People think that, because a celebrant is independent, they will not be emotionally involved in what is going on in front of them.
I consider myself as macho as the next wimp (!), and I have often been able to look at a ceremony objectively, though sympathetically. However, that has not always been the case.
Not unreasonably, it was a struggle for me to conduct the funeral of my aunt without tears, but of course I was emotionally involved, which people understood and accepted.
I found it incredibly hard to keep a dry eye when I conducted the funeral of a suicide victim, whose death had come as a total shock to his widow and young children. The general outpouring of grief was devastating.
In some ways, even worse was the time I had to read out the last message from a young lady to the mourners. “Moving” doesn’t describe how it was for me – let alone, the guests present.
I have had to hold back a tear at some celebratory ceremonies too. When I stand right next to a couple, and see the looks of unreserved love they are directing to each other, then that is a privilege and delight. If they cry, then it is hard not to follow suit!
In some cases, the couple has had to overcome huge adversity; in other cases, their stories are more mundane, but their true love no less evident and enjoyable.
I well remember my own wedding some 23 years ago. I was 45 and had given up hope of ever forming a meaningful attachment, let alone, marrying. In 1997, I met the lady who would revolutionise my life.
Isobel had been through an abusive marriage and had not had things easy. She needed the security and love that I would offer her.
Our guests were clearly so happy that we were getting together! You could feel the love, as you entered the building. It really was the happiest day of my life (hopefully, of Isobel’s too!). I couldn’t stop grinning like an idiot!
In my blog this time last year, I looked forward to 2021 with optimism. Perhaps I was a little naive, but at least it has not been the write-off 2020 mostly was.
Personally, although our son had to isolate with COVID, his attack was not severe – and he didn’t pass it on to us, for which we are grateful. I have had to undergo a couple of (unrelated) medical investigations, but it seems as if there is nothing to worry about there, Otherwise, our health has been good.
We got to celebrate our son’s achievement a few months back: he saved the life of a potential suicide. He got quite a bit of press coverage, but he saw it as “all in a day’s work”. We were dead proud of him, as you’d expect!
We did manage a holiday – although two nights in Essex is not everybody’s idea of an exotic trip! However, we greatly enjoyed it and appreciated the chance for a break, brief as the trip was. We might even return next year …
Work-wise, my celebrations business has been slow to take off after lockdown was relaxed last July. I did enjoy three autumn weddings, but there’s not a lot in my diary for 2022 or beyond, which surprises me a little. But normally, January sees a rush of bookings, so I am not downhearted. As I write, I have been booked for a Spring elopement, which should be amazing.
Funerals have been forthcoming, as you might expect. In fact, I have never done so many in one year (over 50). I’m so glad I’ve been able to make a difference to so many people at such a difficult time. Without wishing ill on anybody, I hope that that momentum continues, and that I can still make a real contribution.
If you’ve been following me during this year (or before), then I’d sincerely like to thank you and ask you to keep up the habit! Please rejoin me at my next blog (in January).
Meanwhile, may I wish you and those close to you all the very best for the festive season, and a very happy, prosperous and healthy New Year.
People can’t understand why I am passionate about funerals.
Weddings, OK, but funerals …???
The key reason is that I get a lot of satisfaction helping people when they are (often) at their lowest ebb. I come in, usually as an outsider, and give them information they will need, answer questions they may have and offer them a listening ear.
I give them reassurance.
I show that putting together a funeral service is not so hard, and the results can be very satisfying to all concerned.
I am privileged to hear things some of the rest of the family may not have heard before. For the week or so between being given the contact details and the funeral, I build up a bond between the next-of-kin and myself.
When I conduct the ceremony, I often receive heartfelt thanks afterwards, which is very rewarding. You can’t beat things like, “Uncle Dave would have loved that” or “I really enjoyed the service”.
Less significant perhaps, but I appreciate the variety of the work. No two families’ stories are the same. I meet some lovely people. I get a kick out of being there for folk who are often confused, angry, grieving or bewildered. The personal touch is very important – even if more of it is done remotely these days.
On a trivial note, I guess, I also enjoy relationships I have made with funeral directors and their teams, and with crematorium staff. And I do get the chance to visit some lovely cemeteries that I would never otherwise see.
I conclude, as I began, with an autumnal scene from Gunnersbury Cemetery.
Perhaps now you’ll get some sort of an idea why I love my job!
Ordinarily, a year ending and the prospect of a new one fills me with optimism. You too?
There are bank holidays to look forward to, and it should be a time for exchanging presents and over-indulging (food, drink and TV). Maybe even family reunions (not necessarily welcome, though!)! Happy days.
Things will clearly be different about this year’s festivities. For one thing, you probably won’t want to look back and reflect about the past twelve months.
If I may indulge myself, my retrospect is mixed.
I succumbed to a virus in March that laid me low for three weeks. Could have been worse, but not amusing.
I have had to refund a couple for one cancelled wedding; another looks highly likely to go the same way, and, apart from two ongoing enquiries, I don’t have any new weddings in the pipeline (although I have a few carried over into 2021).
Definitely not a lot to rejoice about.
However, I am not despondent (although grateful for my pension!). On the positive side (at least, for me!), I have conducted nearly 50 funerals this year (most in April and May, of course), so I have been able to shine a light for people at their lowest ebb. Helping people in that way has been very consoling and satisfying. (Furthermore, I have had legitimate reason to go out during lockdown and a purpose in my life.)
I’m using the extra time to redo my website (this will happen in January) and am going to take an Instagram course (that will be a challenge for the teacher, let alone the student!).
So there are brighter moments among the gloom, and I am mindful of my health and fitness – as well as the love and support of my family. Things could be worse!
So I am wishing you at least as much happiness, health and prosperity as I am experiencing. Thank you for reading my blog(s) and please continue when I return in January.
Have as happy a Christmas as is possible and a really good New Year!
Things can move very quickly – it is fair to say that this has so far been an unprecedented year globally. However, since lockdown, speed of change seems to have slowed considerably. Some business owners – notably, in the food and drink and the leisure industries – must feel that change can’t come soon enough.
There is no longer any obligation to have direct cremation, although the option remains. So there is at least the opportunity for a ceremony and a degree of closure for families. However, social distancing restrictions mean families cannot attend, if they number more than 30. Those that do often can’t sit together or share a hug for consolation.
There is still the option, of course, for memorial services, scattering of ashes ceremonies, or celebration of life events later – but who knows when these will be permissible?!
As of 22nd June, in Wales weddings may take place once more. That means that registrars will conduct ceremonies, with two witnesses present. However, no big celebrations will be allowed. So marriages and receptions will presumably be separate as well as small. (At least, there is the possibility of live-streaming to a wider audience.)
Currently, similar developments will be happening in England from 4th July, so there is a little light at the end of the tunnel.
The 30-people (plus social distancing) limit will apply. There will probably be restrictions on locations too.
The same will apply to namings and vow renewals (which don’t need registrars).
Well, let’s hope things can soon progress and that it will become easier to plan life-cycle events.
I’m happy to chat things over with you, if you are considering such a ceremony.