I recently had the opportunity to be the Funeral Celebrant for a gentleman who had been a friend of ours for over fifteen years. On the day before his Celebration of Life, he would have been 90 years young.
In the memorial ceremony I wrote for him, I likened Don’s long life to a book with many chapters. The families he had gained from his two marriages took an active part in the celebration, conveying to the rest of us what he had meant to them in their lives. They were the illustrations in the narrative that I had created from the stories of his loved ones.
I was reminded of many things on the day of Don’s celebration. I realized once again how important it is for the families to participate by telling their own stories in their own way, beginning the process of healing as they conveyed the values and lessons that they had learned from him. Don’s celebration of life was marked with incredible poignancy as family members engaged in honouring him with presentations, original piano pieces, songs and dance.
As I watched the many guests – family, friends, neighbours, community members, colleagues — mingling and socializing before and after the formal part of the ceremony, I understood again the importance of events such as these. By connecting with one another, breaking bread and having a glass of wine, we were affirming that life does indeed go on, despite the loss of someone important to us.
Many of the conversations centred around what a great guy Don was, and I believe that this was a source of inspiration for all of us, to live life as he had. We took away with us the magic of a life lived with compassion for others, and an open and active mind that did not judge, but sought rather to understand. Don’s constant outward focus on others was a key ingredient to his gracious aging, and he taught all of us more lessons about that than he will ever know.
I was incredibly honoured to entrusted to share Don’s story and to serve as this family’s Funeral Celebrant. Maybe they should call us ‘Celebration Celebrants’.
Funeral Celebrant Janis Horne, for Modern Celebrant