Nora Ephron Pre-planned Her Own Memorial Service

The tribute to the late writer and director was a poignant example of modern ways to celebrate a life well-lived
Seven Second Delay - Live @ UCB Theater 9/23/09

Seven Second Delay - Live @ UCB Theater 9/23/09 (Photo credit: jvdalton)

Around the world, people are moving away from traditional funeral services in favor of more eclectic and personal remembrance events. The days of somber funerals and wakes are gone. Instead, modern-day memorial services are more often focused on celebrating a life well-lived.

These special memorials can take many forms, whatever friends and family need to celebrate the life of a lost loved one and to experience and heal from grief. Loved ones can host a Life Celebration, scatter cremation ashes in a meaningful location, attend a graveside service at a traditional or natural burial grounds, witness an open-air cremation … the possibilities are as varied as the special lives we’re celebrating. You can even dictate the events of your own memorial, as displayed by the legendary Nora Ephron!

Richard Cohen once told Vanity Fair, when asked what Ephron would be doing if not making films, “That’s easy. Dictator of Argentina.” Her self-planned memorial service was the perfect way to honor her take-charge character.

Ephron, who died June 26 of complications from Leukemia, pre-planned her entire memorial service, which took place last week in New York. She selected who would speak and all the details, right down to how much time they’d have and which anecdotes they should share, MSNBC reported.

“I believe that when people pass, they zoom into the people that love them the most. So, if that’s the case, then all of us here have a piece of Nora,” Martin Short, the morning’s first speaker, said of the late director, writer, and journalist. “And that’s the way it should be. Because life would just seem all too mundane without her. And if she’s a part of us, we must be more like her: read everything, savor everything, talk to the person on your left, embrace laughter like it’s a drug, drink more pink champagne, and yes, brush up your style.”

In a personal memorial, stars, friends, and family shared heartfelt and comical anecdotes of Ephron’s charismatic and driven life, from her sister’s recollection of Ephron’s move to New York City, to her sons Jacob and Max speaking of her bravery in her final days.

“She was the most fantastic blend of joy and cynicism,” Jacob said. “She was my best friend, my biggest cheerleader, and a total drill sergeant, which is basically what a great parent is supposed to be. Some other things I will miss about mom: her roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, the way she kept at least 10 different kinds of jam in her refrigerator, how we wept and we cried together upon finding out that Pat Buchanan would no longer be a regular on Rachel Maddow … and the fact that we cannot discuss the breakup of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ marriage, and the fact that she would have found that just as fascinating as the fact that John Roberts was the deciding vote on healthcare.”

The parade of stars who were touched by Ephron’s brilliance was endless, with a tribute by Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, a sketch by author Nick Pileggi, and a speech by a teary-eyed Meryl Streep.

“She really did catch us napping,” said Streep. “She pulled a fast one on all of us. It’s really stupid to be mad at somebody who died but somehow I have managed it. This winter, after I gave her the DGA honors, and she toasted me at the Kennedy Center, we promised each other that this would be the last in a long series of such events, and that we would never ever pay tribute to each other again. And she made me promise this, knowing that she’d already put me on this [memorial] list.”

To wrap up the touching service on the sunny New York day, Ephron left a little pamphlet for her friends to take home, and included a different recipe from her personal collection in each one.

How might your own memorial service celebrate and represent your life in such a poignant way? Are you the take-charge type like Ephron, interested in planning the details far in advance? Or are you quieter, preferring to allow friends and family to remember and mourn in their own way?

Share your creative ideas for a fitting modern-day memorial in the comments!

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One Response to Nora Ephron Pre-planned Her Own Memorial Service

  1. Yes this is true that more people are opting to plan their own memorial. Also some have their memorial while still alive as they can be at the party! They want to hear what people have to say about them. Such a wonderful idea for those who are able to do so.

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