My Work Leading Funeral Services
I am comfortable with totally secular and humanist ceremonies and also happy to lead prayers and sing hymns. A funeral to my mind is simply not a place for telling people what they should or should not believe. My services are about helping the family and friends to cope with their loss in whatever way they feel is appropriate and helping them to hold a service in the way they feel their their loved one would have wanted it. I prepare memorial and funeral services in close consultation with the next of kin and the family or friends and I lead them at the crematorium, at the graveside, or at any other venue. They might include recollections or readings from the family, recorded music or performances, slideshows and video or they might be more simple, as a time for family and friends to be together to share silence and reflection. Always they are conducted with sensitivity, dignity, sincerity and care.
Often at the heart of the service is the Eulogy, the remembrance of the dead, the celebration of their life, and the recognition of the value of their life and ours. This is what the former poet laureate had to say about the Eulogy:
Eulogies are for everyone. They are a reminder that each of us leads a life of special interest and value, and that each of us is unique, with our own special gifts. These might be gifts of humour or kindness or energy, which we can all agree are admirable, or they might be quirkier things that are equally well worth commemorating. In every case, the eulogist’s task is to bring the deceased into the mind’s eye of the congregation – and to let us remember their voice and their manner, to let us share their interests, to let us appreciate their qualities, to let us enjoy their company a moment longer.
There will be times when the service is traditional, and others when it is more contemporary – arranged around a particular and relevant theme, for instance. In every case, this ‘formal’ element can be trusted to carry a certain weight of emotion. The eulogy has a more flexible but no less focused job to do: it must be specific, particular, even intimate – and thereby seal the sense of occasion. This is the secret of the eulogy’s power; it might move us to tears, but it will start to heal us too. It will help us get things in perspective, and to understand that we cope with loss not by forgetting whoever has been taken from us, but by finding out how we can best live with our memories of them.