There are many different types of funeral services. Some families choose to have a visitation (or wake) as well as a formal funeral to honor the lives of their loved ones.
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It’s also common for a visitation and funeral to be followed by a short graveside service, where the body is laid to rest. Here are some graveside service ideas you could use to celebrate your loved one.
Reading Ideas for Graveside Service
You can still have a meaningful send-off for your family member with a graveside service. Graveside services can be just as touching as a formal service at a church or funeral home.
You can have music, flowers, and a eulogy at a graveside service. You can also do readings at the outdoor service as well. Here are some graveside service scriptures to consider.
1. “The Lord is my shepherd” from Psalm 23
The 23rd Psalm is often read at deathbeds as well as funerals. It’s meant to offer comfort for those facing death but it can also offer comfort to grieving family members as well. Part of the comfort comes from the promise held in the verse that says “Thou art with me.” Others find comfort in the familiar words.
2. “Come to me” from Matthew 11:28
Family members in mourning may feel weary and burdened. This verse promises comfort to those who rely on God during a difficult time. You may want to follow the reading of these verses with the popular funeral song, “Come to Me.”
3. “I am the resurrection and the life” from John 11:25-26
Some people choose to share the message of salvation at their loved one’s funeral. This verse in John is one such verse that speaks about the promises of the New Testament.
4. “For everything there is a season” from Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
These often-quoted verses are appropriate for a graveside funeral service. They remind those listening that death is a part of life.
5. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” from English burial service
Some people erroneously think that this phrase is from the Bible. Even though the phrase is drawn from an idea found in the book of Genesis, the phrase itself is part of an English burial service.
6. “My protector” from Psalm 90
Psalm 90 honors the omnipotent and omniscient God. It speaks about the brevity of human life.
7. “Every blade in the field” by Henry David Thoreau
Some people choose to have a mixture of religious and secular readings at their loved one’s funeral and others choose to have only secular. This verse by Thoreau is similar to the sentiment found in the verse from Ecclesiastes listed earlier.
8. “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” by Mary Elizabeth Frye
The speaker in this popular funeral poem is the deceased. In it, the speaker tells those standing by his grave that he is “the sunlight on ripened grain” or the “soft stars that shine at night.” Since he can be found in nature, there is no need to stand at a grave and weep.
9. “Play Jolly Music at My Funeral” by Richard Greene
If your loved one pre-planned his funeral, he may have chosen atypical readings or music. This speaker in this poem by Richard Greene requests that Dixieland music or something by Fats Waller is played at his funeral.
Meaningful Activity Ideas for a Graveside Service
Unless the graveside burial service is conducted by a spiritual leader, there aren’t any specific rules regarding the format or activities. Here are some meaningful activities to consider planning for your loved one’s end-of-life service.
10. Ask children to participate
If the deceased was blessed with lots of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, consider asking the kids to participate in the graveside burial service.
They could sing a song together or take turns reading stanzas of a poem. Of course, this should be done on a voluntary basis, as some may be too nervous or emotional to speak at a funeral.
11. Lay flowers on the grave
Some families may want to take turns laying flowers on the grave or casket at the end of the service. The variety of flowers or the color can have a special significance.
For example, your family members could take turns laying irises on your grandma’s grave if she was known for growing them. Grandchildren may be given white roses to lay on their grandpa’s grave while his children lay red roses.
12. Release butterflies
One wonderful way to say goodbye to the one you love is to release butterflies at his or her graveside service.
There are several online sources that will provide you with envelopes full of butterflies. The effect of seeing all the butterflies released at the same time is memorable.
13. Distribute bracelets or pins
Your loved one may have died after suffering from a long illness. To raise awareness of the disease, you may consider passing out bracelets or ribbons for mourners to wear at the service.
14. Distribute tree seedlings or seed packets
If your loved one was known for gardening or loving nature, consider passing out small trees or seed packets for the mourners to plant after returning home. When the trees or seeds flourish, the person will be reminded of your loved one.
15. Ask for people to share memories
Typically, graveside services do not last long. If there are only a few people in attendance, you may consider asking for people to share pleasant memories of the deceased.
16. Distribute a small trinket in memory of your loved one
Was the deceased an avid reader? Why not pass out a bookmark to the attendees of the service? Was your loved one known for having an elaborate model train display? Why not pass out small train engine pocket charms?
These small tokens may be placed in coat pockets or thrown in drawers. But every time a person sees the token, he or she will be reminded of your family member.
17. Shovel dirt
It is common for some religious or cultural groups to place dirt on the casket at the end of the funeral. This can be done with a small shovel or by hand. Of course, this gesture is more symbolic than utilitarian.
18. Share your talent
It’s common for people to sing at a funeral, but you also might consider asking a friend or family member to play an instrument.
Ask a talented grandchild or family friend to play a flute or guitar solo. Those in attendance will not only enjoy the music, but it can provide everyone a time to reflect on the deceased’s life or pray.
Make the Most of Your Loved One’s Graveside Service
Some people choose to have a graveside service for their family members because they want to have a private funeral and others may invite friends and extended family to participate. Regardless of the number of people in attendance, make the most of that time.
While end-of-life-services show respect for the deceased, they are also used to offer comfort to those who are left behind.
As you prepare your loved one’s graveside service, what will give you the greatest amount of comfort? Do you want to hear a particular song because you know it was a favorite of your family member? Do you want to see specific flowers because they remind you of your loved one? Do you want to feel the soil in your hands as you place earth on your loved one’s grave?
Personalize your loved one’s graveside service. Doing so may help give you a sense of peace.