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Funerals Becoming More Personal. By Dorothy Lipovenko, The Globe and Mail

Personalized funeral tributes, already a significant aspect of many services, are expected to broaden in popular appeal after Elton John lit a candle in the wind for Diana, Princess of Wales


Personalized funeral tributes, already a significant aspect of many services, are expected to broaden in popular appeal after Elton John lit a candle in the wind for Diana, Princess of Wales.

Bereaved families have been customizing funerals or memorial services, particularly in young deaths from cancer or AIDS, to honour the deceased in ways that reflect their spirit and personality. Shaping the service this way also helps the grieving process.

Balloons are being released at grave rites; poetry is often read; a pet to which the deceased was close (often a dog) is brought to the visitation or funeral; strains of Louis Armstrong or Elvis can be heard by mourners, chosen to reflect the deceased’s musical preference (as Mr. John was a favourite of Diana’s).

But honouring the dead with unique tributes is not limited to the immediacy of the funeral. Yesterday in Calgary, more than 7,000 people attended a tree-dedication ceremony in Fish Creek Provincial Park, where more than 2,000 white spruce were planted this year in memory of family members.

The annual tree-planting dedication is a program the McInnis & Holloway Funeral Homes in Calgary began offering patrons last year (at no charge). Families are encouraged to visit the site, which they can specially mark with a cedar plaque. Some families not only visit the tree year-round but water it in summer months.

“What a wonderful way to immortalize the people we love,” said Ilona Campbell, a Calgary mother of three whose husband, Glen, died in a car accident last year. “This is something that my children and their children will see,” she said in an interview from her home, referring to the tree that she and her children dedicated.

Inset: Ernie Hagel, president of McInnis & Holloway Funeral Homes, points out a memorial tree in Fish Creek Park in Calgary that is a dedication from one of his customers. Personalized tributes are expected to increase after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales