Memorial and Thanksgiving Service after a death following Dementia

People are living for much longer these days and, as a consequence, many of us are, or will, suffer from dementia in one of its many forms.  Dementia can be challenging not only for the person who is ill, but also for family, loved ones, and friends.  A person suffering from dementia not only loses short-term memory and, often, the ability to live independently, but withdraws from current reality very slowly, possibly over a period of some years. Relationships with the people nearest to them are often strained and, in the end, additional help may be needed for both the patient and the carers.  Much of the work of grief may have taken place while the person is still alive.  Dementia is sometimes called ‘the long bereavement’.  A memorial and thanksgiving service in this instance can be a chance for people to remember and ‘re-member’ the person who has died – literally to put the person back together again and recall happier times. 

Make a memory board in advance of the service. Several days before the service ask people for photos of the person who has died.  These can be from all sorts of occasions and depict events from the person’s life.  Also, ask people to write down their special thoughts and memories about the person.  Arrange the photos and pieces of script on a large display board and place it in the church where everyone can see it. Ask people coming to the service to bring a photo or written memory with them – these can be placed on a board as they arrive. During the service ask people to turn to each other and share good memories of the person.

SUGGESTIONS FOR THE LITURGY

Opening Responses        

Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint. 

Weeping may linger for the night
but joy comes with the morning.                       

Bible Readings                  

Psalm 40.1-3a Wait patiently for the Lord
John 21.18 Depending on others
1 Corinthians 13.1-13 Love
Revelation 21.1-5 See, I am making all things new

Other Readings – see Readings and Reflections for Funerals 

Mothercare
A series of reflections around the death of someone suffering from dementia – from Watching for the Kingfisher by Ann Lewin (Canterbury Press 2009) 

Prayers 

Thanksgiving for the life of the departed
Lord, we are gathered here today to give thanks for the life of N and to remember him/herN is now at peace and with you – his/her struggle is over.  We give thanks for all that N has meant to us over the years... 
We pray to God
for in God all things are made new. 

Prayer for those who mourn
Lord, we pray for the family and friends of N and ask you to be close to us in our grief.  May the night time of our tears turn to the joy of morning as difficult memories fade and good memories take their place.  We give thanks for the patience and understanding of N’s carers, recognising that they, too, are mourning his/her death. 
We pray to God
for in God all things are made new. 

Prayer for doctors, nurses and counsellors
Lord, we give thanks for doctors, nurses and counsellors who work with people affected by dementia, and for the support they give to their families.  We pray for continuing medical research into the cause and cure of all types of dementia.   
We pray to God
for in God all is made new. 

Prayer of penitence
Lord, we are sorry for the things we may have done which we now regret.  We are sorry for the times we may have been impatient with N and lacked understanding. We are sorry for any unhelpful words we have spoken to N and to each other in the pain of the moment. We know we could not have coped alone and yet we have feelings of guilt and failure because of our need to rely on others.  We offer these feelings to God.
We pray to God
for in God all is made new.

Prayer for readiness to live in the light of eternity
Lord, we give thanks that N is now healed and rests with you in peace, surrounded and welcomed by all your saints in heaven.  We pray that we may live this earthly life in the light of your love so that we, too, may one day join with the saints and be reunited with N for eternity.
We pray to God
for in God all is made new.

The Dismissal                     

In our tears and in our mourning
God is with us. 

In our joy and in our re-membering
God is with us. 

We go from this place in peace,
knowing that God is with us.
Thanks be to God. 

Hymns and Songs – see Hymns and Songs for Funerals                         
Though our tears may last the night (See Hymns) 

Recorded Music – see Recorded Music for Funerals

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