Memorial Folders: a final tribute to your loved one’s life story

Every once in a while, I get to help share someone’s story in a unique way: a memorial folder for their funeral.

memorial folders for funerals
A personalized memorial folder gives families an opportunity to share meaningful memories, inside jokes, and favorite photos that are part of a loved one’s life story.

Working with professionals

I recently worked with Matthysse Kuiper DeGraaf Funeral Directors to create a memorial folder honoring Megan Gearing. Now, I don’t know Megan Gearing, but Matthysse Kuiper DeGraaf does a great job of gently gathering information. They gave me the details I needed to create the folder shown above. (Click the image to view a readable PDF.) The family loved it.

Mike Matthysse serves from the Grandville, Michigan, location of his family’s funeral home. I first met him in 2006 when a friend of my family, Marian Vredeveld, died suddenly. I met him again about three years later when Marian’s husband, Richard Vredeveld, died. In both situations, Mike and his team were compassionate in all their interactions with us, while efficiently taking care of details none of us realized were necessary.

As a matter of course, the staff at Matthysse Kuiper DeGraaf “interview” the family to learn as much as possible about the deceased. This helps them convey the person’s story in a meaningful obituary. It also gives them insight so they can guide the family through planning the visitation and service. Marian and Richard’s children had pretty specific ideas about the services for both Mom and Dad, and I was honored to design the programs for both. (Richard Vredeveld’s memorial folder was one of my favorite projects of 2009.)

At some point, Mike realized that custom memorial folders should be an extension of Matthysse Kuiper DeGraaf’s ministry to grieving families. We began working together to make that happen.

Sharing a story

Even if the funeral home serving your family is not as sophisticated as Matthysse Kuiper DeGraaf, you can still share your loved one’s story, as the family of Del Dykstra did (below). Del’s wife Eileen wanted something simple to hand out at his memorial service. She gathered photos that gave people a glimpse of Del’s personality. (Click the image to view a readable PDF.) We chose a size small enough (4.25×5.5″) to fit conveniently in a Bible, yet large enough to comfortably display photos, captions, and meaningful quotes. This little folder became a keepsake treasured by family and friends alike.

memorial folders for funerals
Del Dykstra’s wife worked with me to create this small photo keepsake to hand out at his memorial service.

Memorial folders…treasured keepsakes

It’s difficult enough to share someone’s life story in a handful of photos and words. And the maelstrom of emotions surrounding a loss does not make it any easier. That’s why it can be so helpful to work with an experienced funeral director who knows what questions to ask. And a sensitive wordsmith who can craft your answers into a treasured keepsake. When the process is handled well, many people find healing in creating their loved one’s memorial folder.

Click on the samples above to see if a memorial folder is something you’d like to create in memory of a loved one. Then contact LifeLines for help with the process.


6 thoughts on “Memorial Folders: a final tribute to your loved one’s life story”

      • Thanks Mom! I actually got my start in this when we worked on Grandma Homans’ funeral together, and then again when we worked on Grandma Jongsma’s. It just made sense that a family should be sharing these important moments together and telling these important stories. No matter how good a funeral director is, he can’t tell your loved one’s story. But if he’s really good, he can help YOU tell it.

  1. Hi Melanie,
    I always thought it would be cool to record a video that I could play at my funeral, and I’ve often wondered if that could be a service anyone else would want. Like you say, it’s a shame that we separate ourselves from the deaths of those we love and even our own, and a little advance planning could make the inevitable a lot less frightening.

    • Wow, it seems like a video would be a bold undertaking! I mean, it would really force you to think about what’s important to you and what you want to say. And I suppose you’d want to update it periodically as well. I wonder if that would be a good New Year’s Day tradition—record some reflections on the past year and some hopes for the coming year.

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