Creative Funerals

Innovative ideas, directly from members of our community.

How would YOU honor life?

How would YOU honor life?

In December of 2018, Pray Funeral Home held a contest that we called "The Corteo Contest."  This was a challenge where people shared how they would honor their own life, or the life of a family member or friend. We had a ton of great entries, and ultimately 10 people and their guests joined us that day.  The winners won a trip to Detroit to see Cirque Du Soleil's Corteo, a stage production which features a clown reflecting on his own funeral. The prize winners traveled by bus to the show and dinner afterwards. 

On the trip home each contestant read their essay, and Joe E Pray  shared his vision of the funeral that he would construct with those directions.  They had lots of other ideas and applauded each winner and my response.  Actually fun with funerals!

We have shared the winning essays on this page. You'll also find our ideas on how we could turn that essay and vision into a reality.

If you have a great idea that you have for a life celebration, funeral or family affirmation service, email it to us.  We will use our imagination to craft your ideas into a meaningful and healing event.  

An A-maze-ing entry

An A-maze-ing entry

When asking how to honor a life, it can be a difficult question to answer because what does the word life mean? Some might say it means our mere existence on this earth, and others may argue it is the condition something or someone is in over time, or even constraining life to the time between birth and death. However, I believe it is more than our existence in the here and now, and we must focus on what gives us vitality, vigor, vivacity. Life should represent all of your ups and downs, your passions and the struggles you faced as you pursued the things you loved; obstacles, mistakes, and trials shape your character as an individual. So when I answer how I'd honor a life, my answer to you is simple, With a Fun House."

I'm the type of person who dives into the ball pit of life and gets tricks thrown at me. Life can get crazy and you can get confused and lose sight of yourself along the way. The image staring back at you could be distorted and misshapen. Other times you may find yourself running into a glass wall as you make your way through a maze. You forget where you've come from and where you're headed, but you remember all of the good times, the people who shaped your life, and what makes you, you! Take a moment to recuperate and remember in the exhausting moments, the love you have for your pursuits, friends, and family and keep living. Sometimes we get halfway through the fun house and we want to turn back around, avoiding the obstacles ahead. Taking risks and living a zestful life is the way to go, and once you get up the stairs of hard work and dedication you can go down the slide of retirement to the end of the fun house.

Build a fun house for a deceased friend or family member with their own personal mazes and mirrors, ups and downs, joys and fears. Honor their life by portraying a symbol of something unique and imperfect that will bring joy to all who experience the story of their life in all of it's a-maze-ment!

HOW WE CAN MAKE THAT A REALITY:

"An A-Maze-Ing funeral"

We could rent a fun house/ maze, or build one using poles and drapes, placing mirrors in select key points.  Pictures of the person at milestones of their life would be placed at key points throughout the maze. One particular area could be a dead end with portrayals of what might have happened if the person had made different or bad decisions.

Following the service, guests would have to navigate through the maze to get out, some of the pics may have been changed during the celebration to reflect stories from the tributes and then they would have to either wade, crawl through, or negotiate walking over a narrow plank over a ball pit, with the finale swinging on a rope suspended over a sandpit. The ball pit most likely would be rented from an amusement company, or hold the service/ celebration could be staged at a place such as the Zone.

Celebrate mY Russian Ancestry

Celebrate mY Russian Ancestry

I would have a big celebration!!!! Death to me is not the end at all but the beginning of whats to come!!!! I figure lots of fun music lights and maybe a band !!!! Have many people and family singing songs that brings memories of the Deceased instead of a pastor just let the family and friend share great memories!!!! Like I said a celebration of life is my way of Honoring life!!!!

How would I celebrate the story of my life?! I want to combine the passion for my cultural background, my love to my motherland of Russia. I want my friends and family to get together in the forest or a park. I want flowers and balloons and music! I love theater, so life performance of some sort is very appropriate.

I want people to have fun, because my whole life I am trying to make people around me smile. Jokes and funny stories! I love to laugh and I can easily laugh about myself. I want people to remember my clumsiness and forgetfulness, my life chaos! It is fun!!!!

I am not serious about my life, it is boring to be serious. I want people to remember me as a fun loving person! Let everybody eat and drink (vodka of course) and have fun!

In Russian culture people dance and sing a lot! I want my life celebration fe full of music and dance. Maybe it's not traditional, but so much fun!!!

HOW WE CAN MAKE THAT A REALITY:

"A Russian Theatrical Funeral"

The arena would be a miniature stage similar what you will see in the production this afternoon with the background of trees or forest.  Stage and seating area decorated with latex balloon bouquets. As part of the tribute a local theatre group would act out the families favorite stories of the individual.   The Celebration would end with a rather clumsy dancer dancing a ”fractured” performance combining moves of the barynya or Russian folk dances.   The celebration would not be complete without a meal of traditional Russian foods such as Pelmeni, Blini or Beef Stroganoff and of course would start with a toast of chilled vodka shots.

The Collage

The Collage

I believe that funerals are for the people left behind to process the death of a loved one in whatever way works best for them, and because I feel this I am not sure that I would actually want to actually plan my own funeral. This fun contest provides a way to explore the things that I would hope to have at my own celebration of life. I would hope for music, so much music. Live performers sharing songs that make people want to move, but also that allow people a safe place to put the overwhelming emotions. I envision color, so much color, and explosion of color to serve as a reminder of bright days ahead. There must be fun with a little bit of magic because the world always needs a good reminder of the magic that surrounds us. A celebration that allows for sorrow, but highlights the joy of living, and alleviates a little bit of the heaviness. I would want to encourage wonder, and kindness, and courage in some sort of interactive way. Life is so much fun, and part of life is death. We have to embrace that, but also understand that memories carry so much more than we give them credit for. I would have something planned that covered my children in love, and reminded them how strong each one is. I would want something in place to remind them that they are not alone in their grief. I am not sure how this looks, but I KNOW how it feels. It would feel like I was right there, around the corner, in another room, not far. It would smell like me with peppermint and vanilla and Hawaiian hair cream. I would want some sort of group interactive project that could be completed and reused within my community. Something that guests could build together, or add to upon arrival that was put to use in a helpful way within my hometown. I would want to spread the importance of fun, even through sadness. I would want footprints that demonstrate the importance of moving forward, to encourage my loved one to never get stuck in the sadness or loss.

HOW WE CAN MAKE THAT A REALITY:

"The Collage on the Beach Service"

Service would be set in a tropical Beach theme.  Footprints in the sand and the scent of peppermint, coconut and vanilla in the air.  Video walls surround the guests with Vincent's images of the Stars, the Milky Way and the Northern Lights over Iceland to promote wonder.  As guests arrive they stop before a camera which snaps their picture with a digital background.  The photos are printed out for them and as they enter the visitation or service they place their photo on a numbered spot on a backdrop which develops and inspirational mural that can be used at other events in the city to symbolize how one person can inspire creativity in the Community.  Memory pages shaped like leaves are distribute to guests to record their favorite sorry about the person.  A magician walks through the crowd transforming a baton to a bouquet, a handkerchief into a dive to show the transformation that death can bring, letting the soul take flight.   During the celebration disagreed people share their story of the honoree.  At the conclusion these written stories are fastened to a tree sculpture along with the memories written on the leaf pages.  The stories are collected for family to treasure, however the tree sculpture is later placed in a park to inspire others to collect store and memorialize others. As a closing song conclude s, color cannons blast bright colors into the air and live performers play songs that encourage movement, and like the Pied Piper, lead the guests of to a dinner to share time together share stores and support each other.

Capture the need - lead the way

Capture the need - lead the way

At the entry of the funeral event a magazine cover with picture of deceased. Headline "Capture the Need-Lead the way!"  Organizations that are being recognized in attendance (representatives clearly distinguished or placed in separate spaces).   People paying respect are encouraged to bring items of donations and the organization would handle the pick up of those items-not the funeral home.

AMERICAN RED CROSS (baby items/toilet paper/women product) FOODBANK, MACKENZIE'S SANCTUARY (Dog items), Pharmacy take back drug program (local Pharmacist),  Have dogs for adoption on site...you get the picture that this person loved dogs, supported these community organizations, worked in Pharmacy or Healthcare field.

Have video playing, favorite songs, local mascots (Logan-Old Newsboy, Digby the sea otter, Truckie, Lafcu-cow), deceased loved being a mascot and being on the Board of the Old Newsboys Association.

Decorating or promoting will come from the Organization's themselves.

In the beginning you will have to direct them of what is expected of them and the funeral home makes sure it is the event that will be talked about in the days following. Hopefully some attendees will come away with a new dog, career, or just a feeling I was given the opportunity to give back.

HOW WE COULD MAKE THAT A REALITY:

"Pay it Forward"

As folks entered the celebration, they would see a poster of the Old Newsboys paper with the honoree featured with portrait and the headline being “Capture the Need~Lead the Way” along with a picture of them in action during the old newsboys papers in the past.  For visitation involvement, have the different charitable organizations be at stations around the room featuring images of the honoree engaged with their organizations. Mascots of the organizations would be present and getting guests as they enter the visitation and the service.  Service and therapy dogs would be present to support guests.  In an adjacent room puppies from the local shelter would be present and ready for adoption.

As guests arrive and are greeted by the mascots, funeral service personnel would distribute copies of the old newsboy’s edition that would serve as the honoree’s memorial.  It would include contact information for the favorite charities to encourage involvement, Friends, coworkers, and fellow volunteers would share their tributes of the honoree from a stage area that is reminiscent of an old time newspaper office with desks typewriters and speakers positioned at each desk as of writing the news.

Music, Stories, and food

Music, Stories, and food

I would tell all the funny stories I know about that person. It is important to celebrate the zany, joyful parts of a person, as well as their characteristics and strengths. I'd ask others to share their tales too. I would use music or songs to tell their story and to describe them. Many of my friends are involved in bands or groups, so it would be wonderful to have music as a tribute to them. I also know what foods my friends like and I would prepare that to serve attendees. It would truly be a party!

HOW WE COULD MAKE THAT A REALITY:

"Musical Excerpts to Tell the Story"

I would pull together excerpts from their favorite songs and use those within the tributes that are shared by friends and relatives to either to tell that portion of the honorees story, or to accent the story.

Live bands would perform one favorite song to open the service and a second favorite to close the celebration. 

Of course the dinner to follow would celebrate their favorite foods.The recipes presented within the multi-page memorial along with a link to download their personal playlist of favorite music for guests to take with them and remember them by.

2001 Space Odyssey

2001 Space Odyssey

To honor my life and more importantly those I hold dear, I have always planned to have door prizes at my funeral. A last thank you to those who have stood by me and shared so many memories throughout my life. As a nod to my stage tech interests, it would be fun to have the coffin rise out the floor with lots of fog, a few strobes and the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey playing to begin the service. The song, The End by Sir Paul McCartney would accompany the standard photo slide show during the service. A live band would accompany the crowd out of the service playing the New Orleans funeral dirge, Just a Closer Walk with Thee. It would be great to have a comedian give the eulogy so that everyone leaves the service in the way that I tried to live life - with a smile.

HOW WE COULD MAKE THAT A REALITY:

"Dramatically Staged Funeral"

Keepsakes would be handed out at the end of the celebration.  Perhaps tickets to a local theatre production.  A raised platform stage would be built to conceal a scissors lift on which the casket would be placed out of site below the stage level.  At the beginning of the service, the casket would rise through fog and flashing strobe lights to the theme of 2001 Space Odyssey “Also Sprach Zarathustra" by Strauss.

Following tributes from friends, colleagues, and family members the local comedian would conclude the service with references from all the tributes.  The service would conclude with a photo video of significant pictures of the person’s life to the music of The End by Sir Paul McCartney.

A live marching band would greet us for the last block in the procession, leading us to the cemetery with the funeral dirge, and leading us out of the cemetery with jazz renditions of When The Saints Go Marching In leading us to the dinner.

Disney Celebration

Disney Celebration

The definition of honor (as a verb) is to fulfill or keep something such as an obligation or an agreement. My obligation throughout my life is to honor the Lord, treat others as I would like to be treated, and there is so much more. Having fun and enjoying life and the blessings we are provided, using the gifts we have. My nickname has been "Chatty Kathy" since the age of three. I love meeting and talking with people and I love to have fun and go on adventures. For my end of life celebration, I would first fly all of my friends and family and their friends to Florida. I would rent out all of Disney World for a few days and provide all accommodations and food. A perfect adventure for my friends and family and their friends to come, laugh, make memories and enjoy life. There would be a lovely dinner in Cinderella's Castle and my husband (along with whoever else wanted to) would speak and share my love for life and things such as hunting, being in the woods, and my love for the Lord. My cremains would be taken to the U.P. in Michigan and spread on property dear to my heart. A perfect end of life celebration filled with laughter, love, fun, and making memories would be my theme.

HOW WE COULD MAKE THAT A REALITY:

"Two Part Disney Life Celebration"

Following the death, we would begin making the arrangements for Memorial trip to Disney. That would take some time to coordinate schedules for family and friends.   

We would develop a Disney themed funeral in the days following the loss to meet the immediate needs of support for the family and friends. 

The deceased person could be dressed in a Cinderella gown, or if a gentleman a Prince Charming outfit and placed in a casket wrapped with images from the Magic Kingdom.  The setting would be in the gardens behind Pray’s (weather permitting) with a backdrop of Cinderella’s castle.  Guests would be greeted by Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy and shown to their seats.  The trees lining either side of the stage would be peppered with poster sized images of family outings, favorite photos and hunting trips, and maybe a hunting trophy or two.

The Celebration would feature folks relating their favorite stories, along with scripture pages and a message of hope and salvation to help the guests learn to adjust to the loss.  Following the service, the procession for the sendoff to the memorial luncheon would be led by the Seven Dwarfs.  

The outfits would be displayed around the room on mannequins or hangers.  To create the full ambiance, we would work in the flowers received, as well of poster sized photos with the person in the outfit shown.   A slide show that would include photos of the clothing/costumes and a chronology of the person’s life, as guests and friends/family share their tribute. The Tapestry Story would be shared.  This story tells how life is similar to a woven fabric with many different threads.  The clothes and the stories would create a tribute that would celebrate the persons lessons learned and taught or shared with others, and demonstrates how the person will live on in our memories and hearts.

Celebration of a Book Lover

Celebration of a Book Lover

I would base the honor of the life on the person who lived it. For instance, if it was a book lover, I would read parts of their most favorite books that were important to them or showed their personality. The celebration of their life would be wrapped in the worlds they escaped to and loved the most. Food and music would be what that person loved most as well.

HOW WE COULD MAKE THAT A REALITY:

"Celebration of a Bibliophile"

Excerpts from their favorite stories would be part of the memorial folders, and possibly represented on posters and the room.  Themes and quotations from the books that influenced their lives most would be used as part of the tributes that were shared during the celebration.  The casket would be decorated either with a wrap to look like books on a shelf, or actual books would be part of the casket to look like a library's shelf.   Or perhaps the casket would be placed on a bier made of books, symbolizing how the love of literature had supported them throughout life.

Let the Tigers Growl

Let the Tigers Growl

Because of my love for the Detroit Tigers, I want the theme of my life celebration to include a trip to Comerica Park. Since I'm pre-paying for my funeral expenses, I may have some life insurance money that could cover any non-traditional services. I would like to be eulogized while traveling to the Motor City. I envision 2 bus loads of friends and family in their favorite Tiger and/or baseball apparel. With available technology, the eulogy could be read by one of my besties and heard on both buses. I will write my own letter to be read to friends and family. I would like to see a drawing for prizes all the way there (Tiger apparel, free tickets to a future game, food at the ballpark, and my autographed Alan Trammel ball). Now....my cremation urn has already been purchased. It is a Tiger baseball with a place to house my Lance Parrish (all time favorite Tiger catcher) autographed baseball. I want to have my own seat at the stadium. Hot dogs and a brewski (or soft drink) for all the attendees. Requirement: everyone MUST stand up, hands on your neighbor's shoulders and sway to the all-time best baseball song, Take Me Out to the Ballgame!!! Bring my ashes home and let my kids take it from there. PLAY BALL!!

HOW WE COULD MAKE THAT A REALITY:

"Take Me Out to the Ballgame"

Due to the schedule of Baseball season and the time it would take to coordinate and schedule a large outing for family and friends, perhaps busloads, this would most likely also be a two part service.  

 The service would be set on a baseball diamond with the guests being set in the infield surrounding the pitcher’s mound.  Life-size baseball figures of the deceased favorite players would greet the guests as they entered the staged stadium. 

The celebration would begin with the Star Spangled Banner being sung with hats/hands over hearts.  The first part of the eulogy is focused on life as a child. Life as a high school student is shared from second base. Third base is the site to share the career years. The home plate eulogy speaks of retirement, the golden years, and the scriptural message of hope.

The service will conclude with everyone standing to sing, Take Me Out To The Ballgame, then have t-shirts with the honoree’s image with a favorite quote shot into the crowd with huge slingshots. Those t-shirts are to be worn by the guests when we accompany family, friends and the urn to Tiger’s game.  Then a lunch of hot dogs, beer, peanuts and caramel corn.

On the way to the game, eulogies and highlights of the service can be shared with conferencing software, so guests can all witness the eulogies through their mobile devices on the bus caravan.