It usually goes something a bit like this:
“I work in IT. How about you?”
“I’m a funeral celebrant.”
“A what? You’re celibate?”
“Well that’s none of your business, but I am a celebrant. I write and deliver funeral ceremonies for people who may not want a standard religious service.”
“Oh. That’s a bit weird. Dead people, eurgh. What on Earth made you want to do that?!”
So as I’m sitting here on a Saturday afternoon composing a service for someone who died unexpectedly, I am reflecting again upon why I do this.
Firstly, and most importantly, I genuinely want to help the families I serve. Losing a loved one is utterly devastating: with every single funeral, I do everything possible to ensure that the final farewell is unique and personal. Families don’t always realise how much scope there is within a funeral ceremony, to include music, readings, poetry, tributes, mementos, candles, photographs, flowers – even doves! I know that I can guide people towards choices which truly reflect their loved one’s beliefs, values and interests. Taking pride in my work gives me enormous satisfaction.
Secondly, funeral celebrancy makes good use of my skills. As a writer and lifelong lover of literature, I am able to compose highly personal ceremonies which give a true insight into the person who has died. Although naturally rather quietly spoken, I have a great deal of experience of speaking in public and deliver funerals with clarity and warmth. Empathy comes naturally to me: I love putting people at ease and listening to their stories.
Thirdly, (and this is probably the only slightly weird bit), death interests me. Death is the only certainty in life and as we are all heading in the same direction, I am intrigued by our reactions to death, how death is viewed by society, and the rituals surrounding death, bereavement and grief.
So if you meet me at a party and ask me what I do, please feel free to chat to me about celebrancy. Because, odd as it seems, I really do like talking about funerals!