A Good Send Off
A Difficult Subject?
Funerals can be a tricky thing to get your head around. For me, it's not too hard, having spent 25 years of my life living in the Emerald Isle of Ireland. Whether in Northern Ireland or the Republic, death is a subject never far from anyone's lips, and funerals are attended by anyone and everyone. Children are embraced as part of the ritual, as are friends of relatives, and friends of friends. Quite simply, all are welcome. Traditionally funerals in Ireland are mostly religious, the service taking place in the local church or chapel, and the committal to the ground. There is a feeling of community, as the clergy tend to be active among the people and there's almost always alcohol and/or tea to toast the departed!
Here in Kent, things are a little different. Cremation is the order of the day, services are shorter, often with fewer people in attendance, usually those who are close. This is not to say that the difference in custom is any less personal, and as a funeral celebrant it is my task to deliver a celebration of life that is wholly appropriate to the deceased and their family's wishes.
It really is a privilege.
Whether non religious, or with some spiritual or religious content, the right send off is an important start to the grieving process. Feeling content that your loved one has been properly honoured brings a closure to their chapter in your life, and allows you to begin to move forward. It can be as simple as a gentle goodbye between close family or, as we celebrants are finding, more and more people are embracing unusual and poignant ideas for funerals. Unique personalised touches can be the perfect way to say goodbye to someone special.
My own Dad was a lover of ties and had a huge collection in every colour and pattern imaginable. I was a fabulous tribute to him that the men present at his funeral all wore one of his louder ones, keeping it afterwards as a special memento. My husband and son still wear theirs at special family occasions.
Here are a couple of different ideas:
Wearing bright colours
It is becoming more and more common to for people to request 'anything but black', and mourners are asked to wear bright colours or particular colour if your loved one had a favourite. As a celebrant, I always wear black for funerals, a choice of two outfits that I can put away afterwards to help clear my head for the next event. I do however, have a selection of scarves in all colours of the rainbow to add if colour is requested.
If your loved one was an avid gardener, then Seed cards can be a special way to remember them. The card can be personalised and contains seeds for guests to grow their own plant as a tribute. Common choices are forget-me-nots. These small blue flowers are easy to grow and maintain, and are traditionally a symbol of remembrance.
Give away books
If your loved one was a bookworm, you might be left with an extensive library that, unfortunately, you can’t find a home for. One way to share their love of books is to hand out their collection at the funeral – this way people will have an appropriate memento to enjoy in their memory.
A firework display can be a fitting tribute to someone who you will remember as having a zest for life– just be sure to either organise it through a qualified display team or follow all safety advice for lighting your own fireworks. To take it one step further, you can now also have cremation ashes put into fireworks for a truly dazzling and triumphant way to scatter ashes. While it might not be for everyone, this is one farewell that no one will forget.
This book was written by hospital chaplain the late Ian Morris, and given to me after I finished my celebrant training some time ago. In it, he talks about the 5Ts of Bereavement First Aid. Touch, Talking, Tears, Tea and Time. And however you choose to do it, that's what funerals are all about.