Writing a lifestory

There is a poem called The Dash Read the The Dash – it has inspired millions around the world!   This refers to the dash between birth date and date of death – it represents our life.

Life storiesThis is about how to expand on that dash.

The lifestory/biography is usually the main part of a Humanist Funeral/Memorial service or Dedication ceremony. I think we should be holding Dedication ceremonies to honour someone special in our lives.  So often people remark to me after a funeral how much the deceased would have appreciated it all. My obvious response is ‘Do it while they are alive’. I also believe that every funeral (baby funerals are different) should be a celebration of a person’s life and that mourner’s learn something about them that they didn’t know before. I reckon that such a funeral helps the mourners if the deceased was not a religious believer. This is why there should be a much greater increase in non-religious funerals!

I very much encourage clients/next 0f-kin to put the lifestory together as they are then in control of what they want said. They mostly get the celebtrant/me to read it but sometimes they/family member decides that they want to do it. It is simplest to do it chronologically in the style of THIS IS YOUR LIFE   but  it can be introduced with a statement about the deceased. Here is my checklist for clients. Remember humour is crucial.

Date of birth, name of parents/siblings, where they were born

Early years, where they lived,  family pets, family lore and anecdotes

Where they went to school/quotes from school reports/teenage years/their friends/what music they liked/fashion tastes/sports played/enjoyed/interests/hobbies

family holidays/remembered day trips/visits/reminiscences of events/Christmas/birthdays/family traditions/Saturday job/vacation work/college/university/training/ starting work

holidays/relationships/marriage/starting a family/being a parent/grandparent/family holidays



interests/political views/reading/books/newspaper choice/film/art/music/hobbies/sport/pets/gardening/food/socialising

likes/dislikes/what made them laugh, cross, happy/ quirks/clothes/fashion

later years

Memories from family and friends/quotes from cards/letters/comments


Usually, the biography/lifestory comes first followed by tributes and memories.  You will need to decide how long/how many pages of lifestory to do. I regard a page of A4 font 14 ( even with reading glasses!)  to take 3 minutes. Typically, the whole script for a half hour funeral would be 3-8 pages including the celebrants introduction/commital and closing words with time for the reflection music.

Timings are very important and careful consideration given to the number/variety/order of speakers. Often a double time slot is necessary for a funeral but unfortunately it is often too late by the time celebrants have been contacted by Funeral Directors as the funeral has already been booked with the crematorium/cemetery.

I wish everyone would write their own lifestory/memoirs as they want it told! Families should be asking older family members/parents/grandparents to record their lives and to discuss and ask questions before it is too late.

Good luck , enjoy and I am sure that if you do write  a short biography/lifestory that you will learn something new, fascinating and inspiring and be so glad that you did it.