and will for thousands of years – just look at the ancient Egyptians who weighed the heart against a feather to see if you were worthy of the afterlife. If your heart was lighter than a feather, you were allowed through that elusive doorway. It was thought that the heart, not the brain, contained all your emotions.

The fact that the heart is in the centre of the body only re-enforced this fact, and if the heart was pierced, you could die.

An early Roman “scientist”, Galen, was the first to realise the heart beats faster in different circumstances. They linked the feeling of the quickening heart (and that funny feeling in the chest) to love. In the middle ages, artists would base their somewhat naive anatomy drawings on the written descriptions of Galen and Aristotle without actually basing it on the real thing and while it’s obvious that the heart is red to represent all that blood pumping around the body because you are in love and your heart is “all a flutter”, the heart was always depicted upside down with a small dent in its base (the dent gradually became bigger). It was gradually turned around in the 15th century and by the 1800s, this heart shape, which appeared on tabards (livery), playing cards, religious pictures and other paintings was everywhere. And started to be sent out as a message of love.

Why the heart?

As St Valentines Day approaches, I thought we would have a look at what is it, and why we use the symbol of a heart as the universal sign of love…

The heart symbol has absolutely no relation to the heart we have in our bodies, aside from the fact that people in historical times thought that the heart was at the centre of the body, and that it drove our feelings. The heart shape itself has its origins in foliage, fruit and seeds. In ancient Greece, they loved this massive fennel-type plant called silphium. It was the wonder ingredient of its time, the greeks and Romans loved it so much that they consumed it to extinction. Not only could it be used to flavour foods, it was also medicine and used for birth control and its seeds were heart-shaped. Others believe that the fig leaves used to cover the modesty of Adam and Eve were the origins of the heart shape (as are ivy leaves…). Later, in the 13th Century (Tom, that’s for you) a famous French manuscript, ‘Roman de la Poire’ shows a pair being handed to a lover in a title page illumination. Nothing whatsoever to do with a heart – but the shape is similar and the pear represents love and fertility in many different cultures.

It also has its origins in the naive anatomy drawings that started to come out in the middle ages. The artist would base their drawings on the written descriptions of Galen and Aristotle without actually basing it on the real thing!

It’s Okay Not To Wear Black…

Firstly, let’s get this straight. I really like wearing black. I wear it a lot, and it goes with everything. But when it comes to my own “send off” I would ask people to wear something colourful that reminds them of me and that makes them happy.

In the Western world, the wearing of black as a mark of respect crept into fashionable mourning practices in the 1870s, after Queen Victoria’s beloved Albert died in 1861, and she donned the black funeral garb which she never really took off. It was customary to mourn your nearest and dearest for two years – so you would wear black for two years. Widows, like Queen Victoria, often wore black for far longer, some even for the rest of their lives – you’ve all heard of ‘black widows’, right? It was thought that this person was showing their love and respect for their dearly departed, thus also sending out the message that they are not available to conduct another relationship as their loved one is still in their heart.

Wearing dark clothes to mark a death has been in our culture for at least 500 years – and before then, people might wear a piece of clothing that made them uncomfortable, to match their suffering, or to symbolise to others that their heart is broken.

In other cultures, wearing bright clothes to mark a death is common practice. Wearing the colours to celebrate a person’s life but also as symbolism. for example, in some cultures, wearing white at a funeral signifies purity, purple has a sacred and spiritual meaning to it and in ancient Egypt, gold was associated with the afterlife.

There is a school of thought that says wearing black at a funeral will help you mourn as it encourages solemnity, while colours encourage happy thoughts. It is entirely up to those planning their ceremony to decide on the best way to mourn or celebrate their loved one. If you feel asking mourners to wear something colourful is the best way to remember your loved one, than I say go for it. But you can inject a bit of their personality into your proceedings if you feel wearing black is more for you. you could ask people to wear a certain flower in a certain colour, or something colourful/in a certain colour along with their black funeral attire. You can also ask your celebrant to take part too. And if you have asked us to wear a certain colour or flower, we can add that as part of your loved one’s story – the significance and what it means to them.

We are always happy to respect your wishes – it’s what we do!

Christmas With Someone Missing…

This year is going to be a hard Christmas for many of us who will be spending it in a different way. Many of us lost someone we love in 2020, it’s been a hard year and some are facing Christmas with a heavy heart. While the first Christmas without that person might be hard, I thought I’d share a few things we are thinking of doing ourselves, so that person still feels with us.

A bauble tribute

We will be making a special bauble that reminds us of our loved ones who are no longer with us, and be thinking of them as we put them on the tree. Baubles are easy these days to make. If you are lucky and don’t have cats who will smash your tree up (we do!) then you can buy a bauble making kit from anywhere (and certain online photo upload card sites will send you one ready made!). The bauble is usually glass, so be careful if it is likely to get smashed! But you can put into it a photo of your loved one, perhaps something that reminds you of them, some dried petals of their favourite flower or go festive and pop in some evergreens or herbs – rosemary is for remembrance.

Those more crafty among us could craft a looky-likey bauble out of felt, or you can go really simple and just buy or decorate a bauble in a colour that you think represents them.

When putting it on to the tree, have a special moment where you think of them. Perhaps this could be done when the tree has already been decorated, and if you have other family members there too, you could gather to have a moment to remember.

Lighting a candle

A really simple idea and one that is timeless. Simply lighting a candle for your loved one will help you feel the warmth of their love and presence. You could have a moment to think about them as you light the candle, and send them a message of love from the heart.

Setting an extra place

Personally, this is not for me, as it’s a reminder that there is an empty seat that used to be occupied, but I do know a few people who set that extra place at the dinner table and get a great deal of comfort from that. But acknowledging your loved one is a nice thing to do, as you are not trying to ‘carry on as normal’. We usually have a little toast to those who are no longer with us, and may have a smile that my mother in law would be saying the meat is “tough” or “dry”! And this year, we will be keeping up the tradition of playing a really bad game after – it’s usually Trivial Pursuit, and [husband] Stu’s dad always took ages to answer, so we will be thinking of him as we play it!

Tributes

If you have a special place where you go to remember your loved one, you may want to lay a tribute. It doesn’t just have to be flowers; you can be imaginative in your tribute (as long as it is biodegradable!), a seasonal wreath with some symbolic plants in is a lovely touch – perhaps there was a certain flower they liked? Or maybe you might plant a tree or plant?

A remembrance toast

My father in law used to make us snowballs every Christmas eve until he got unwell with dementia – and then we made them for him! but this year we will be upholding the snowball tradition and making them in his honour, and having a special ‘cheers’ to him. IS there a special cocktail or drink that reminds you of your loved one? Perhaps you could toast in their honour.

Making a remembrance collection

Finally, you could make a collection of things that remind you of them, for example, a bottle of their favourite Christmas tipple, a photo of them, and some personal items, such as a brooch or watch.

If you have any special things that you will be doing to remember your loved ones this Christmas that aren’t above, then do let me know!