Does this sound familiar: “I don’t care what you do about me after I die. Come and see me now, while I am able to enjoy the visit. Tell me what you want to say to my face. I won’t hear you when I’m gone.”

Faced with a terminal illness or the inevitable decline of old age, many people yearn for the chance to connect with family and friends. There may be bridges to mend, memories to share, love and gratitude to express, catching up to do, and family treasures to pass on personally. A Celebration of Life party is a wonderful venue for having fun and creating final memories that are joyful and meaningful. It lets the celebrant know in a very dynamic way how loved and appreciated they are.

A Celebration of Life is quite literally the party of a lifetime. The celebrant is the center of attention, drawing together those people who would likely attend the person’s funeral, but instead of grieving a death, they are honoring a life.

Often a Celebration of Life is a joyous party with food and drink, music and dancing, friends coming early and staying late. There may be decorations, slide shows, old home movies, a table of photos and memorabilia, and speeches of appreciation. There is often laughter, maybe even a “roast” where friends tease and salute the honored guest. (Think of the old TV show “This is Your Life” or the “Friars Club Roast,” available on

But a Celebration of Life event doesn’t have to be an exuberant party. It can be a gathering to suit your loved one’s personality, passions, and state of mind. It can be a small gathering of intimates or an affair open to the whole neighborhood, religious congregation, and family tree. It can be at any venue, indoors or outdoors. If there is hesitation about planning a party around someone’s eventual death, it may be easier to time the event on the celebrant’s birthday, making it a celebration of the full life rather than of just the past year.

One common characteristic of the most successful Celebration of Life events is that sometime during the celebration, the group is called together for a shared thoughtful time. The leader begins with a reminder of why the group has gotten together and recognition of the guest of honor. This is a good opportunity to introduce friends and family who have come from far away. This time might include a specific rite, such as lighting a candle, singing a favorite song together, contemplating the legacy the loved one has left, and reading letters sent from friends and relatives who could not attend.

A Celebration of Life is often held in place of a funeral because the deceased specifically requested this type of event. While it often takes place while the celebrant is still alive to enjoy it, it may also be held after the death in lieu of or in addition to a more traditional memorial service. A Celebration of Life party can be a time to relax and honor a deceased friend or family member friend in a unique and unusual way. Sometimes family will hold a traditional religious service at a funeral home, and later friends will get together to throw a more jubilant, laughter-filled party filled with magical connections, tender words, and endearing friendship—an event that the deceased would have loved to attend!