Lesley Mary Close
Coronavirus – important information regarding funerals
Government guidelines ban meetings between people from different households. That makes it impossible to have a face-to-face meeting to discuss the funeral you need to arrange. More importantly those same guidelines are being applied by the vast majority of crematoria and burial grounds, meaning that only a few mourners are currently allowed to attend the funeral ceremony.
To overcome both difficulties, we can talk on the phone and make arrangements for a short but meaningful initial funeral ceremony to be attended by close family members only. When the crisis has passed, we can meet in person to create a longer memorial ceremony which everyone can attend, wider family members as well as friends, neighbours, work colleagues and everyone else who knew and loved the person whose initial funeral took place while the restrictions were in force.
If the second ceremony is a formal interment or scattering of ashes, it can take place in a crematorium garden or a burial ground, a private garden or a favourite place. Alternatively it can be a more informal gathering, celebrating the life of the person at a ceremony taking place indoors at home, in a village hall or pub, or outdoors in a place which is significant to you and your loved one.
Naturally there is no extra charge for this enhanced provision, and it would be my honour and privilege to help you create a ceremony in the near future to mourn the death of someone you love and, later, a second ceremony to celebrate their life.
If you would like to arrange a burial, cremation, memorial or interment of ashes, please contact me to find out how we can create the perfect ceremony together. If you want to arrange your own funeral ceremony, whether or not you know you will need it soon, I would be honoured to help you.
In contrast to the fixed format of a traditional religious service, the funeral ceremony we create together for your much-missed loved one can include or omit whatever you feel is appropriate.
Natural or woodland burials are a wonderful way to pay tribute to someone you love. I would be pleased to use my experience of these ceremonies, with their more relaxed structure, to help you arrange a personal and less time-critical funeral.
As your funeral celebrant I will create and deliver a bespoke and meaningful ceremony. I will work alongside you, with courtesy, care and compassion, as we create a unique ceremony which reflects your wishes and beliefs.
By working closely, you and I will produce a personalised funeral ceremony which both mourns your loved one’s death and celebrates their life.
I’ll send you my suggestions for the ceremony then gladly and promptly make whatever changes you need. The eulogy can be written and delivered by me or by a family member or friend, or we can share the honour of writing and reading.
However much of the work you assign to me, you will always be in control of the process of creating a unique, personal and honest funeral.
A family-led funeral
I work mainly in West London, The Chilterns and the Vale of Aylesbury, although I have worked much further afield, including Dorset and North Yorkshire.
Wherever the ceremony takes place, I always look for the best way to create a tribute which brings harmony between the deceased, their family and the environment.
Together you and I will create and deliver a funeral ceremony which will bring you comfort and honour your loved one’s memory while enabling you to say a meaningful goodbye to them.
Family members of all ages are welcome to take part in the ceremony, perhaps by reading a poem or tribute they have written or by performing a piece of music.
My role as your funeral celebrant
There is no set format to a secular funeral ceremony and there are as many types of ceremony as there are people: being unique is what distinguishes a ceremony from a service. As a way of both mourning someone’s death and celebrating their unique life, a secular funeral ceremony can never be re-used because every element has been tailored to suit both the deceased and the bereaved.
When we meet, please don’t restrict yourself to answering my questions but talk freely about the deceased. I want you to volunteer memories as they arise, telling me about your loved one’s favourite holidays, books, music, hobbies and anything else. However difficult it is to relate the funny stories you remember, they are invaluable. If other people want to join the conversation, that can help me to build a fully rounded impression.
And, all the time, I will be taking handwritten notes and making mental notes too. I can hear your question: handwritten notes in the 21st century? Yes, because the physical act of writing means that, even though the conversation is all I write, my handwritten notes record more than just that. And then there is the inestimable value of the attention to detail that handwriting brings: my focus is you and what you are saying, hearing the meaning of your words rather than just the sound of your voice. There is no technology to worry about and the flow between ear and page, the conversion of sound to script, happens without flashing lights or beeping battery failure alerts.
And so the ‘magic’ starts, with a mental image which forms while you talk about the person who has died. Later, I stitch the information you gave me into a ceremony, a patchwork quilt of words whose pattern flows from edge to edge in a seamless narrative forming a cohesive, unique whole.
A meaningful funeral ceremony will bring you comfort by celebrating the life that has been lost. A well-constructed funeral ceremony does not deny the pain of death but finds a way to make it more bearable. If, after the ceremony, mourners are talking about the deceased and smiling, if they are saying things like ‘Jim would have loved that!’, I will have performed my task properly.
In short, my role is to help lighten the load you will bear in the interval between the death of someone you love and the moment of saying goodbye to their body. A well-written funeral ceremony, created and conducted with compassion, understanding and diplomacy will leave mourners feeling they have started the journey from grief and pain towards healing and acceptance.
I am a secular funeral celebrant, meaning that I do not create ceremonies whose sole or main focus is the hope of a life hereafter. Having said that, I am happy to start and end the ceremony with a prayer and to lead the mourners in singing a hymn or saying the Lord’s prayer. It’s your ceremony, I am her for you and I am in your hands.
These are unsolicited testimonials which I have published with the writer's permission
Nikki (June 2020)
"I asked the funeral directors for a supportive but light-hearted celebrant with a sense of humour and you exceeded my expectations. I really appreciated how from the beginning you reiterated that it was our service."
Angela and Ina (June 2020)
"Your support made it possible for us to grieve and celebrate our father's life. Under the circumstances, the funeral couldn't have been better."
Cathy, Ruth and Heather (June 2020)
"Everyone who shared the funeral with us agrees that it was a fitting tribute to our beloved R."
Baby Alex (February 2020)
“Thank you for everything you've d one in making Alex's ceremony a beautiful one. You've expressed all the words we wanted to say."
Karen (February 2020)
“You got mum down to a T. I could hear giggles from everyone, just what mum wanted."
Anne (October 2018)
“Thank you again for your kindness and all the help you gave us."
Mavis (June 2018)
“We would all like to thank you for taking the service in a very special way. We felt that it was indeed a celebration of [his] life. You have a beautiful voice which several people commented on."
Hilary (April 2018)
“Thank you for everything you did on Saturday. It was an incredible day, sad but lovely."
Christine (January 2018)
“Dad would have been happy with his send off."
Richard, Debbie and Maisy (January 2018)
“After the service we had so many comments on what a beautiful service it was. Many people also commented on how you sounded as though you'd known her all her life and . . . that is testament to your professionalism and caring demeanour."
My wide-ranging life experience enables me to bring a variety of soft- and vocational-skills to the deeply fulfilling role of funeral celebrant. I am a good listener, an accurate note-taker, an accomplished writer, a confident public speaker and a tuneful singer.
My one-to-one training was provided by The UK Society of Celebrants and I am a member of The Good Funeral Guild.