Sometimes life requires us to become event planners, often in heightened emotional circumstances, even if we have no experience planning an event. The host of a family/community holiday party has to step down suddenly, but the show must go on. A landmark birthday or anniversary is coming up, and you’re the one to make it happen it. A family member dies, and that means funeral planning.
Even seasoned event planners can get flummoxed by project management under duress. My Dad died three years ago suddenly of a heart attack. Given the timing related to the family’s religious calendar, we had one week to plan a funeral. I had helped organize plenty of events—plated fundraising dinners, group walking event series, conferences, campaign house parties, the World Naked Bike Ride, etc.—but planning Dad’s memorial service was special and included not just all the details, but All the Feelings, and all the family members.
I used to think that funerals were a cruel tradition, because it required the closest, most actively grieving members of a person’s life to plan and throw a party. Dad’s memorial service taught me differently. For me, it was a way to honor Dad, focus on something other than my own feelings, and be surrounded by people who loved this wonderful person who had shaped my life.
The process also taught me the importance of using collaborative tools, such as Google Docs. It’s possible I made a slideshow about the process:
Using Google Docs in planning Dad’s memorial service turned out to be important for a few reasons:
- It allowed people to interact with information using spreadsheets and text documents, which people are more commonly acquainted with than, say, Asana or Trello;
- Everyone has access, and also there is revision history in case of flubs (because everyone has access);
- One person is less likely to be a bottleneck, allowing someone to take a personal time out if needed without holding up the process; and
- Once there’s a process, it can be duplicated for use by others with similar funeral planning needs in future.
What I learned at life that day: Collaborative online tools are a really pretty good complement to the grieving process.