Funerals

Celebrant Funerals

Celebrant funerals give you the flexibility to create exactly the kind of service that is most appropriate to honour the passing of a family member, a dear friend, or someone to whom you have been close.

Image of Flowers at funeralAs a funeral celebrant, I see my task as ensuring this is done in a way that is proper and acceptable to both the deceased person, and to their family and friends.

Being “proper” to the person can vary in many ways. I remember funeral ceremonies which were really funny celebrations of the person. In these funerals, the eulogy and tributes were able to be enjoyed by all present – whether you knew the person well or not!

By contrast there have been others which were so sad . . . and where the predominant feeling was an enormous sense of loss.

 

What should the ceremony be like?

The atmosphere/ethos of a funeral ceremony should always be determined together with the family.

We work all this out at a meeting a few days beforehand. At this meeting there are a number of things that need to be asked, ideally in a non-intrusive way, because the answers to these questions will determine what the ceremony will be like.

The first question is the kind of ceremony wanted by the family (or the deceased). Will it be a humanist funeral ceremony, a religious service, or somewhere in between? (Humanist means completely non-religious and non-spiritual.) Most people (at least on the Gold Coast) tend to choose the “somewhere in between” option. I see this as a spectrum of thought and ideas like a colour spectrum or number line, with humanist at one end and religious at the other – and a “great big shade of grey” section in the middle.

These are very personal choices, and there are basically two things that need to be taken into account when deciding on which funeral service is most appropriate. These are, first and foremost, the worldview of the person who has passed on, and then also the worldviews of the immediate family. The answers to the questions I ask about this tell me the things that I may say, and things that I may not say during the ceremony. Knowing these things helps to avoid offending people.

For those who choose a funeral ceremony either as a religious service  or an “in-between” ceremony that is at the religious end of the spectrum, there can be religious readings, prayers, or whatever the family wants. It must always be your choice. When a humanist sort of ceremony is chosen, there would more likely be readings from philosophy or literature, and whatever else you want.

In all cases, the aim is to be able to provide a dignified occasion that honours the memory, the legacy and the personality of the person who has passed on.

 

Atmosphere

Every funeral ceremony has a different atmosphere.

A funeral is not necessarily an autumnal atmosphere, but can be a joyous celebration of a passed one's lifeI recall one ceremony where the deceased was a relatively young man in his early 40s, who had been taken by some unknown virus. The atmosphere in the overflowing chapel was almost palpable, because all the guests were so angry that this youngish man had passed on. I remember thinking, at the time, that nothing – absolutely nothing – I could say would help this man’s family and friends, except if I had told everyone that, “The funeral directors will shortly move amongst you handing out pick-handles, and when I give the word, we are going to trash the place!” Yes, I hear you say, not practicable, and illegal etc, but everyone just might have gone home feeling a little better, and a lot less angry!

On another occasion, the deceased had given clear instruction that NO-ONE was to wear a tie. So at the beginning of the service, I removed my tie, and said that because these were instructions from the “guest-of-honour”, could everyone else who had a tie on please remove it! There was obviously a much different atmosphere at this funeral, compared to the first one.

 

Of course it’s a serious occasion, but ….

Being dignified and respectful does not mean that there should not be humour in the ceremony.

Some of the best eulogies and tributes always contain elements of humour, which allows those present to relax, enjoy what is going on, and to truly celebrate the life which is now over.

 

Eulogies and Tributes

In most funeral ceremonies it is customary for one person (sometimes more) to deliver a Eulogy.

Eulogies

The Eulogy usually (but not always) consists of a potted history of the person, that somehow outlines aspects of their character.

You can include:

  • where and when they were born
  • family circumstances
  • where they went to school
  • children and where their family lived
  • the nature or character of the person
  • favourite sayings
  • who their parents and siblings were
  • details of occupations  and professions
  • details of significant relationships (spouses and partners)
  • significant family holidays
  • why they will be missed
  • and more – it’s up to you, really….

If you have to write a Eulogy, I will be happy to give you my Eulogy Preparation sheet. This will give you a few ideas about where to start.

Tributes

Tributes can be given by others – and especially by grandchildren, in the case of an older person.

It is always a good idea to stress that in tributes by friends humour is good, and that the tribute should not be too long.

In many cases, be mindful that time for the funeral as a whole may be limited. This depends on the venue where the ceremony is taking place, and also on how solidly it is booked that day.

Funerals do not have to be sad. They can be a happy celebration of a person's life.Who will do the Eulogy?

Mostly, this is done by a family member or good friend. But if there is no-one in these categories, or they are all terrified at the thought of public speaking, or (as often is the case) they are not sure whether they can control their emotions, then I can always be the “back-up plan”. If this is how you would like to handle it, we can put together a eulogy/tribute at the family meeting.

The Eulogy is what makes the service special, and it definitely centres the ceremony around the deceased and their family.

 

 

Music

Music is always an important part of a ceremony of any kind.

In funerals, a song can vividly evoke a sense of the person or of the memories they leave behind. The music is usually something that has had significant meaning to the person at some time in their lives; or it somehow represents that person for others who knew them well.

Favourites for funerals include The Wind Beneath My Wings (Bette Midler), Time to Say Goodbye (Andrea Bocelli), Unforgettable (Nat King Cole), My Heart Will Go On (Celine Dion), Tears in Heaven (Eric Clapton), Looking Forward, Looking Back or I love to have a beer with Duncan  (both by Slim Dusty) and many others. There can be many reasons why you might choose a particular song or piece of music.

The sky is the limit; the only criteria for choice are, “Was it something they loved?” or “Does it evoke a sense of the person?” Or perhaps more importantly,  “Is it appropriate . . . and are you OK with it?”

A few examples of how music can be integrated into the ceremony:

  • Selected pieces of music can be incorporated into key points of the service that reflect readings or other stages in the service or the person’s life.
  • One 90-year old lady was taken out to the hearse to Smoke gets in Your Eyes, because she enjoyed smoking, and had her last cigarette an hour before she died! Needless to say, this was an example of a service with humour!
  • Another very genial man went out to Slim Dusty’s I love to have a beer with Duncan.
  • And many ex-Victorians like to include the deceased’s AFL club song, usually at the end of the service.
  • I recall one service that consisted simply of a series of songs, each of which was specially selected by a family member as a tribute to the deceased. You may say that this was an unusual service, BUT that is what the family wanted
  • And that, in the end, is all that counts.

 

Funeral Directors

If, when you are reading this, you have to arrange a funeral, but don’t know where to start . . . please feel free to call me.

I know most of the Funeral Directors on the Gold Coast and, with few exceptions, they are very decent, compassionate people who will look after you and your family at this difficult time. People do not take this on as a profession unless they are compassionate.

If you would like me to conduct the ceremony you are now organising, may I suggest that you please ring me and check that I am available before you make further arrangements. (0413 098 030 or 55 640 740)

 

The most important thing to remember

People have different ways of farewelling people from life, and whatever they decide is how the ceremony must be done.

In a celebrant funeral, nothing is compulsory, and nothing is right or wrong. In the end, it is simply whatever the family (or those organising the ceremony) decide.

 

Give me a call and we can sit down together,
and discuss whether you would like me to conduct your loved one’s funeral.

And then we’ll work out how best to represent and honour the person that s/he was.