A celebrant led funeral – it’s just a different option.
I know I will enjoy my own funeral even though I won’t actually be there. I know this because I have written it myself to be delivered by a funeral celebrant when my time comes. I am of course hoping that this will be much further down the line than present, but you really never know what tomorrow may bring so I am prepared!
It is surprising yet encouraging to see that as our society has grown and continued to change over the last number of years, people are no longer afraid to do what feels right for them. This is even true in the area of funerals; many people are now opting to have a funeral celebrant perform their funeral this is due mainly to the rise of a more secular society in Ireland. Lots of people would like a funeral that reflects their personal wishes, but they simply do not know that this is an option that is available to them. There is no obligation, legal or otherwise, to have your funeral service in a church, the choice of where you have your service is your own. Even funeral directors are acknowledging this upsurge in secular funerals and are now building bigger and more beautiful funeral homes that can facilitate larger funeral ceremonies led by funeral celebrants.
I don’t have a religious faith myself, but I do recognise that this is not the case for a lot of Irish people and there will always be a call for religious funeral ceremonies. I applaud people who stick with their religion and have their faith to the end, but it is not for me. I realised while I was studying funeral celebrancy that I do actually have faith, I have faith in myself. It is this faith which spurred me on to reach out to the many people like myself and let them know that there are other options out there for our end of life and for expression of our last words.
The ideals of a civil funeral are that it is completely based on the beliefs, values, and wishes of the deceased and their family and not of the person delivering the ceremony. It is a ceremony that has no constraints religious or otherwise. It is completely about reflecting on and celebrating the life of the person who has passed away. The ceremony can be held in your home, at a funeral home followed by burial or cremation or can be held solely at the graveside or crematorium. The ceremony can take any format that you wish with personal choices of readings, poetry, prayers, hymns or music. It is an opportunity to deliver a beautiful life story/eulogy but don’t panic! this can be written and delivered by the funeral celebrant leading the service. You can also use any personal ceremony enhancements that mean something to you and your family. You can simply add or omit anything that you feel you would or would not like. There can be much greater family involvement and participation, everyone can add their personal touch to their loved one’s ceremony. A funeral is the last act of love that you can give to someone you have loved dearly and so it should be memorable, dignified and deeply moving. A funeral ceremony is not only to honour the deceased but also to give comfort to family and friends who are left behind in mourning and for some this will be a religious funeral but for others like myself, a ceremony led by a funeral celebrant really fulfills all these needs. I have been to and have participated in many secular funerals and am so moved each time by how personal and true to the deceased each ceremony is. It is also heart-warming how the sense of love and sincerity of the ceremony gives comfort and joy to the bereaved.
I recently lead the funeral ceremony of a beautiful 92 year old lady who had lost her wonder and belief in the church. The ceremony was held in her daughter’s home followed by a committal ceremony at the graveside. I can honestly say it was one of the most simplistic yet warmest and loveliest funerals I have ever officiated at or been to. There was joy and laughter as well as sorrow. All the family from the youngest great-grandchild to the oldest son were involved in a very personal way. It showed me that change is a good thing, that it is ok to move on and break from tradition and do your own thing in life and death. If you want tradition, by all means, keep it, but if you don’t just step away and create your own end of life ceremony. If the secular option is the one for you discuss it with your family and give them permission to send you on the final journey that you want.