Wednesday 29 October 2014

Bespoke for Dad | A Life Centred Funeral Ceremony

Ron Thornton 1923-1979

Having left school at 14 to work in the local factory my dad’s education was mostly obtained from books and he never stopped learning. He was an adventurer too and in the mid-1960s persuaded my mum that they should sell our house (an unusual piece of property for a family of our class at that time) and use the proceeds for travel. After stops in North and South Wales, Edinburgh, Blackburn, London, Sheffield and a memorable nine months in the Bahamas we settled in Cornwall. Nine years later whilst decorating the kitchen dad had a pain in his chest and went upstairs for a lay down. He died a few minutes later.

We were living in a coastal village on the Lizard Peninsula at the time and my dad’s funeral was held in the only church. I was pleased and surprised that the service was so personal. The vicar only visited my mum and I once before the funeral but he also bothered to talk to other people to find out a bit about Ron (not Ronald his given name) Thornton the man.

My dad’s funeral was my first. I’ve been to quite a few others since; many of which have been much less centred on the personality and experiences of the person who has died. But despite the positive experience my dad’s funeral still wasn’t what it could have been and I’ve been wondering recently how I would have organised and delivered a life centred ceremony for him. He did have a religious faith, but this was not church based, and I feel sure that he, and we (my mum and I), would have appreciated something more personal, more bespoke.

Me and Dad 
Although he was comparatively young when he died he’d packed a lot in and there’s plenty that could have been said. He’d been a soldier, stationed in Singapore and India, at the end of World War II; an industrial diamond polisher; a bank messenger; toilet roll maker and (at different times) hotel kitchen and night porter. There was a stint, alongside my mum, as restaurant manager and my dad used to fry orders of food in a leaky lean-to with the chip basket in one hand and a brolly in the other. He was a writer too, with some publishing success in short fiction, and wrote a children’s book and a 50,000 word memoir (both unpublished). Perhaps inevitably some of my favourite parts of his written life story where the places where he wrote about my mum and me; ‘his girls’ as he called us. There’s a wonderful section on how he felt on first meeting my mum and the impact she had on him which I’d be sure to read out. It would have been hard to decide on other readings given his range of interests but maybe some Woodhouse or Christie or Gallico and perhaps something else he’d written himself. Sadly I don’t recall his musical tastes, only the heated discussions about whether or not I watched Top of the Pops or he watched (any) another channel. But I smile at the memory of him dancing down the street with me after we’d seen Scrooge the Musical so some music from the film score would be on the playlist.

These inclusions with some photos, such as the ones included here, would have resulted in a richer ceremony highlighting the loves of the man and our love for him. To me my dad was a star. A bespoke funeral ceremony would have placed him rightfully centre stage in the spotlight.

Friday 24 October 2014

Three Funerals and a Wedding | Civil Celebrant Training at UKSOC

As a recent graduate of the UKSOC Civil Celebrant Training I’m moved to write about one of the most exhausting, exhilarating, fulfilling experiences that I’ve had in a long while. There’s fair warning when you sign up for any of the programmes or learning options that there is a lot of work to be done outside of the classroom setting. For those choosing the Group Training or Personal Tuition Training Options as opposed to the Distance Learning Option there are also several reminders of the need to complete the pre-course homework before arrival. I did do that, although I didn’t start the work early enough and, as I’ve taught for many years myself, I felt guilty at my late delivery - via email about 9pm the night before my course began. In addition to the full days of discussion, presentation, observation, and positive critique during each day I also completed another eight hours (at least) of work between each mid to late afternoon finish and next day early morning start. I’m writing this on the train on my way home having not slept much the night after the completion of the course. I think my body has forgotten how to shut down for more than four hours.

It was worth it though. I’m still fizzing with the energy the course generated in me.

The role play interviews simulating discussion with bereaved family members left me feeling that I not only knew them but also the person who had died. The three funeral ceremonies and one wedding ceremony that I planned and delivered moved me to tears and filled me with joy for the lives of the people I was representing and celebrating. The deaths and marriage were not real as such (although not surprisingly there were connections to actual people) but they were real to me. If you’d told me before I began that I’d feel I had to do a dash to the shops to buy something particular and relevant to wear to a ceremony I was presenting or that I’d dance along, not only to the wedding ceremony music, but also to a piece that was especially significant in the life of someone who had died very young; well you know what I’m going to say.

The course includes bespoke practical help too. I have a particular problem, I talk too fast, especially when I feel passionate or excited about something, but in three days the suggestions I was given enabled me to improve my pace in a way I’ve been trying to do for the last 20 years. The IT support and encouragement has led to this, my first ever blog and there’s more on the way, I promise.

Celebrants are person focused and provide a bespoke service. The ceremonies – funerals, weddings, vow renewals, namings - we prepare and deliver are life centred; all about and for the particular person or people concerned. Bespoke celebrant training, as delivered by UKSOC, is person focused and life centred; all about and for the particular person involved.

Nothing more needs to be said . . . . 

Thursday 23 October 2014

Arwenack Celebrants | We Have Landed

Welcome to Arwenack Celebrants and hello to you all. Just a line to announce our arrival. Lots of new content to follow shortly. 

If we can be of any assistance to you planning your special day drop us a line on the form to your right or give us a call on 07765030734.

All best wishes