Meaningful Memorial Service Mementos

Dec 4, 2013 | 0 comments

Memorial mementos, small keepsakes in remembrance of the deceased, are increasingly apparent at funeral services. Most are low-cost items that have a meaningful connection to the person. Sometimes the family thinks of these things themselves, and sometimes it’s an idea sparked by the celebrant.

For example, at a funeral where I served as celebrant, the deceased gentleman was known for saying, “Coke with the meal!” This was before restaurants would provide free refills, and the servers would bring the drinks first. You drink your Coke, and then you don’t have any when the meal comes. Hence, he became known for this quote.

His memorial memento was a small bottle of Coca Cola for everyone. The family broke into huge grins when I held up the bottle and said, “Coke with the meal!”

For a friend for 20 years, a woman known for daily cocktails at 5:00, we held her memorial service at 4:30 and finished at 5:15 with a cocktail reception. I ordered cocktail napkins printed with her name, date of birth, date of death and the image of a martini glass. Attendees told me they still have their napkins from that service as a fond reminder of a wonderful woman.

Inexpensive memorial items can vary widely. Candles lit as part of the service become a take-home keepsake. I’ve seen ribbons, lip balm, liquor miniatures, vials of liquid soap for blowing bubbles – whatever causes families to remember a particular person.


If the deceased was known for his or her homemade specialties, those may become memorial mementos: jars of pickled vegetables, homemade wine or beer, baked goods with memorial information on the recipe card.

At a service for a woman renowned for her lemon meringue pie, attendees received a memorial recipe card. Her daughter baked six pies, which were served at the reception after the service.


At an intimate funeral for a grandmother who always provided chewing gum to everyone who came to her house, the family offered packs of Wrigley’s Doublemint Gum to all attendees. I still have that pack sitting next to my desk, along with chocolate kisses given out in memory of a chocolate-lover. A celebrant in England related that at one funeral, a family handed out a particular brand of mints the deceased lady always kept in her handbag.

Plant life

If the season is right and the deceased was known for homegrown produce, those tomatoes, squash or other fruits or vegetables can be given out at a memorial service. Families may gather bunches of lavender or herbs for attendees to take home. A nice idea to foster new growth, as well as memories of the dearly departed, is to provide bulbs, seed packets or paper imbedded with seeds for gardens.

Reading material

Bookmarks with the image and information about the deceased are popular. At the funeral for an author who had written a book for young adults about Biblical stories, that book was distributed to all at her funeral. The family was able to provide a memento and clear out the garage at the same time.

Quan Yin, the Chinese goddess of mercy

Quan Yin, the Chinese goddess of mercy

Speaking of clearing out the garage, at the funeral of a Native American woman, large baskets of her personal belongings were brought to the cemetery. Folks were encouraged to take more than one item. It was a twist on Northwest tribes’ potlatch ceremonies, where the host gives away goods. “Blue light special! We’ve got to clear it all out!” said her partner.

I took a few items, including a little pink Quan Yin statue. Now the Chinese goddess of mercy who “Sees and Hears the Cries of the Human World,” watches over me as I help foster funeral planning conversations.

Gail Rubin, The Doyenne of Death®, is author the award-winning book and host of the TV and radio shows A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die. Check for the DVDs of the television series.

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