Are you like many people in Australia who find that talking about death is still a bit of an uncomfortable topic? Celebrant Sonia Collins from Batemans Bay, NSW talks to us about Dying to Know Day.
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This is the little verse I put inside a Christmas Card for all the families I have dealt with through each year. It's called Merry Christmas! I’ll Be Home For Christmas.
For I shall sit between you all, in a peaceful state of Grace,
I shall hear your laughter, I’ll be a part of every smile,
From the kitchen to the pudding, I shall be there all the while.
The gifts you give each other, shall be your gift to me,
The Love that you shall share today, I will clearly see,
Enhance it with my memory, let your hearts be light and free,
For I’m that extra special glow, that coats your Christmas tree.
No matter where you have your Christmas, at home, the bush, the beach,
Cicadas, flies, and heat and gum trees, there no place I can’t reach,
Not just now, forever, as past the years go flying by,
I’ll be home for Christmas, on that you always may rely.
Graeme Cook 2007
Ringwood East, Melbourne Vic.
0417 149 382
The celebration of a Life is an opportunity to say goodbye, honour, celebrate, say thank you and give meaning to a person’s life. As we are all different and unique each of us merits a ceremony that recognises our lives’ strengths, weakness and achievements and our beliefs.
No matter what your personal beliefs are, you, as the Funeral Celebrant, should honour, celebrate and give meaning to the person’s life in a manner appropriate to them. This sometimes involves research into their beliefs and putting aside your own personal beliefs.
Recently I needed to research funerals in various faiths so I could prepare Celebrations that did not offend any of the family members while at the same time acknowledged deceased’s deeply held Christian beliefs.
A Day of Hope
Recently I visited a young family who had lost their second son at 3 months; he had caught a virus at 6 days and 11 weeks later he passed away, at home, surrounded by his loving family. The family had contacted me to conduct his Memorial service on Monday 19th August.
The family is having a pagoda constructed in the backyard and planting a Japanese maple beside it during the Memorial Service and the mulch will be stones with messages from family and friends loving placed. A visual reminder of their son’s life. So I thought that they chose this date as the construction would be complete by then.
Asking why this particular day, I was told “this is a Day of Hope, and we wish to support this initiative by Carly Marie. Check out the website www.carlymarieprojectheal.com.au.” When I arrived home I checked this webpage.
What Music do You play?
Death of a loved one is a difficult and stressful time for families; there seems so much to arrange on top of the emotional turmoil of losing a loved one.
A funeral is a time of loss but also a time to commemorate life and music can and does play a vital role within the service to expression feelings, to enunciate emotions, prompt memories and to offer messages of hope and eternal love. For centuries music has formed a very important part of rituals and ceremonies and by using music in a meaningful manner can assist family and friends with the grieving and mourning process.
Once you have spoken to your Funeral Celebrant and developed the Order of Service, what poems, verses or prayers you have selected to achieve the mood you wish for then consider the music. What music do you feel will reflect the life of your loved one, what will honour them and commemorate their life in a fitting way.
The music chosen is a very personal choice; you may wish to play a song loved by the deceased person, or a song that will bring hope or offer inspiration to the mourners, a song that will lighten the mood and bring smiles to all. Music can be a selected that will remind family and friends of time spent with the departed, or because they will evoke memories of happy times spent together or because the deceased just ‘loved that song.’ As I wrote earlier: a very personal choice.
Funeral songs fall into mainly three categories – Hymns, classical or popular music. The lyrics of a song can also help to remind us of a loved one, or describe the life of the deceased or the emotions being felt by all those present. Listen to the lyrics, or read them and see if they express the emotions, feeling or mood that you want to achieve with the music.
If you are having difficulties consult your Funeral Celebrant, they are experienced and they can help you with suggestions to make your Funeral service a ceremony that reflects the life of your loved one in the manner you want.
What makes a Funeral meaningful?
For centuries funerals have helped us to say goodbye, to honour, to celebrate and remember those we love. Funerals can bring together families and friends who offer loving support in our time of greatest need and can offer comfort to those mourning.
A funeral is made up of different parts that when combined make an incredible meaningful experience for you, your family and friends. It is how you, your family and friends, with the assistance of your Celebrant, combine these components that will make the funeral meaningful.
The major components of a funeral are; music, readings, symbols, committal and eulogy.
Music – music forms an important part of many social rituals and can be used to access feelings and using music meaningfully in a service helps us to embrace our loss and can form a vital part of the grieving and mourning process.
Readings – can be selected to capture the unique life and beliefs of the person who has died and can also acknowledge the reality of death; it is quiet appropriate to include humour here if it reflects the personality of your loved one.
Symbols – the main symbols used in funerals are flowers, candles, photos and the coffin. Flowers represent love and beauty and placing flowers on the coffin is a way to honour the deceased. The flame of the candle represents the spirit and for some it also represents life’s continuation beyond death. The presence of the coffin serves as a focus for mourners and helps them recognize and embrace their loss and pain. Family will often place items on the coffin that relate to the life of the deceased, such as tools of a trade, a fishing rod, war medals, a photo, or sporting memorabilia from their favourite team.
Eulogy – this if often the part that stays with the family and friends long after they have left the funeral and most likely the part to be talked about later. Don’t be afraid to ask others to assist you in sharing their memories that can be included. The eulogy acknowledges the unique life and personality of the person who has died and affirms the significance of that life for all who shared it.
Committal – In a chapel service the Committal is the final goodbye – it is the time we honour the dead with respect, honour and dignity. The curtain closing on the coffin brings a necessary feeling of finality to the service and can be powerful to the family and friends and can assist in the healing process. If the Committal is graveside it is the final goodbye as you watch the coffin being lowered and it can also be a powerful moment - a moment of quiet reflection, a time to say goodbye.
While each faith and culture have their own variations on the elements of a funeral and incorporating them together with those listed above will make the funeral meaningful while respecting the values and traditions of a particular faith or culture.
Coordinator Celebrants & Celebrations Network Australia
Civil Marriage and Family Celebrant
Last year our family had a tragic loss when one of my husband's nephews died while snorkeling. He was 26.
His life just opening up to all the wonder of life's creation and opportunities. "Life cut short too soon, wise, soft . . ."#
It was a bitter, bittersweet time to review his life. Seeing Sam as baby, a toddler, child, teenager and young man brought back the memories hidden in the mind and heart.
His ceremony strengthened resolve to treasure all our loved ones, with awareness that life is short. To honour all those who give a part of who they are, to become a part of who we are. To be present to pain and loss. To support those who grieve beyond ending. To be present to the love within us and around us. And yet to face a new dawn with courage and hope for one more day of life's journey, knowing our turn comes inevitably to join the mystery of death.
Civil ceremonies tap deep into the human need to honour life, to share our stories, our pain, our truth and hope. They may or may not acknowledge the specific religious beliefs of some present, but they all aim to treasure life.
Easter time can be for everyone a time to mourn and treasure the past, reflect upon presence and the present, and renew hope for the next moment.
May this Easter bring peace of mind and heart to all - with a touch of delight in the shape of an egg!
# Words texta-d on Sam's coffin.