The cairns along a wilderness trail are built of rocks of various shapes and sizes. The memorial cairn at the end of a life is also a composite, but an experiential one. It is made up of the memories, the thoughts and the feelings of all who are gathered in the one place together. It is a recollection (a re-collection) of what was for a time together and now is scattered and scattering. Here is the one we knew. Here is how our lives were touched by that life. Here is what we think and how we feel.
The words spoken in the literal funeral or memorial service are not themselves the marker. The words spoken are evokers of experiences — thoughts, feelings, memories — within the people of the gathered group. These experiences are the memorial cairn.
At the end of a life we compose a symphony, an ordered creation, whose notes and themes are the experiences of the people gathered. Themes dark and bright are sounded to recollect and to order the impact of the the life of the one who has died — honestly, fully, tenderly — and in the spirit of thanksgiving for the quality of that life.
Rev Roy Phillips quoted in Dealing Creatively With Death.