Originally published on the Celebrant Institute by Charlotte Eulette
A Celebrant reads a biographical story about the honoree. The honoree’s brother shares a poem he has written. And throughout the service a vibrant yellow in many shapes and forms: a hat, scarf, a ribbon. You might well think you have stumbled upon a wedding, but no, you are at a funeral.
“There is a funeral revolution-evolution going on” said the late octogenarian, Rosalyn Wilder, world renowned drama therapist and community leader. “Funerals have become celebrations. And it’s about time.” While she was alive, Wilder held a celebration of Life ceremony that was attended by her family and friends.
This movement toward personalized and meaningful eulogies has become about because of a demand by baby boomers, those members of the “me generation” born between the late 1940’s and the early 60’s.
But this desire for personalization is far from new – in fact, it is a revival of ancient custom of paying homage to ancestors and having personal stories told and passed down for future generations.
Funeral celebrants work in tandem with funeral directors to transform the common funeral into a much more satisfying and life affirming tribute.
Typically a funeral celebrant spends 10 hours preparing for a 45 minute eulogy. This preparation begins with a family interview.
Sometimes words are just not adequate in expressing grief and this is when symbols and rituals can better communicate the deep sense of loss and sorrow. Accompanied with music and photos they can become a backdrop to the life celebration.
Symbols indeed can be lasting, for example at one funeral, a young child’s cremated remains were scattered over the family’s favorite fishing hole. Later his memorial urn was transformed into a living garden sculpture and home for birds.
Personalized services can also help children get to know their grandparents histories. Years from now a child won’t have to ask who their great grandparents were, they will know and have an accurate record. It’s our loved ones that are the famous people in our lives; they are the ones that make a lasting imprint and whose legacy inspires us.
Charlotte Eulette is the International Director at the Celebrant Institute – see more at www.celebrantusa.org