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Sharon Hunter - September 2021

Photos for a Great Goodbye

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Photo and video montages have become a hallmark of contemporary funerals. They bring stories to life, taking us on a visual journey through someone’s history.

Creating a photo reel can be stressful. The technical requirements can be tricky, and going through old photos can provoke grief. A good thing to do is delegate the job to people who are close enough to the deceased to select the right photos, and skilled enough to put these images on a screen (TIP: Tap the nearest millennial on the shoulder).

What do you do if you don’t have enough photos to adequately capture a life? Or if you’re holding the service at a venue without a big screen? Try asking guests to bring a relevant photo, then provide a special place where they can hang or pin them. Like the trunk of an old tree in the garden. Or the stairwell in the club. You could pin up sturdy string and supply a basket of tiny wooden pegs, then tell everyone can hang their photos. It’s a beautiful way to get people involved.

In our Great Goodbyes travels, we’ve come across some unique ideas. There was Alex, who, thinking his beloved should take one final trip around favourite haunts with friends, arranged a life-sized cut-out of his husband that was carried throughout the epic wake. For some, that could be disconcerting, but Alex knew his guests and judged it perfectly. They made many great memories that night.

Another stunning idea involved the simple exchange of photos amongst guests. Taking the “bring a photo” idea one step further, this Great Goodbye set up a ‘swap meet’ so people could take home a photo brought along by another guest.

Do you think people might want a copy of that photo of Grandad as a suave young man, the one with his fedora tilted nonchalantly and a cigarette hanging from his lips? How could people get a copy? You could reproduce it as a postcard and send it out as a thank you to guests. Or create a file sharing space online.

Don’t forget about recording the service if you think it’s appropriate. Video is a great way to enable those who can’t be there to share in the event. Live streaming is an additional service offered by some funeral directors. Alternatively, you can arrange this yourself using something like Facebook Live.

"Try asking guests to bring a relevant photo, then provide a special place where they can hang or pin them. Like the trunk of an old tree in the garden."

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