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The New Funeral Celebrant

Friends and relatives often ask me how do I do my job? 

Not only does it involve standing up in front of a room full of strangers, something that makes many a person’s skin crawl in horror, but it also includes the topic about which we, as a society, are typically, frustratingly, unwilling to talk about until we absolutely have to: death.

We are all going to die, cryogenics and youthful blood transfusions by billionaires notwithstanding, it is something that we will all experience, and more importantly, it is something that our loved ones will be left to deal with the aftermath of.

We should really be talking about this.

Of course some people are never going to open up on the topic, and that is fine, but
I would urge them to write down what they want to happen, and to let someone know where they are leaving it (my Mother has left hers in an old shoe box in her wardrobe, but she tells us all the time anyway, so it may well be surplus to requirements).

Organising your affairs, as it is so euphemistically referred to, is really a gift that people are giving to their loved ones, because as anyone who has had to deal with the unorganised affairs will tell you, it is an absolute pain in the proverbial to deal with

There are those who don’t want a fuss made, or who want to save their loved ones the cost of being buried or cremated, whatever it may be, and I refer to these people as the “Wheelbarrow Brigade”, as in “Stick me in a wheelbarrow and pop me in a hole somewhere”.  

My argument is that they are missing the point of a funeral.  I often assert that while a funeral should be all about the person who has passed, funerals are actually for the ones they leave behind.

A funeral is a chance for friends, family and loved ones (not all necessarily the same people, all families are unique) to gather to celebrate the life of the person that they have lost.

So, by all means have yourself popped in a hole, somewhere in the middle of nowhere (you should check with the local Council first though, and possibly let the local police know too, just in case someone digs you up by accident down the line and all sorts of unpleasantness occurs), but make sure there is some provision for them to get together somewhere to remember the very best of you.

That is what a funeral or memorial service should be. It should be a celebration of a life, and in answer to the original question, that is one of the main reasons I do my job.

I can do my job because it can be the most joyful events to be a part of, with the most amazing stories and characters from across the broad spectrum of human experience. 

It also gives me the chance to work with a wonderful group of people, both other Celebrants like the ones represented by Celebrants Aotearoa, as well as Funeral Directors and their teams who are all incredibly grateful to be able to help families at the most trying of times, and who recognise the privileged position we all hold.

As to being able to stand up in front of a bunch of strangers?  I don’t, as is sometimes suggested, imagine them all naked (not least because I want to be able to eat afterwards in a very few cases, that might be rather tricky).  No, I am lucky in that I don’t mind doing it, but the main reason I am able to stand there is that I know that the service is not about me, and it never, ever, should be.


Submitted by Steve Compton