Funerals are undoubtedly sad and emotional occasions, but they can also be uplifting and cathartic. When I am asked to visit a bereaved family, I never know what amazing life story I might hear and, although the opening comment may sometimes be, “I don’t know what I can tell you”, after a short time, extraordinary and often inspirational details emerge; details which I then have the privilege of sharing with the other mourners.
Sadly, I have also conducted several ceremonies for young adults, children or babies who have had less time to make their mark upon the wider world – but whose loss has a profound and lasting impact upon the people who knew and loved them. As always, the emphasis is on acknowledging the importance of each of their lives and the memories they leave behind.
Humanist ceremonies have no religious content, so whatever time we have can be spent reflecting on the life and personality of the person we are there to remember. During most ceremonies, a period of private reflection is included which anyone with a religious faith can use for private prayer, if they wish.
While funerals usually take place in a crematorium, cemetery or green burial ground, the ceremony which precedes or follows can be held elsewhere if appropriate. An example would be a graveside ceremony for the immediate family followed by a much larger gathering in a hall or hotel. Similar venues would be used for memorial ceremonies.
Carefully chosen music and/or poetry can express so many emotions and most people like to include several pieces. The selection need not be guided by convention or tradition, but can be something which has a particular significance – including a favourite hymn – or which you simply enjoy listening to. Most venues can also accommodate live music if you prefer.
There is no fixed boundary to the area I cover, but I usually conduct ceremonies within a radius of around 30 miles (50 miles for weddings) of my home in Woodthorpe, Nottingham.