Memorial Tributes

An important part of the process of dealing with the death of a loved one is honoring that person's memory in a special way. Doing so can help bring closure to close friends and family members and can highlight aspects of that person's life that others might not have known about. This article describes different types of memorial tributes.


What are Memorial Tributes?

A memorial tribute is any form of communication intended to honor the memory of a recently deceased person. Memorial tributes can take many forms, and one or more are typically incorporated into the memorial process (before, during, or after a memorial service). Examples of memorial tributes include the following:

A memorial tribute – whether a single element, or a combination of the elements listed above – should be as unique as the person being honored. Above all, it should express how that person touched the lives of others. Those who receive the message should come away with an emotional connection, an understanding, and an appreciation – and, perhaps, an inspiration for their own lives.

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Memorial Tribute Topics

Memorial tributes are an important way of honoring a loved one. A memorial tribute could be spoken, which is most commonly a eulogy given at a funeral. Another form of memorial tribute is a written tribute, which could be a sympathy message, poem, quote or obituary. The third type of memorial tribute is a visual tribute, which includes videos, photos, and other artwork. Read the topics below to learn more about how to create or select a meaningful memorial tribute for a loved one.


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Spoken Tributes

Spoken memorial tributes include eulogies, other types of speeches, and recorded or live music.

Probably the most common spoken memorial tribute is the eulogy, a speech usually given by a minister, close friend, or family member. A eulogy often includes a brief biographical summary, and often information about that person's work, family, interests, the organizations he or she was involved in, and so on. More importantly, a eulogy gives its listeners an emotional connection to the deceased person by emphasizing what that person meant to his or her family, friends, coworkers, and community.

In addition to a eulogy, friends and family might deliver shorter speeches in tribute to the deceased, such as stories, anecdotes, and other remembrances of the person's life and accomplishments. They might be serious, humorous, or touching, but they should always be in good taste and representative of what the deceased person's life was about.

Many funerals traditionally incorporate music. Whether it is selections from a hymnal sung by a choir, pieces played by a jazz band in the style of New Orleans, or a playlist of recorded tunes played on a portable stereo, music can be an important component of the overall memorial tribute.

When choosing pieces for a musical tribute, consideration should be made for the deceased person's musical tastes, favorite songs or artists, or religious beliefs. If the deceased knew any musicians personally, they might be honored to be asked to perform at a memorial service.


Written Tributes

Written memorial tributes include condolence letters, essays, and poems.

A condolence letter is typically written to the deceased person's closest family members, expressing sympathy with their mourning. If the writer knew the deceased personally, the condolence letter can also be used to share the writer's own feelings and fond memories. It is not always easy to express sympathy in writing, so a condolence letter should be written carefully and thoughtfully. It's best, however, to keep such messages short and to the point. 

Preprinted sympathy cards are also used to convey these feelings, but nothing compares to a handwritten note that comes from the heart. Condolences are traditionally written by hand on paper and delivered by mail or in person, but they could also be written in the guest register at a memorial service, or even on an online medium. The recipient can decide whether, and how much, to make these communications public.

Essays are another way to pay tribute to the deceased.  Essays can cover much of the same material that a spoken eulogy would cover. An essay about the person's life, challenges, accomplishments, and impact on friends, family, and community can be written and published online, in a community newsletter, or distributed with funeral programs. 

The death of a loved one often inspires people to express their feelings in poetry, or to find solace and meaning in someone else's poem. Although it's more personal, writing a poem about a deceased loved one can be hard work, even for an experienced poet, so it is sometimes more practical to select a meaningful poem written by a famous poet. If the loved one had a favorite poet or poem, this can provide good tribute material. Poems can be read aloud at a memorial service, or published online or in a printed funeral program.


Visual Tributes

Visual memorial tributes can include photographs, a selection of artwork, and video.

A collection of photographs can provide an excellent tribute to honor a person's life. Whether it's a simple photo album or a computer "slide show," the photographs should be tastefully selected to represent the person's life and connection with family, friends, coworkers, and community. The photographs can be presented chronologically, or in any order that is meaningful. When presented as a slide show, the photographs can be accompanied by a musical tribute as described above.

If the deceased person was an artist, photographer, or sculptor, or was into woodworking, quilting, needlepoint, or other types of crafts, it would be a fitting tribute to present a collection of his or her work as a visual memorial tribute. If possible, it's a nice touch to include information about each piece – the title (if applicable), when it was made, materials used, and so on.

A video tribute is another option to consider. A video presentation can include many of the elements described above, plus interviews with friends and family, video or film of the person in life, and more. Creating a video tribute can involve significant time and effort – shooting, editing, arranging, adding background music, and creating titles and credits all take time and some know-how or professional assistance. Because of this, it might not be practical to put together a complex presentation in time for a funeral, but it might make a meaningful gift for close friends and family later on.

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