A Buddhist Memorial Service: Making Time to Remember Years Later

A Buddhist Memorial Service: Making Time to Remember Years Later

It is Buddhist practice to hold a memorial service for loved ones every set number of years after their death.

Recently, my family and I gathered for a memorial service for not just one family member but 3: my grandpa, grandma, and mom. My grandpa died 14 years ago, my grandma 6 years ago, and my mom 5 years ago. Traditionally, these services consist of chanting, incense offering, and a message by the reverend. The service functions as a time for you to meditate on the memories of the one who died and to recognize the impermanence of our own lives. When the service ends, we all have lunch together to continue to share stories.

However, this memorial service for my family was a little different.

My aunt asked everyone who was coming to the service ahead-of-time to write out a favorite memory or story about my grandpa, grandma, or mom. One-by-one my aunt received email after email of unique stories and memories from all the people that had loved my family.

On the day of the service, her and I stood up front and read what everyone had written. Hearing those stories sparked so many other memories that we hadn’t remembered for a long time. There were even stories that we had never heard before, like how my grandpa asked my brother to make coffee and instead of using the coffee-measuring spoon, my brother used a measuring cup. Lots of the stories had us laughing really hard and others made us miss them all over again.

It felt good to hear those stories during the service. It was nice to see my grandma’s youngest sister laughing as she remembered the quirky things my grandma did. It was moving to see the eyes of my dad and my mom’s sister get teary as they heard the many stories about my mom.

What was significant about this event is simply the fact that we got together to talk about my grandparents and my mom. Listening to the stories brought me comfort because it showed me that my grandparents and my mom were not forgotten and others still missed them too.

Our mortuary talks a lot about the significance of ceremony and the healing moments that take place when family and friends come together when someone has died. Hearing those stories during the service was something our family needed. It was touching to see that people took time out of their schedules to support us and to keep the spirit of my grandparents and mom alive.

It’s never too late to have a memorial service for the ones we love and I encourage you to have family and friends gather together again and remember. It can be as simple as getting together over a meal but to know for that event everyone is given the opportunity to express their loss will continue to heal hearts.

Dr. William Hoy says it best, “A nation that does not honor its dead will ultimately lose its reverence for life. If the dead do not matter, it will not be long until the living do not matter either.”

Continuing to come together years later, or decades later, to remember and celebrate loved ones can be just as, or even more, meaningful for family and friends to experience.

|| what do you think?

What things do you do to remember a loved one?

Have you ever wanted to hold a service like this but felt held back?

How does your family take time to remember your loved ones?

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.


  1. Christopher Iverson says:

    A wonderful sharing of your family traditions. Not having a death in our immediate family in over twenty years, I haven’t had the opportunity to really memorialize, especially after the anniversary of a death. Your sharing helps me reflect on the beauty of continuing the memory of those we lose. It keeps the connection alive with stories, songs and precious memories. Because in the end, all that remains is love…and the memories of love and life.

  2. Jenn says:

    I get frustrated when I hear my living, aging family members say things like “just cremate me and put me on the mantle.” It seems everyone is so preoccupied with not being a burden on anyone that I feel like the importance of ceremony is getting lost in translation. I think we need to remember as a society that a memorial service CAN be as simple as cooking a family meal and taking time out to say a few words or as elaborate as a church service with a room full of flowers. The size and cost isn’t what matters, its the content and peace it brings those in attendance that matters. I know I will kick and scream if someone in my family tries to persuade us not to have services for any of my loved ones, even if it means a potluck at a park, it will happen. I love the tradition of having a service over a years time or more as well. Great blog Lauren!

  3. Kari Lyn Leslie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful view into your families private celebration. My uncle died earlier this year, and we are going to come together as a family and go through the memory keeper that we received at his service. I’m so glad that your event was a success, and I’m looking forward to the time that my family will be together to remember my “Unkie.”


  4. Fitz says:

    Hi Lauren,
    Really a great blog! Thank you for sharing and reminding us of the importance of remembering; even if it’s years after the death. It’s never too late to have a service of remembrance for a loved one. It’s not only healthy for the family and friends who know them but also for those in the family who didn’t because they weren’t born when the loved one was alive. It builds family heritage. I can’t help but think of all the families that we have served that have attended our remembrance service each year. We have families that attend year after year to honor their loved one. It certainly reinforces what you have written…the importance of having a service and remembering.

  5. Rosemary says:

    What a beautiful and meaningful practice this is! Our family does remember the significant anniversaries and days of our loved ones, but not in such a formal gathering since many of us are scattered across the country. Perhaps the opportunity will arise at some point to bring us all back together again. I know it would be a lovely time of healing and sharing. Thank you for sharing this lovely tradition, Lauren!

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