MyStoryYourStory: Celebrate joy of living with ‘liferal’

The other day, I finally sat down and outlined my funeral service, something I had wanted to do ever since the age of 16.

I know this may sound morbid and a bit odd, but I�ve dreaded the thought of my family scrambling at the last minute to select songs, readings, prayers and whatnot for my funeral.

Soon after I had done this, I read about the late Reverend Robert Condon who planned his own living eulogy.

By the time Father Bob passed away on July 24 at the age 85, he had already attended his own wake. Yes, even prior to the visitation, Vigil Service, Funeral Mass and burial service, the former Briar Cliff psychology professor had the opportunity to listen to his own eulogy. How cool and creative is that?

While still under Hospice Care, three days before he died at the New Cassel Retirement Center in Omaha, Father Bob, a native of Fort Dodge, was celebrating his life with his family and friends.

The downside of wakes and funerals, besides the loss of loved ones, is that it�s too late to tell the deceased all the things you wanted to say when they were alive. With a living wake, the person is right there, hearing every word, soaking in the love and experiencing the gratitude.

Before I read about Father Condon�s unique approach to dying, I had never heard of living wakes. So when I looked it up, I found an entire industry with slogans, like �Give your loved one a wake while they are still awake!� Really.

Reading further, I discovered the word �liferal� (pronounced life-for-all), coined by writer Paul Hassing. Liferal, Hassing defines as �an organized event to celebrate love, friendship and the joy of living.� A liferal takes a living wake in a whole new direction. Intended not for those on the brink of death, but for those who need to hear how much they are loved and cherished.

�We drop everything to attend the funeral of someone we love,� Hassing writes. �Whatever our commitments, we work around them, because there's only one official opportunity to mourn…. Getting time off work, postponing holidays, rescheduling meetings can be difficult and inconvenient, but we do it. We go to great pains to 'celebrate' death; why not do the same to celebrate life? A liferal is the antithesis of a funeral. It's a gathering to celebrate friendships before they are dissolved by death.�

It appears that Hassing�s own liferal ceremony changed his life and maybe saved it. �As you may gather, a liferal can be a heady experience indeed,� he notes. �Mine turned me round and made me focus on all I had, not what I didn't have.�

The more I thought about the idea of a liferal, the more I realized I haven�t told my own family how important they are to me. I haven�t celebrated who they are and how much they mean to me, apart from birthdays and holidays.

So, you could say I�ve decided to turn over a new leaf � a liferal leaf.

Fair warning to my family members � if I show up on your doorsteps with balloons, banners and bands, it�s because you mean the world to me and I want you to know it before either you or I go.

If I begin sending poems and posies, it�s because I love you so very much.

And, if I hold parties to celebrate you, it�s because you are irreplaceable.


2011 � Copyright Paula Damon.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009 and 2010 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, her columns took five first-place awards. To contact Paula, email boscodamonpaula@gmail, follow her blog at and find her on FaceBook.

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