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Here are ten things that I'd like instead
I attended a family funeral yesterday - that of my late brother's adult son. It convinced me that I don't want a funeral celebrant at my funeral. I'm grateful that it gave me space to think about what I do want.
Funeral celebrants have carved out a niche, and since people pay for their services, then by definition, they meet a need. I presume that need is primarily avoiding the emotional stress of public speaking. That's understandable.
The professional, empathic service delivered by a celebrant trades off the natural stress, grief and emotion for a smoothly structured event. Some people are comforted by a smoothly structured event. They feel that to do otherwise doesn't serve their goals of how they wish the other participants to perceive them.
Often well-meaning relatives and friends pressure those most-directly effected into outsourcing the service, to reduce the stress. Of course, it is incredibly stressful to lose someone close, and then to stand up and speak about them at a service.
I prefer the real recollections from those that experienced them
We all understand that kind of stress. We when see the friends and family do the talking we feel relieved that we weren't asked to get up and talk.
But on the other hand, seeing others "like us" bearing their soul and tears can also encourage us to want to get to our feet and say something. That happened to me at the funeral of a buddy. His wife and children spoke and then asked if anyone else would like to say something. I rose to my feet and recalled a couple of shared times with my buddy.
From the podium, a celebrant can make the same request. The difference for the audience is that each is now comparing themselves to the smooth tongue and composure of a professional. That's very different to following a family friend stumbling to express their gratitude, grief and joy.
The celebrant may say that he was a loving father. The friends remember when he wasn't quite so loving after slipping on the baseball in the driveway and breaking his leg.
The celebrant may say that his home was truly his refuge. His friends remember how he'd say at the football "now I can finally relax" and complain about all the things that needed attention around the house.
The celebrant may say that we, the audience, can feel happy that he is now going to a new and glorious life. His friends know that was stoic and agnostic and mildly inclined to believe in reincarnation.
A well-briefed and astute celebrant has a chance of getting all those nuances right. But they still have their rote wrappers with which they containerise the proceedings. There is the administratively neat beginning, middle and end, and the standardised phrases bland enough to be spoken while the brain is moving to the next step.
That's the process I don’t want.
How I want my funeral to be organised
Here's the gist of how I want my funeral service to be organised and conducted (if I have any choice):
Enjoy fine chocolate cake, coffee and champagne afterwards. Bring your pets if they are allowed.
Don't come to celebrate my life, celebrate your own
Please don't come to celebrate my life; come to celebrate your own.
Use the moment to create a bit of space in your life to reflect. Turn that reflection into action, even if it is just to figure out what you want - or don't want - at your own funeral.
I'll be grateful if you do that.
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