Each funeral ceremony is individually and sensitively written to celebrate the life of the person who has died, using music and poetry and prose readings as appropriate, and the centrepiece of every humanist funeral is a personal tribute. A ceremony might be held at the local crematorium, or at a Woodland Burial Site or in a local cemetary. Some families prefer to have the ceremony at their home or some other suitable venue followed by a brief committal ceremony at the crematorium. I will discuss the possibliites with you. People with and without religious beliefs usually find humanist ceremonies moving and sincere and have been generous in their praise.
A celebration of the one life we have
The death of a close relative or friend may be a bitter experience for many of us. Although we may sense that time will eventually soothe our grief, the feeling of shock and loss is very real.
A funeral should help family and friends express and share their sadness. It may be the last opportunity to be together to focus their thoughts on the person who has died. The ceremony deserves to be remembered as an occasion that uniquely and affectionately honours that person’s life. It should capture the essence of his or her personality.
The funeral director will deal with all practical arrangements, but it is up to you to say what kind of funeral ceremony you want.
Why choose a non-religious funeral?
While churchgoers and others committed to a religious faith usually want a minister to officiate, there is a growing number of people for whom religion is unimportant, or who have made a clear decision to live their lives without it.
For them a religious funeral service may seem insincere and bring little comfort. It may not feel the right way to say farewell to someone who did not accept the religious view of life and death. A humanist ceremony has more warmth and meaning for these people.
People often say how moving, sincere and fitting they have found a humanist ceremony. For the immediate family and close friends it is a comfort to have provided a ceremony that their loved one would have wanted.
Understanding the person
When planning a funeral I will speak to the family and ideally, meet them and others affected by the death. It is helpful to learn as much as possible about the person who has died, so that the funeral tribute really captures their life and personality.
Order of service
The order of service will generally consist of some introductory words, often including some thoughts on life and death. There will be a tribute either from the celebrant or from a member of the family or a friend. It is usual for there to be a reading or some poetry and there will generally be a time for reflection or quiet thought. The committal will follow and the service will end with some closing words.
Music can speak directly to the emotions and is often a poignant way of reflecting the personality of the one who has died. Services usually include three pieces of music, first as the mourners enter the chapel, a quiet piece for reflection and a piece to play as the mourners leave. Usually an organist is available and most crematoria have facilities for playing CDs. I can record the chosen music for the occasion.
There are of course alternatives to the crematorium for a funeral. Some families would prefer a burial in a local cemetary or an increasingly popular alternative is a woodland burial. It is also possible to hold the ceremony in your garden or another suitable venue and then move on to a simple committal ceremony afterwards.
Concern For Others
The kind of funeral ceremony chosen must be right and appropriate for the person who has died and their close family. Nothing in a humanist ceremony would offend people who may be uneasy about a non-religious funeral. The idea is not to be hostile to religious beliefs, but to focus in a sincere way on the reality of the life that has ended.
“I just wanted to say thank you for a wonderful service. Friends and family were asking if you were a friend who knew John; I feel you were a friend and having listened to us and read the various emails you certainly seemed to know John.”
“I just wanted to thank you again for the wonderful service you gave for my father … I really could hear my father talking and I think he would have been very happy. Thank you for all your hard work and for including everything he wanted and for making it so personal.”
“Now that the dust has settled a little, just wanted to thank you so much for organising everything last week … it was so so beautiful, I know Alex would have been thrilled.”
“…a very sincere thank you for the way you led the funeral of dear Alex yesterday. There was unanimous agreement that it was an extremely moving and unexpectedly happy occasion … your contribution was the indispensable factor.”
“Just to say a huge thank you for your care, time and the lovely service that one and all thought was spot on! The get together after went very well largely due to your good self and the warm rather upbeat mood you’d left us with. Once again, thank you and take care….”
“I would like to pass on all the appreciation that Dad’s family and friends expressed to me both at the crematorium and at the gathering afterwards. Everyone was most impressed with the solemn yet positive atmosphere you created during the ceremony and the kind, quiet humour of the tribute.”
“Thank you for being fantastic yesterday. I heard a lot of people … say how wonderfully you conducted the service, how beautiful it was or how, sad as it was, it was as good as it could possibly have been … people said that when you spoke about my mother you really brought her in front of them.”
“On behalf of the whole Edwards family we would like to thank you for the super service you gave yesterday. We all felt it was “pitch perfect” and made the event almost enjoyable rather than the dreaded occasion we feared it would be … our friends were unanimous in their praise as well. Thanks again for your kindness, your support and your contribution.”
“I really wanted to thank you so much for a lovely service and the wonderful tribute for Mum. I’m glad you accepted our slide show, it was the one thing Dad really wanted and I thought it was perfect. We have had numerous compliments on the service, a moving personal service … I know it’s what Mum would have wanted and it couldn’t have been any better.”
“On behalf of all the Duke and Brophy families a special thank you for the significant part you played in what we feel was a wonderful send off for Maureen. Your guidance … was invaluable to us as we struggled with the loss of someone so really special. You are a true credit to your profession, the ultra professional, and a charming person.”
“I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU from Mum and all the family for giving our Dad such a good send off yesterday, I am sure it was exactly what he wanted, and was carried out by you in a friendly, compassionate and professional manner … thank you for helping us all, especially David and myself through a difficult time.”
“Thank you very much for such a sensitive, well written and appropriate tribute to Tony. Mum has had so many positive comments – “best funeral I have ever been to”, ” we learned so much about Tony”, “the music sounded wonderful”, “this is exactly the sort of service I would like to have when I die” from friends and from family…”
Andy and Sara
As far as Alison, Peter and I were concerned it was exactly what Phillip would have wanted. Just so desperately sad that he wan’t there to join in with such a brilliant gathering of people who meant so much. So thank you for everything.
We just wanted to say a big thank you for the beautiful way you conducted the service for our father last Friday. You captured his life perfectly and made the experience uplifting yet sensitive. Thank you for being such a clever wordsmith, we gave you so much information I am not sure how you managed to precis it so well.
Jacki, Jan and Hilly – the Wadeson girls