I'd like to think that I was a unique celebrant. That I make every service as unique as the person who has died.
I try very hard to make sure that my services are different to the normal services that people are used to. I have a couple of amazing conductors who have been supportive, have boosted my confidence and guided me. I'm sure if you asked them they would happily tell you what they think of me.
I write every service, from beginning to end, from scratch. There may be a couple of things I say that are the same but, they are in context to my services, poems or readings etc but as for the rest of it - nothing is copied and pasted.
Everything comes from my heart.
Religion - your choice
I never say never, if a family want me to include a religious reading, a prayer even bible readings and hymns, I’m never going to say No, but I’m never going to say that they should have them in either.
Quite often I get asked to take a service and the family will say "we're not religious, but can we have All Things Bright and Beautiful and The Lord's Prayer" I always say 'of course'.
A service is personal, it has to be how you want it to be. It’s the last thing you can physically do for the person who has died.
You don’t get a second shot at this, you have to do it right, the first and last time. I have to make sure that you are comfortable even one of the saddest times of your life. Because it is so important to me to make sure it is right. I will check, check and re-check with you to make sure that on the day everything is perfect.
I always focus the whole service on the person who has died.Their quirks and mannerisms. Favourite sweets or tipple. Colour, football team, sports, animals. Gardening, music, dancing. Anything that they enjoyed. Because even if they have had an illness like dementia, they had interests before!
A Minister/Vicar/Priest will speak in essence about God. Prayers and hymns are sung. The clergy will say a few words about the person who has died, there are usually a couple of bible readings. There is comfort for those who do believe in God
A Humanist doesn’t mention God, or the afterlife, or any sort of spiritual happening. They believe we are in the here and now and that when we die that is it, there is nothing else. They will talk about the person who has died but there is no mention of anything after death. No words of comfort really.
So then you come to people like me.
A Civil Celebrant.
No boundaries. No restrictions. Just Celebrating a life that's lived, not mourning the life that has been lost.
A positive, respectful Celebrant believes that death should be talked about in a good way and not in hushed tones. That there should be lightness, laughter as well as tears, don’t make a crematorium a dark scary place.
As we get older our outlooks change. People used to think that a funeral should be a dark, sombre affair but it doesn't have to be that way.
Growing up I was told that children didn't attend funerals. I myself was 21 before I went to a funeral. But now I look at it a different way. Perhaps, I hope, you will too after reading this. If you have loved a grandparent as a young child, then all of a sudden that grandparent isn’t there and everyone is crying. As times passes you are taken to a place where a stone marks where the much loved, and now much missed, grandparent is.
How confusing is that? This isn't the mythical Santa, or the Tooth Fairy, it's Nanny or Granddad.
Surely that is more painful than being explained to. Wouldn't it be better if as that young child you were able to have the chance of saying goodbye?
Being able to be a part of a special service, a service filled with love with a proper goodbye, an explanation. Of course, it is still upsetting but surely it is more about being there and being able to understand, knowing that the person they loved has moved on to another place.
Make the service a place that is filled with love, a place where you are saying a special goodbye but in a positive way and in a special place.
The new Crematoriums are much lighter and less opposing places these days. Far better to be honest with that child than to fabricate a story that will, in the end, be seen as a lie.
If children want to look around the Crematorium where their parent/grandparent/loved one is going to have a special goodbye service, ring the Crematorium. Staff are always happy to show people around when able to and it is becoming more and more common that children come to services.
Which I personally think they should do. I wonder how it could be introduced to schools but I don't suppose
it will happen in my lifetime!
In Ireland and many other countries, children are naturally included in the funeral services. They attend from babies in arms, toddlers to teens. Why wouldn’t they? It’s all part of life’s cycle. There are also plenty of good books around now and schools are much better equipped to deal with bereavement than before.
I have worked as a celebrant for a few years. I have waited until I got a few (well over a hundred) under my belt before I wanted to advertise my services. I wanted to be 100% sure that I was doing it right. That I felt that I was doing justice to the person who had died.
My job is incredible. Not only do
I get to meet the most amazing families. I get to tell the best stories. Sometimes the most incredible stories. Even though so many times I haven't known the person I'm going to speak about, I try to make sure that their personality comes to the forefront. That when people leave a service that I have been honoured with leading, they leave knowing that their loved one was remembered well.
I get to be the last person responsible for a last journey in life.
But why did I want to do this job?
When a friend of mine passed away, I came out of her service feeling ‘cheated’. The service said nothing about her. Nothing about what an amazing character she was, how she had dealt with her illness with a dignity and with humour.
No words about her love of practical jokes or her love of tricks.
It was then I knew I had to change things.
So, I found out about some good and recognised training and I started on my quest to change funerals.
I don't write from a script. I don't copy and paste my opening and closing words and just change the names. Unlike so many of the most respected and well known celebrants do.
With religion or without - YOUR choice.
My philosophy is if you don't want it, don't have it! If you want religion then I'm happy to include it.
Randomly, I invite you to come and watch a service if that’s what you would like to do. I have no problem with you sneaking in the back door and observing me at work! You probably won’t know the person who has died, but maybe after the service you will feel that you might have known them a little bit.
Funeral's should be uplifting, if a person was happy and cheerful then their service should reflect that.
If they were a quiet person with a steady life, well then that can be reflected too. If they were a miserable old sod, well yes, even they have some things in life they loved to do.
There are NO rules in my funeral services.
As long as YOU are having what YOU want - I'm happy.
In my time as a Celebrant, I have worn traditional black clothing, various football club pin brooches, on one occasion a football shirt, many different scarves with butterflies, stars, poppies, sunflowers and such like as a nod to the person who has passed. We’ve had dogs attend, why not? Family pet loved by the deceased, and I swear they know why they are there.
I had two little girls who were attending their very young step nanny’s service, she loved the colour yellow and the room was filled with yellow ribbons and Sunflowers. When Nanny’s special music came on, they got up and started dancing, because it was Nanny’s favourite. Yes of course there were tears, but what a beautiful thing to remember, two little girls dressed in very pretty dresses dancing at Nanny’s goodbye.
Life is not a rehearsal. We don’t get to come back and do it all again.
So let’s make sure that when we leave this life we do it in the best way possible; with respect, with style, with dignity, with humour.
But, most of all, with love.