This summer, I retired from my day job at the University of British Columbia in order to pursue my practice as a Wedding and Funeral Celebrant. News of my decision reached about 500 of my colleagues.
The gift of these announcements was that it provided me with the opportunity of having heartfelt interactions with people whom I had previously known only superficially. These conversations took place everywhere – in the elevator, at the coffee shop, in the staff lounge, on the phone, and even in the women’s washroom. Typically, we would start out talking about weddings, and a story or two of weddings attended, both horrific and divine. Then, almost inevitably, the talk would turn to end of life ceremonies and the importance of appropriately honouring one who has passed. In almost every conversation, there was an unspoken fear [for ourselves and for those we love] of dying generically, of a boilerplate service that could be used for just about anyone, conducted by someone who didn’t really care.
From all of these surprisingly authentic exchanges, I have been confirmed in my understanding that people in our contemporary society are hungry for meaning and significance. Although many of us have turned our backs on organized religion, we still want our lives to matter. Celebrants intuitively understand this need, and augment it with training and education in the transformational value of ceremony and ritual. We come to the work with an open heart and no agenda, which frees us to respond with the creation of a ceremony that is as unique as the people that we serve.
You matter to us. That’s why we’re here.
— Celebrant Janis Horne