Prayer for a memorial service

Prayer for the Death of a Pet

By Rabbi Barry H. Block

O Lord our God, we come before You this day in sadness. (Pet’s name), who brought us so much joy in life, has now died. (His/Her) happy times in our family’s embrace have come to an end. We miss (pet’s name) already.

Help us, O God, to remember the good times with (pet’s name). Remind us to rejoice in the happy times (he/she) brought to our home. Let us be thankful for the good life we were blessed to give to (him/her).

We are grateful to You, God, for creating (pet’s name), for entrusting (him/her) to our care, and for sustaining (him/her) in our love for a measure of time. We understand that all that lives must die. We knew that this day would come. And yet, O God, we would have wanted one more day of play, one more evening of love with (pet’s name).

O God, as we have taken care of (pet’s name) in life, we ask that You watch over (him/her) in death. You entrusted (pet’s name) to our care; now, we give (him/her) back to You. May (pet’s name) find a happy new home in Your loving embrace.

As we remember (pet’s name), may we love each other more dearly. May we care for all Your creatures, for every living thing, as we protected the blessed life of (pet’s name). May (his/her) memory bless our lives with love and caring forever. Amen.

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This Sample is a Life Celebration and Memorial somewhat in the Catholic Tradition. 

Entrance Song – On Eagle’s Wings

In the name of the Father…+

Let us pray:

God of all Life, we come together to celebrate the life and spirit of ____ and to share our sadness and grief with his/her passing.  Because s/he loved well and was such an outstanding person, our faith suggests that s/he is with you. However, our minds can neither figure out nor comprehend the experience of dying and the mystery of death or resurrection and our hearts are sad. Your spirit of life is a comfort to us and so are the many family, friends who have gathered to be with us here today. As we spend this time together in ____’s memory, please touch the empty space and hurt that is left in our hearts by her/his absence and fill us with your abundant light, hope, peace and serenity.

Amen

First Reading 1 – Daniel 12:1-3

         Reader: TBD

THE RESURRECTION

At that time there shall arise Michael,

the great prince, guardian of your people;

It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress

since the nation began until that time.

At that time your people shall escape,

everyone who is found written in the book.

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake;

Some to everlasting life, others to reproach and everlasting disgrace.

But those with insight shall shine brightly

like the splendor of the firmament,

And those who lead the many to justice

shall be like the starsforever.

Second Reading 2 – 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18

         Reader- TBD

Hope for the Christian Dead

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

e

15Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord,

*

 will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep.

f

16For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

g

17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together

*

 with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord.18Therefore, console one another with these words.

Gospel Reading – Matthew 5:1-12a

           Reader- TBD

When he saw the crowds,

*

 he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.2He began to teach them, saying:

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

*

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

*

 Blessed are they who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

for they will inherit the land.

6Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

*

for they will be satisfied.

7Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

*

 Blessed are the clean of heart,

for they will see God.

9Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.

10Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,

*

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me.

g*

 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Personal Life Tributes and Reflections

                  BY: TBD

Followed by an invitation to others to share thoughts, stories or feeling about ____.

Reflection Song – We Remember    

Prayers of the Faithful/ Intercessions

Respond with: Lord Hear our Prayer

We pray in gratitude for ___’s life,

Let us Pray to the Lord:Lord Hear our Prayer

We pray for all of ____’s family and friends that they may find peace in his loving memory and comfort in their sorrow and loss.

Let us Pray to the Lord:Lord Hear our Prayer

We pray for everyone who has been touched by ____’s life, work, creativity, spirit and enthusiasm.

Let us Pray to the Lord:Lord Hear our Prayer

We pray for ____’s spirit and ask that you be gracious, merciful, and abounding in love, to welcome him/her into paradise.

Let us Pray to the Lord:Lord Hear our Prayer

We pray for the health and safety of all the men and women in active military service, for their families and in gratitude for all veterans.

Let us Pray to the Lord: Lord Hear our Prayer

And for whom else and what else shall we pray

Let us Pray to the Lord:Lord Hear our Prayer

Let us Pray:

God of Life, listen to the prayers we place before you. Look with love and compassion on we, who mourn and pray for _____. Do not let any of us be parted from your presence, but by your glorious power and love, give us all light, joy, and peace in heaven, where you live forever and ever. Amen.

Invite all to pray the Our Father

Final Prayer

Most Holy God, we ask that you bless ____ and her/his family.

May they all remain in your presence

and in the special presence of each other.

May they have the serenity

to accept the things they cannot change,

the courage to change the things they can change,

and the wisdom to know the difference. (Reinhold Niebhur)

May they each grow in your spirit and love and know a new freedom

May they grow and find peace in their relationship with each other, with their friends, and with you, their God.

And may your blessing be upon them today and from this day forward.

Amen

And God, please give ____ an eternal rest,

and may your light always shine upon her/him and her/his family. And may his/her soul and the souls of all the faithfully departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.

Amen.

In the Name of the Father….

Closing Song – Be Not Afraid

PRAY:

          Hail Mary at Grave.

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A basic explanation of the what, how and why of this meaningful prayer.

Yizkor (remembrance) is the memorial service recited for deceased parents and other relatives at several points throughout the year. The name of the prayer means “May He remember” (“He” being God and “Yizkor” being the first word of the prayer). Not only do many who recite the prayer find it to be a moving, emotional experience, it also has the power to elevate spiritually the souls of the departed.

Yizkor is predicated on the Jewish concept of the immortality of the soul. Although the deceased can no longer perform mitzvot, they can benefit from prayers, acts of charity, and other good deeds that their survivors perform on their behalf. Yizkor is an excellent time for personal reflection and to commit to particular actions or general self-improvement as a source of merit for the departed.

The Yizkor prayer is typically preceded by an appeal in the synagogue. This is not a mercenary attempt to extort funds from a captive audience; committing to give charity is an inherent part of the Yizkor experience. If one says the prayer by himself at home, he should nevertheless commit to donate to an appropriate charity in the deceased’s memory.

What are the Origins of Yizkor? When is It Recited and Why?

There are four holidays on which we recite Yizkor. It is said on Yom Kippur, the last day of Passover, the second day of Shavuot and on Shemini Atzeret (a separate holiday at the end of Sukkot). (In Israel, where there is one day less of Yom Tov, Yizkor is recited on the seventh day of Passover and the only day of Shavuot; Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are the same day in Israel.)

The original practice was to recite Yizkor only on Yom Kippur. This is because as “yom hakippurim” (“the day of atonements” – plural), the day effects atonement for both the living and the deceased. This is especially true through the act of giving charity, which is both an integral part of the atonement process and an important theme of the prayer Yizkor.

The roots of Yizkor are found in the Midrash Tanchuma (Ha’azinu 1), where it cites Deuteronomy 21:8, “Atone for Your people, Israel, whom You have redeemed.” We are told that the first part of the verse refers to the living of Israel, while the second part refers the deceased. The Midrash continues, “Therefore, our practice is to remember the deceased on Yom Kippur by pledging charity on their behalf.” We are then told not to think that charity no longer helps the departed. Rather, when one pledges charity on the deceased’s behalf, he ascends as quickly as an arrow shot from a bow.

Yizkor was extended from Yom Kippur alone to the Three Festivals, which is thematically appropriate. The Torah tells us (Deuteronomy 16:16-17) that when we make our pilgrimage to the Temple for the holidays, we are not to appear empty-handed. Each person was to make a donation according to his ability. We see from this that charity is also an integral part of the Festivals and therefore a fitting occasion for Yizkor with its emphasis on charity as a merit for the departed.

What Is in Yizkor?

Before starting Yizkor proper, many congregations recite a selection of Biblical verses pertaining to the nature of our lives and after-lives. (For example, “man’s days are like a shadow passing by” – Psalms 144:4; “God will redeem my soul from the depths” – Psalms 49:16, etc.) These verses are followed by the recitation of Psalm 91 (“Yosheiv Ba’seiser”), whose theme is that God is the refuge of mankind. After these readings, we’re ready to begin the actual prayer of Yizkor.

The theme of Yizkor is that we ask God to remember our relatives and to include them in the “bond of life” in paradise alongside the Patriarchs, Matriarchs and other departed righteous. In exchange for this, we commit (without making a vow) to donate charity on their behalf. The primary focus of Yizkor is on one’s parents, but it may also be recited on behalf of other relatives. The paragraphs in the siddur for father, mother and other close relatives have spaces where one can insert the names of the deceased. The Ashkenazic practice is to recite the name of the departed as the son or daughter of (their father’s name); other communities may use the name of the deceased’s mother.

Following Yizkor for one’s relatives, there are paragraphs for victims of the Holocaust and other martyrs.

After all of the Yizkor paragraphs, the prayer Keil Malei Rachamim (“God, full of compassion”) is recited. This prayer is the same one recited at a burial, an unveiling and during the Shabbos mincha service prior to the deceased’s Yahrtzeit. This is followed by the prayer Av Harachamim (“Father of compassion”), a memorial prayer recited on most Sabbaths. It may surprise some to hear that Kaddish is not part of the Yizkor service.

Should I Say Yizkor During the First Year? Should I Go Out if I’m Not Saying It?

A number of aspects of Yizkor are the subject of differences of opinion among the various authorities or matters of local custom. For example, some have the practice not to recite Yizkor during the first year following a death while the emotional wounds are still quite fresh. Others maintain that Yizkor should be recited during the first year the same as in all subsequent years.

One very familiar practice is for those not reciting Yizkor to leave the room while the mourners are saying it. Some will tell you that it is a sign of respect for one’s living parents not to remain inside while Yizkor is being recited for the deceased. Others will say that it is from fear of the ayin hara (“evil eye”) and that those with living parents go out so as not to tempt fate. Opponents of the practice say that going out is based on superstition and not recommended, or perhaps it’s just insensitive to those reciting it. Plus, there are prayers at the end that are recited for victims of the Holocaust and other martyrs; these apply to all members of the congregation, not just to those who have lost close family members. Some would advise staying inside in order to recite those prayers, or to go out and return for them.

In both of these matters, one should follow one’s own family custom or the practice of one’s community. If in doubt, ask your local rabbi.

Why is Shul So Crowded? Can Yizkor be Recited at Home?

It’s ironic that shuls become extra crowded because of a prayer that doesn’t need to be said with a minyan!

It is not uncommon that people who are not regular synagogue attendees will appear on days when Yizkor is recited. Of course there’s nothing wrong with this; it’s actually a wonderful thing that those who are not regular worshipers are willing to go the extra mile (sometimes literally) on behalf of relatives who are no longer with us. If anything, serving as the catalyst for their heirs to attend shul is a merit for the deceased. But if one cannot make it to shul, Yizkor can (and should) still be recited.

While it’s always preferable to pray in shul with a minyan, there are many legitimate reasons that prevent people from attending, such as infirmity or advanced age. If one cannot attend shul, there’s absolutely no reason not to say Yizkor in the privacy of one’s own home. And it is still appropriate to commit to donate to the synagogue or another worthy charity in merit of the departed.

Reprinted with permission from ou.org

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Excerpted from “Remembering Well” by Sarah York. c 2000 by Sarah York. Used with permission.

Not long ago, I attended a memorial service that was planned and conducted by a friend of the bereaved family. It was in many ways a satisfying ceremony, providing space for people to share their memories of the person who had died. But the service leader conducted the service as if he were the master of ceremonies introducing one act after another. A memorial service is less like a variety show and more like a musical composition or a woven fabric. Each part, from beginning to end, is a part of the whole and contributes to the rhythm and mood of the entire service. Each part has a purpose, and participants need to know how they fit into the larger design, the fuller meaning.

Four elements are essential to nearly all ceremonies (with additional readings or music included as desired):

  1. Opening remarks
  2. Honoring and remembering the person who has died
  3. Invoking a spirit of gratitude, healing, and love (as in a litany or a prayer)
  4. Offer words of blessing and inspiration for the living

Setting the Tone

Opening remarks set the tone and create space for what people are feeling. When you enter a space to honor someone who has died, you don’t want to wait long before hearing what it is that has brought you there. And you want to hear a name–“dearly departed one” or “the deceased” just doesn’t cut it.

The words that open a service define the space as holy and the time as sacred. This is particularly important when the space itself is not a traditional religious setting. The opening words invoke a spirit of love and healing to prevail. They may be offered in an informal setting but should never be offered casually. The first words spoken set the tone for the entire service.

What tone or style will be in keeping with the spirit of the person who is being remembered? Should it be dignified, warm, creative, pious, earthy, sophisticated, homespun? Whatever it is, it will come across as much in the presence of the person speaking and in the preparation of the meeting space as in the words spoken. Often there is something in the opening words that invites the spirit of the person who has died into the space.

Readings and Music Readings and music nourish the soul, ground the spirit, and invite emotional release. They are not essential to the basic structure of a service, but they are often included for their power to offer spiritual nourishment and to touch universal chords of human feeling. Because of their power, they need to be carefully chosen, with an eye and ear towards being as inclusive as possible of the various perspectives that people in attendance will have.

Any readings used in a memorial service should be selected intentionally and used sparingly. Most people do not come to a funeral to hear a sermon or philosophize about death. They come in the presence of death to grieve and reflect on what is meaningful in life; they come to be comforted and uplifted in their time of loss. Reading–a short poem, a scriptural selection–should be brief and should be chosen to serve a very specific purpose at a particular time in the service:

  • At the start of the service, to define sacred space and invoke a holy presence for the time together
  • As part of a eulogy or personal remarks, to invoke the person’s presence–especially if the selection was written by the person, especially meaningful to the person, or particularly reflective of the person’s life
  • Before a selection of music, to comfort or offer reflection
  • To lead into a time of meditation or prayer
  • At the close of the service, to uplift and offer peace, hope, and promise

Music is the language of the soul–a powerful source of healing. Its selection will be dictated by individual tastes and by the tone or style the family wants for the service.

Use music once or at most twice during the service, as relevant. It may be introduced as something requested by or composed for the deceased. It may just be a quiet reflective piece following a prayer or reading. If music is likely to evoke powerful emotions, it should be used only

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