Sarah York is a Unitarian Universalist minister who has been planning and conducting funerals and memorial services for two decades. She states at the outset: "No matter what the circumstances of a life or a death, there is no sufficient reason not to mark the occasion of death with at least a simple private ceremony."

Here is a down-to-earth and substantive guidebook designed for those who want to plan final rites for a loved one. The goal, according to the author, is to celebrate a life and mourn a death. York covers the challenge of writing a "soul sketch" of the deceased; the use of readings and music; invoking a spirit of gratitude, healing, and love through prayer or a litany; and offering words of blessing and inspiration for the living. Sample services are included in this fine overview.

Families are often torn apart by disagreements over ethical issues connected with funeral, memorial, or committal services. York discusses the options of organ donation, viewing the body, cremation, and burial. The author also deals with the tough issues revolving around family estrangement, violent deaths from murder or suicide, and the demise of infants and children.