Saturday, February 25, 2017

Saying Good-bye (or Planning a Funeral)

This month I was asked to help arrange a funeral along with the family luncheon for someone in our ward. It was actually a beautiful way to serve and things turned out well. Just in case the opportunity arises again, I thought I'd record some sites I found that were helpful. (See below.)

The internet is a fantastic resource, but I also pulled out the funeral program for my grandmother's funeral to give me ideas. It's a blessing to be able to assign yourself to be the organist, because the hardest task was figuring out the music, particularly the musical number. This program included "How Great Thou Art" for the opening hymn and "The Lord is My Shepherd" for the closing hymn (chosen by the widow because they were her husband's favorite hymns). Family members read a couple of scriptures, gave the life sketch, and shared a poem. After some friends sang "Each Life that Touches Ours for Good" (an arrangement by our good friend Ross Farnworth), the bishop spoke. The actual service was only 30 - 40 minutes long, one of the shortest I've ever been to, but it was beautiful and met its purpose.

We were planning on 60 family members for the luncheon and 59 came. Sybil did a great job of estimating, don't you think?

Some of the things that worked out great were to use tablecloths instead of paper or nothing. I think that was important to me because I remember un-covered tables at the family luncheon after my grandmother's funeral. They're just not pretty, although they are practical, especially with a lot of little children. However, unlike for my grandmother, for this family only the widow was a member of the church; none of the relatives were. I felt we needed to leave a good impression. Fortunately, I think we succeeded.

We wanted centerpieces as well for the same reason. Simple is good, and there were some plastic vases with fake flowers in the Relief Society closet. With some fabric squares from my stash at home they did the job.

I read somewhere to put rolls and butter on the individual tables, instead of the serving table, and that was a great idea. If someone's really hungry, they don't have to wait for the line to form. In addition to pitchers of water, we also put the eating utensils, napkins and cups at each table so they wouldn't need three hands to carry things. Only the dinner plates were on the serving table. We also followed the suggestion to have the cakes on a different table, with room to place plates of cut pieces nearby.

We had the traditional menu of ham, potato casserole, green salad with dressing, rolls and cake, and the estimates below are pretty good. For 60 people, we used 2 Costco hams (10# each), 4 9x13" pans of potatoes, 14# of lettuce with 2# of grape tomatoes and a bag of croutons, 2 16-oz bottles of salad dressing, 1 pound of butter, 9 dozen rolls and 4 9x13" cakes. It actually turned out to be the perfect amount - we didn't run out of food, but we didn't have leftovers coming out of our ears either.

It was a long day, although not quite as long as a wedding day, and I was grateful that Wayne was happy to come along to help. The checklist should have a reminder to wear comfortable shoes! Don't forget to have someone open the building for the funeral home people (although I guess that isn't normally part of the luncheon committee responsibility). Just for future reference, we arrived at 10:30 to make copies of the program and practice the musical number. The service started at noon. The family arrived back from the cemetery around 1:30 and we were finished with clean-up around 3:30. Lots of hands really do make the work light.

Here are a couple of the resources I used, Mormon Share and LDS Women, and here's the checklist for the family luncheon (or repast as our Sybil called it):

Planning Checklist

  1. Call the family to find out the time and place of the funeral, estimated time of the luncheon, and rough estimate of how many family members will be eating.
  2. Get a phone number from the family of a family member who would not mind getting a cell phone call in case the servers need to locate or contact the family on the day of the funeral and luncheon.
  3. Reserve the building. Be sure to reserve enough time for set up, a leisurely meal, and clean up. Funeral preparations take precedence over other uses of the building.
  4. Make sure there are enough paper products in the paper closet.
  5. Assign someone to set up #_____of tables and #_____of chairs to each table by__________(time). (8 People can comfortably sit at the round or rectangular tables.)
  6. Consult the Compassionate Service Leader(s) to plan the following:
    • Decide menu and amount needed of each item. (See the Sample menu.)
    • Call people to make assignments (or if there is time you can pass around an assignment sheet in Relief Society, Primary, Nursery, Library and Young Womens) – Tell them the time and place to deliver their food. You’ll need:
      • help with set up (tablecloths/paper, serving tables, food placement, beverage preparation),
      • help to receive the food (use a tape and marker to write a name on each tray),
      • help to serve the food,
      • help with clean up, and
      • help to return empty dishes after the funeral.
    • Call people that can help on the day of the luncheon:
      • Remind them of time to be there (at least 30 minutes before family arrives to avoid any distracting rushing about).
      • Remind them to label their utensils or dishes
      • Remind them of any other assignments (knives, etc).
    • Take a list of people bringing food so you know who to expect.

Items Needed

  • From the Library:
    • Scissors (a myriad of uses, possibly to cut paper for tables)
    • Tape and marker to label any unmarked dishes, pans, or serving utensils
  • From the paper supply closet:
    • paper to cover the tables - or tablecloths
    • large and small plates
    • napkins
    • plastic utensils
    • plastic cups
  • Bring from home:
    • Keys (main door, library, paper closet, Relief Society closets, and kitchen)
    • Cookie sheets (use to carry leftover food to cars)
    • Aprons
    • Dish towels, wash cloths, and dish soap
    • Unit phone directory (in case you need more help or someone forgets to show)
    • Aluminum foil, Saran Wrap, Ziplock bags (quart and gallon), disposable foil containers (to distribute any extra food)
    • Small Serving Spatulas (to scoop and serve desserts)
    • Sharp kitchen knives (since many units do not allow knives to be stored at church)

Sample Family Meal Menu

  • Meat: Ham 1 feeds 10 to 12 people/Roast/Turkey
  • Funeral Potatoes: 9×13 feeds 12 to 15 people
  • Salads:
    • Bagged Green Salad (add tomatoes and cucumbers; 2 lbs will probably feed 12-15) and Dressing (Thousand Island, Ranch, Catalina and Italian are popular)
    • Jello: 9×13 salad feeds 12-15 people
    • Pasta
  • Fruits (cut watermelon, seedless grapes, honeydew melon, strawberries, and cantaloupe in season)
  • Veggie trays and dips
  • Potato chips
  • Rolls and butter
  • Beverages:
    • Ice Water (buy bagged crushed ice)
    • Kool-aid (bring sugar and measuring cup)
  • Desserts
    • Cakes (Cut into 24 slices per 9×13 pan)
    • Cookies


  1. Turn on the heat or air conditioning if needed.
  2. As each food item is delivered – make sure to put tape and the sister’s name on each tray.
  3. Cover tables with paper.
  4. Set salt and pepper shakers at the end of each table.
  5. Place empty cups at each place setting.
  6. Cut butter sticks in half and place on small paper plates. 
  7. Use plants and flowers from the funeral for center pieces if they are available.
  8. Set up two long tables for serving food and cover them with paper.
  9. Place the large paper plates at the beginning of the serving line.
  10. Set out 3 lined baskets for the utensils at the end of the serving line.
  11. Set out the napkins at the end of the serving line.
  12. Set out 1 to 2 big garbage cans with liners (near the exit to the dining area but as far from the serving area as possible).
  13. Set up one long table for desserts. Cover it with paper.
  14. Be sure you have contact numbers for the family and stake/ward/branch leaders in case of emergency.

Just Before the Family Arrives:

  1. Place ice in each pitcher, fill with water and place on tables.
  2. Cut the desserts into small servings, place on small paper plates, and place onto the Dessert Table.
  3. Place food (with serving utensils) onto the table.

During the Luncheon:

  1. Check to make sure the water pitchers are full.
  2. Refill (if have more in the kitchen) the food on the Serving and Dessert Tables.

Clean Up:

  1. Wash dishes.
  2. Put tables and chairs away.
  3. Sweep gym and kitchen floors (Wipe up any spills).
  4. Vacuum hallways.
  5. Take trash to the outside dumpsters.
  6. Ensure all lights are turned off, bathrooms are clean, and building is locked up.
  7. Return dishes and utensils to owners.

1 comment:

Becky said...

We got to do this again a couple of months later. Would you believe that Costco was out of their spiral-sliced ham? Apparently it's a "seasonal" item, and they sold out at Easter. So, instead of ham and potato casserole, we had Relief Society sisters bring pasta casseroles (lasagna, baked ziti, macaroni and cheese, turkey tetrazzini, etc.) and it worked out wonderfully.

This second time there were a lot of leftover rolls. My guess is that 1) maybe this family didn't care for rolls, but more likely 2) they didn't go to the cemetery and so there wasn't the waiting around before the food was served; the casseroles and salad were already on the serving table when they walked into the gym. Just something to remember.