"If there ever comes a day when we can't be together keep me in your heart, I'll stay there forever."
Winnie the Pooh
In 2009 I had the personal experience of writing the funeral service for my Aunt when the options available locally were limited. This left me feeling strongly that there should be the option for everyone to have a very personal service created according to the specific wishes of the family that can incorporate any elements important to the person whose life is being marked.
Until fairly recently in the UK there has only been a choice between a fully religious or an entirely non-religious (Humanist) funeral service, which doesn't allow any religious elements such as hymns, prayers or music, or any mention of God or spirituality. For many of us, our lives fall somewhere in between the two and we would want our funeral to reflect that.
Families are increasingly looking for an alternative that allows them to have a tailor-made service to say farewell to their loved one, one that truly reflects their life and can incorporate religious or spiritual elements as required without being a fully religious service. The Independent Celebrancy movement has made this possible.
Now an experienced Independent Celebrant myself, having trained with the Fellowship of Professional Celebrants in 2012, I can help bridge that gap. If a family would like to include the Lord’s Prayer, for instance, and to have some mention of God during the service for those attending who do have strong beliefs, then this is something that I am very happy to incorporate for them. The services I create are completely shaped around the individual who has died and what their family want for them – I feel really strongly that a service should be built around an individual rather than taking a formula off the shelf and squeezing them in to fit it.
I have had a lot of experience helping to support people who have suffered a bereavement in recent years, and I find working in this field very rewarding as I feel I can make the funeral services I take a positive experience for the families involved, hopefully helping them to cope better with what has happened moving forward.
Someone once told me that a ‘bad’ funeral service can prolong and complicate the grieving process, while a ‘good’ funeral can help a family to grieve and move forward more positively, and this is something that I firmly believe. I will always do my very best to ensure that the funeral or memorial services that I create truly reflect the life of the loved one who has died, and give the family the opportunity to say goodbye in the way that they choose.
Thank you for putting together such a wonderful service for my dad – the Eulogy was lovely and everything came together so well. I really appreciate all of your help and hard work.
Flavia, service for her Dad, Steve, aged 62
Nancy’s wonderful service is something that will continue to give us great comfort in the future. The content and delivery were heartfelt and true. The only way that you were able to convey what we thought and felt was by the fact you spent so much time with us before the service – we will never forget this and we extend gratitude and friendship to you. I must let you know that every person who attended the funeral commented upon your words and undeniable empathy.
Rebecca & Peter, service for their stillborn daughter Nancy
You made a huge contribution to yesterday and set the tone for what turned out to be an extraordinary day. You have a unique talent and the most unexpected sincerity that Paul and I found incredibly comforting and reassuring. During those few hours you spent focused on our Mum you actually felt like a friend. It's good to know there are people out there who can make such a difference at such troubling times. Take care and keep helping...
Peter, service for his Mum, Connie, aged 90
I wanted to thank you for doing such a wonderful job yesterday. Friends of my father asked me if you actually knew my father, you summed him up so well.
Caroline, service for her father, Brian, aged 77
Thank you for a beautiful service and your kind words of comfort, it is much appreciated.
I too would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart, we would not have made it through without you.
Chi Sheung & Chi Lon, service for their father, Mr Wan, aged 79
Thank you for yesterday and everything you did to make Mum's service so memorable. I really appreciate all your support on the day (I felt like you were part of the family!) and your hard work in writing the eulogy. I think everyone agreed that it really captured Mum's spirit. It made what was a very sad day, a little brighter. Thank you.
Sarah, service for her Mum, Sheila, aged 68
Thank you for a lovely service. Talking to you has really helped me to return to memories of my father before the very first stage of his decline. I thought you should know that people were singing your praises and shared my feelings that I am blessed to have had such a caring, articulate lady doing the service. You did his 'final goodbye' justice far more richly than my most optimistic preconceptions. Once again a very big thank you for everything – your research, thoughtfulness and sympathetic ministering was greatly appreciated.
Miranda, service for her father, Gareth, aged 93
I just wanted to say a huge thank you for all your help with preparing the service for Alastair. Your calmness and experience helped Andrew and I through a very difficult time and made the day itself a time to remember and reflect on Alastair and his wonderful life with us as we said goodbye.
Shirley, service for her husband, Alastair, aged 65
Thank you so much for all you have done both for the funeral and the memorial service. It has been a very difficult time for Andrew and me and things will never be the same again. But you helped us through with your calm reassurance and experience and we shall always be grateful to you for that. My best wishes to you.
Shirley, Memorial Service at the Bank of England for her husband, Alastair, aged 65
Can I say how professional you are and made the whole thing run so smoothly, thank you on behalf of my team. Shirley must have been so proud.
Debbie Nyman, Bank of England – Memorial Service for Alastair, aged 65
Thank you again on behalf of the family for the lovely service you conducted for Mum. We had such appreciative comments from both family and friends for the way you portrayed mum’s life so naturally.
Charles, service for his Mum, Winie, aged 94
Thank you for everything you did for us last Friday. We had been dreading the day but you helped to make it exactly as we wanted it to be. Everyone we spoke to said how beautifully you handled the whole thing and many commented on the fact that it really felt that you knew us. You really understood what we wanted to say about Andrew and you set the perfect tone for the occasion, giving us a much needed guiding hand when we needed it the most.
Helen & Mike, service for their son, Andrew, aged 30
I wanted to express my thanks for the wonderful service you conducted for Ann. Many people have told me how much they enjoyed it and some said it was the best funeral address they had ever heard and one thought you and Ann must have been friends. I think you are an extremely sympathetic and a very special person to do what you do. Once again many thanks.
John, service for his wife, Ann, aged 68
You conducted a lovely service, very compassionate and warm, so much so that I came away feeling both relieved and pleased, as I'm sure Dad would have enjoyed it. A friend of mine who was there had been to another service that you had conducted, and she said that that one was equally lovely, so you have a gift!
Joanne, service for her Dad, Mike, aged 80
I wanted to say how much I appreciated all the work you put in to getting Dad’s story out there, and doing it in such a sensitive, caring way. I know you put in a huge amount of effort – he would have been proud of your work! I thought the service was lovely, and I shall even have fond memories of it, in a funny sort of way.
James, service for his Dad, Mike, aged 80
I wanted to say a huge thank you for Bob’s funeral, you just made it seem so peaceful and nice. Everyone commented after the service how great you were. You made a very difficult day, very easy. Thank you so much.
Jenny, service for her brother, Bob, aged 63
Thank you for the wonderful job you did with the service. Although one of the worst days of my life I found I could
‘hold it together’ enough to listen to you and the lovely things you were saying about John, and I know he would
have been touched by it too. I had so many people come up to me after to say what a lovely service it was and complimenting you, so just wanted to pass that on. Once again thank you for everything you did, it really did
make a difference to the day for us.
Elaine, service for her husband, John, aged 50
Thank you, so much, for everything you did. Not only did you do a great job conducting the service, but also my brother and I felt very involved, and very supported throughout the process leading up to the day, and on the day itself. We had many positive comments afterwards, and it really helped to ease a very difficult time.
Fiona & Vincent, service at Dale Hill Natural Burial Ground for their Dad, Tony, aged 83