How New Orleans Put the Jazz into Funerals
Jazz is an integral part of the New Orleans culture, even after life.
From creating a heartfelt ode in the memory of a loved one to building a monument in the middle of the Sahara desert, these heartfelt tributes show how beauty and inspiration can derive from grief.
At Damsons, we’ve had the chance to read many touching stories about those coping with the realities of a loved one’s death in uplifting ways. Many of these stories are of loved ones doing something wonderful in memory of the one they miss, whether to work through grief or to show the world what that person meant.
Here is our list of the ten most heartfelt tributes we have ever come across to date:
Children’s author and illustrator Anna Dewdney died in September 2016 after a 15-month battle with brain cancer, leaving behind an obituary that included a unique specification. Anna requested that in lieu of a funeral service that people read to a child instead. With a career devoted to children’s literature, it came to no surprise to Anna’s loved ones that she would want to continue the promotion of reading to the young, even after she was gone.
In certain instances, typical funeral arrangements just don’t seem suitable. Take the case of marathon enthusiast Jim Kelley, for example. After this avid runner passed away at the age of 51, the funeral director commented that a classic procession of slow-moving cars wouldn’t aptly reflect a man who was quick on his feet. Instead, it was suggested his loved ones jog behind the hearse on the way to cemetery. The funeral service was described as being “exactly what Jim would have wanted.”
When Lego-lover Dylan Frick succumbed to brainstem glimoa (a cancerous brain tumour that primarily strikes children and young adults) aged 10, he was laid to rest in a custom-made casket adorned with 26,000 lego pieces. The casket took 90 hours to create and had Dylan’s name inlaid on the top as well as two race cars and two little Lego men on either side. The casket was part of a colourful funeral service that Dylan’s father described as being “joyful”.
For 40 years, Harry Ewell brought happiness in his hometown as the driver of an ice cream van. After his passing in 2003, loved ones wanted to honour his memory and celebrate his life in a one-of-a-kind way. Harry’s family decided that it would be fitting for the funeral procession to be lead by Harry’s ice cream van while playing the familiar music aloud. After the service, attendees were treated to free ice cream as a final treat from Harry.
Barry ‘Magoo’ McGuigan was believed to be the oldest competitive surfer in the world, and one of the true pioneers of modern surfing. So, when he died in 2014, it seemed fitting that the close-knit surfing fraternity bid farewell with a paddle-out at Barry’s spiritual and physical home at Norah Head in Australia. Over 100 surfers paid tribute to his memory by performing a splash before sharing memories and placing a wreath in the ocean.
When Seth Collins’ brother Aaron committed suicide in 2012, he found a will on Aaron’s computer asking for his family to “leave an awesome tip (and I don’t mean 23 percent, I mean $500 on pizza) for a waiter or waitress”. After Seth gave his first tip in Aaron’s memory to a waitress in Kentucky, he realised he wanted to keep the gesture going in remembrance of his brother. He posted a video online resulting in a flood of donations and the beginning of Aaron’s Road Trip Project. To date, Seth has given away more than 80 $500 tips in 50 states.
Batman, the Honey Monster and Fred Flintstone were all in attendance to honour the memory of popular biker Gary Pattison. Gary was killed in a motorbike accident in 2013 and his final request was for mourners to dress as their favourite characters for his funeral. Gary prepared a speech for his own funeral which said: ‘In the words of Warner Brothers, “That’s all folks! Enjoy and do me proud!” The unique service included a fire breather and 1930s jazz musician making for an incredibly memorable funeral for a man many will never forget.
In 1989, an airplane bound for Paris exploded over the Sahara desert killing all 170 passengers on board. Nearly 20 years after the crash, the victims’ families reunited at the crash site in the middle of the desert to create a lasting memorial for for the victims of UTA Flight 772. The monument included pieces of the wreckage. It took two months for loves ones to build the haunting memorial which looks like an airplane icon from above and can be viewed on Google maps.
After Winston Howes lost his wife 21 years ago, he wanted to create a lasting memorial where he could sit and reflect on their many years together. Winston planted 6,000 young oak trees on a sex-acre field, leaving a perfect heart shape in the centre. The meadow can only be accessed from his wife’s childhood home. The heart-shaped meadow was only discovered in 2012 after a hot air balloonist flew overhead and captured a photograph.
When widower Fred Stobaugh saw an advertisement in his local paper for a songwriting contest in 2013, he submitted a hand-written love note that he wrote for his wife of 73 years who passed away earlier that year. The beautiful and heartfelt ode touched the hearts of millions. While 96-year-old Fred didn’t win the competition, ‘Oh Sweet Lorraine’ sold more than 100,000 copies, reached #9 on iTunes Top 10 and our #1 most heartfelt tribute.
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