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As Ecclesiastes (it’s in the Bible) says, “there is a time to dance and a time to mourn.” A memorial service is not a time to dance.There may be smiles and slight laughs at a funeral as we remember the uniqueness of the person we are gathered to remember, but a Dean Martin-style roast it is not.These traditions carried on well into the twentieth century and for some cultures remain in place today.

Certain rites of the Church or other religious faiths will be observed.It is quite alright to ask before the service of the funeral director or officiating clergy what to do or expect during the service.You dress and behave in exactly the same way you would at a traditional funeral.You express your sympathy to the family; you listen to the stories told about your late friend or relative, and then you depart.Most people are quite open to discussing their religious traditions.

Normally, however, all one has to do is to show up, express one’s sympathy to the family, sit down, and observe.If you do attend a “celebration” at a country club where liquor is served, go easy on it.This would be a time for a dignified response to a person’s life even if he or she was the life of the party.If there is a coffin and a burial following, it is a funeral service.If the burial has taken place or the body has been cremated (with or without an urn present), then it is a memorial service.You may want to acknowledge the death of someone in a more tangible manner than just a letter.