Funerals are such an important event for people. They are a time to say a formal goodbye to loved ones, to show respect and to offer support to family members and friends. A Funeral Ceremony should be (without taking anything away from the grief felt by the family), a celebration of the life of a person and many people wish their loved ones to be honoured with a Ceremony that encapsulates the person’s life, their achievements and their personality. In short, you want the essence of that person to be captured.
I am not a great believer in the word ‘should’ for Funerals. I think the family of the departed, should be able to have what helps and comforts them at this time, and this applies to music, speakers, what is said at the Ceremony and any readings, poetry that they find feels right for them. As a Celebrant that is what I strive to do.
A family visit is important to gather as much information about the person’s life as possible, but much more than that, to get a sense of who the person was. It is a privilege to visit a family at this time and to try to alleviate some of the worries about the Funeral.
One of my friends who died had the photo of the cast of Star Trek along the side of her coffin. Her husband decided on this, and anyone who knew my friend, and what a Star Trek aficionado she was, would thoroughly approve and would know it was exactly what my friend would have loved.
As a Humanist Celebrant, I would not lead a prayer (being unqualified to do so), but am happy if someone wanted some hymns played, after all, who am I to deny someone their last wishes for their loved ones? Christians often have humanist ceremonies for their loved ones, not because they don’t believe in a God but just because they prefer the Ceremony to be more about the person who has passed. Having said that, I am in no way undermining a religious funeral and different things suit different people, I just think that it is nice having a choice nowadays.
A script for the Ceremony is very important and the family will always be given a copy of it before the funeral to check over, make any amendments or additions. There is nothing worse than sitting at a funeral where one of the most important aspect of someone’s life has been overlooked in the Ceremony. Some people also quite like to keep the copy, just to remind them of what was said, as often emotionally, it can be difficult to take everything in at such a traumatic time.
A good celebrant will bond with the family, will care about their welfare, will liaise with the Funeral Directors and staff at the cemetery/graveside to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible. Lastly, but not least, they will help you remember and celebrate the life in a way that will honour the person you lost. They will, in every way they possibly can, be there for you.
By Phyl Wright