In death we can celebrate Life

Recent weeks have brought death to my office door.  I have been called upon to work with a number of families who have experienced the death of a loved one. When people see me celebrating marriages and births so joyfully, they sometimes forget that I work on “the death stuff” too. In fact, my primary motivator in becoming a Celebrant was to work with families in the raw times of their lives… by providing deeply meaningful End-of-life Ceremonies.

It may sound odd but I feel at ease around death.  I’ve experienced a somewhat shocking number of deaths of friends and family, some of which were tragic deaths including suicide. Instead of numbing out, I chose to fully experience the complexity of grief, with all its swings of emotion. To move towards sorrow and not away from it.

In 2006 I trained as a Palliative Care and Hospice volunteer. This has been a great gift in my life.  To be with people at the moment of death, and to be of comfort to their families, is a tremendous privilege.  I also learned a lot about living from some very forthright souls in the final days, weeks, and months as they prepared to die.

This mindful awareness is what I bring to the families I work with in my practice as a Funeral Celebrant. Helping people create a Celebration of Life, Memorial Service, Ash-Scattering, or Committal Ceremony isn’t ‘just a job’ to me!  Oh my gosh… so FAR from it!

I love to hear their stories.  I see how the telling helps to make things real especially in the first week after a loved one’s death.  That’s a weirdly unstable time… I suspect that our brains simply cannot compute that the person who was, is no longer.

My gift is to draw out the stories and the memories in a way that illuminates the deceased in the fullness of his or her being.  And then to weave all the threads into a beautiful tapestry — the actual Celebration of Life Ceremony or Memorial Service.

Often people ask me to write the eulogy.  I have to use all my senses when I am with the family so I can absorb the personality of their loved one.  As you can well imagine, it’s hard to write a Memorial Eulogy for someone you’ve never met.  And to have it be a ‘bang on’ portrait of the person.  It’s an extraordinary experience for me!

So yes, in amongst my birth and wedding ceremony commissions are my memorial services. These all fit together as chapters in the book of our remarkable human lives.

Here is a quote from a Blackfoot elder that I like…

“What is Life? It is the flash of a firefly at night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the shadow that runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”

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