Wednesday, 20 December 2017

2017 lessons

This year has given me many new insights into death and friendship and support empathy.  I have been asked to speak in public and am improving my abilities to listen and make connections, and give people something truly theirs - closer to their best hopes than ever.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Giles Fraser (Guardian, 15th August 2015) suggests that secular funerals by definition have to turn ordinary mortals into celebrities; have to jazz up their lives into something to celebrate; have a problem if the person has been ordinary or cantankerous or unkind.
Nothing could be further from the truth.  It is often Christian funerals that somehow leave the real person out of the service altogether.  The dead person is turned into yet another example of the Christian god’s wonderful ability to love all people. How often does one come away from a Christian funeral thinking “I did not recognise my dear friend at all in what was said.  The minister was able to trot out his honed formula for funerals, choosing the opportunity presented by the presence of normally-non-attenders to remind them of God’s care for even the smallest sparrow”? It is the Christian god who is talked up and celebrated.
Really good Christian ministers know better. When I spoke at my mother’s funeral, the Christian minister taking the service gave an accurate picture of the woman he had come to know in her old age, “Jess commanded loyalty” he said, and an archdeacon friend of mine, who also knew my mother well over many years, advised me to tell the truth about her, describe the woman warts and all: “make her real”, he said.

Verisimilitude depends entirely on the knowledge of the person, the real person, held by the celebrant taking the funeral service. One of the main skills developed by the secular celebrant is that of talking and really listening to all the significant others, family and friends, so that the people attending the ceremony can recognise the person they have come to honour.  They are depicted in their individuality in a way that distinguishes them from all others. All mourners can go away feeling that they have participated collectively in the building up of a picture of someone whom they will not meet again.  And feel that they have been helped to say goodbye.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

who are funerals for?


Recently I experienced four close family and friend deaths.  One famous academic, with a memorial for everyone, but where some family members felt distanced; one in church where only the close family spoke; one where the preacher did not know the deceased, and the deceased had long given up on the church; and one with no ceremony of any sort. Imperfect for someone.

Given this recent personal experience, I realise that the absence of alternatives in the minds of most people, plus the family and friend context, fails to take cognisance of the needs of many mourners.  The existence of Civil Celebrants provide the possibility of talking options through with a caring expert, so that a bespoke service can be created that meets the needs of the many, as well as the wishes of the deceased.

Friday, 12 September 2014

when do we marry?


Weddings are changing. They happen later in life, often after the home has been bought and even after the arrival of children.

The traditional handing over by the father of a bride to the groom may no longer be part of a modern ceremony but it still has at its core the solemn and binding pledging of self to self. And this is where the civil celebrant plays a key role.
An experienced celebrant, with a life lived with consideration and concern for others, is located at the heart of the new wedding and can provide what a couple needs in the way of a meaningful bespoke ceremony. This specially designed occasion can be both solemn and inclusive, in which family and friends play their part by bringing their own life experiences and hopes to the sealing of the relationship

Tuesday, 15 July 2014


The longer I live, the more my sense of wonder increases: I keep discovering how much there is still to see, and to experience, and to learn.  With this goes a sense that I already possess a rich store of wisdom, and some skill at using it to life-enhancing purpose:  that I have empathy with others, and the energy to put this to use.
I have come to realise how often over this long life of mine I have felt the need to mark occasions, and to give them weight and solemnity, and vibrancy.  Or, in other cases, how much I regret having omitted to do this.  From the time I became sure I did not believe in God, I gave up on church, did not have my children baptised, felt only scorn when I attended funerals where the preacher got details of the deceased wrong, and there was no sense of the person who had died....And now I have found a way to do something about the need to celebrate, and to make up for my own omissions.  I have become a civil celebrant.
I am “Celebrant for Life” because I believe that we should all be celebrating life, especially on important occasions: life is amazing, life is full of surprises, life is hard, life is nasty, brutish and short, life is for living, seize the day, go for it.  A new life is a cause for great rejoicing, the joining together of two people who love each other is a cause for great rejoicing, a death is a cause for being mindful of the life that has been lived and is now over, a life  whose impact will continue in the minds and hearts of those who loved them.

Quite a bit of my interesting life has been spent with artists, for which I am very grateful, and I would particularly like my celebrant skills to be used by dancers, choreographers, actors, directors.