Since qualifying as a Funeral Celebrant I have had lots of different reactions from people when I have told them what I do.
My friends and family have been incredibly supportive, and everyone who knows me has told me that the role is perfect for me, and assured me that I will be great.
The common denominator among everyone has been the need to know what a Celebrant is. Even those who have been to a Celebrant led funeral still haven't been sure exactly what the role involves. There is often surprise at how much work is involved.
It has certainly started some interesting discussions, and as I could wax lyrical on the subject for hours, some of these have become quite in depth.
What has amazed me is how common it is for people to believe that they have to have a clergyman, and that the service has to be held in a Church or at the Crematorium. This make me sad and frustrated, as nothing could be further from the truth. Apart from the law that stipulates you need to register the death and dispose of the body, there is no right or wrong way of saying goodbye.
As you can imagine this information often leads to some wacky ideas and suggestions, all of which are actually possible to achieve. The moment people realise that they can have a celebration, that there are no boundaries (apart from timing at a Crematorium, so go elsewhere and this isn't a problem) then their imagination runs wild.
It is refreshing to be able to talk to people about this. When you get married you plan the wedding day, as expectant parents we make a birth plan, as students we chose a qualification that will lead to a job we will hopefully enjoy, so why not talk about the ceremony we want for our funeral?
If these conversations don't take place then how will those left behind, grieving and dealing with a mountain of paperwork, know what songs or poems you loved, or if you would like a quiet Church Service or an all out celebration with a brass band?
We often see death as something that is hard to discuss, and yet it is inevitable that it will happen to us all. Whilst we don't always have control over other parts of our life we do know that we will die, and we can make arrangements now for when the time comes.
The making of your Will is another taboo subject, and one that people put off for as long as possible, and yet the stress and heartache of dealing with an intestate estate is horrendous, so why put your loved ones through that when you can buy a will pack and fill in the forms yourself today?
I am so keen to get people talking about their wishes and to encourage them to write everything down clearly.
My wishes have been in my Will for years and I freely talk about it. I lived with my parents on the route to the local Crematorium, and so day in day out I saw the hearses driving slowly along the road. I vowed that I would never go in a hearse when the time comes, and my request is an open top sports car with the coffin propped into the passenger seat. No dilly dallying, but normal traffic speed for me please. My service will be a celebration of how lucky I have been to live a life filled with wonderful family and friends, and at my committal everyone will raise a glass of champagne and toast me on my way. My ashes will be placed in a firework and I will light up the night sky in a blaze of glory.
This may change in the future, but if so I will amend my Will and make sure everyone knows my wishes.
If you feel that you can't have this conversation with your family or friends, or even if you can, then I can meet with you and help you to construct your ceremony. I write everything up and give you a copy so that you can lodge it safely, usually with your Will. You could even arrange for all your friends to get together, so that they can help you decide what music etc would be most suitable.
Most of all, start that conversation, chat about the type of ceremony/service you would like, your favourite poem and music, and make it part of normal life to talk about Funerals, after all the first three letters of Funeral spell Fun!