Thursday, 31 December 2015

UK Society of Celebrants Newsletter | December 2015

Hi & Seasonal Greetings to you.

We hope you are keeping well and have enjoyed whichever "Winterval" activities that apply to you.

We would like to thank you for the part you have played in contributing to our best year to date. Our members are establishing their presence all over the English speaking world and educating the public about what we do.

There are many towns and cities in the UK where our members are the first port of call for discerning clients and funeral directors alike and we anticipate demand for your skills to increase rapidly during 2016 as the public progressively become more aware of the quality of your work.

There are several announcements in this newsletter so here goes.

UK Society of Celebrants | Celebrant Awards 2015
After a mammoth two days of deliberations our Tutor \ Mentor Team have selected the winners of our Annual Celebrant Awards. We considered over 300 nominations over all the categories below. We have included the shortlist for each category.

Competition was tougher than ever this year and we have also added some new categories to our Award List.

Celebrant Guru Award 2015

Celebrant of the Year 2015

Funeral Ceremony of the Year 2015

Family Ceremony of the Year 2015

Celebrant Marketing / Social Media & 
Awareness Award 2015

Shortlist nominee citations and the winners list will be published on 14 Jan 2016 after all the winners have been informed. We will also make further announcements regarding Fellowship & Honorary Members.

Celebrant Training
Our Distance Learning Courses continue to account for over 80% of ALL training delivered and there seems to have been a shift in the provision of our classroom training. More people have been trained in the classroom via Personal Tuition as opposed Group Training in the last 3 quarters.

All our classroom training courses will continue to be held every Monday (Tuesdays after Bank Holiday Mondays) at our Lincoln offices.

Course Fees
We have reviewed our Course Fee Structure and many fees will be increasing with effect from 01/01/2016. All courses booked and paid for before 01/01/2016 will secure this years rates as long as the course booked commences before June 2016.

All Course Registrations received in 2015 that have not been paid for can still secure 2015 prices if payments are made by or on 15 Jan 2016. Just give us a call on 0800 772 0762 leave us your name and we will send the appropriate invoice to you.

Membership Fees
Just to remind you, we have received a number of enquiries from our members asking about a monthly subscription for their Membership Fees. As ever we try to do what our members want and this is what we have come up with.

Membership Fees as you may already know are Fixed until at least 2020 at £95 per annum for Full Membership. At present fees are payable in one lump sum. From April 2016 Fees can still be paid the same way but with a choice of paying £95 in one lump sum or via monthly installments of £9. All payments will be through paypal as normal and instructions will be given nearer the time.

Obviously, the monthly payment options works out to be a little more expensive overall, however, the additional cost merely covers the increased administration costs and PayPal charges.

Whilst we make the transition to the new system there will be a Membership Fee Holiday for ALL Members whose annual fees are due by or on 31 March 2016.

Social Media
We continue to be delighted that so many of you are engaging with your public through social media - many of you have a significant following across many platforms. Particular thanks goes to Maria Turley who has started a Private Facebook Group for Our Members who would like to discus ANY celebrant related issue and promote their practice - this group has been well received and has grown quickly in a short period of time.

If you wish to benefit through social media engagement click here to get started and don't forget to follow us too (lots of good stuff), using the links above, as all properly formed posts will be shared by us reaching hundreds of thousands of potential clients.

NB: Please subscribe to our blog here.

Remember, Members can connect with their Mentor for Free instruction on the use of Social Media.

Member Profile Pages
Those of you who have a UKSOC profile page are encouraged to review your pages and refresh your copy and photographs as well as checking your links - it is the New year afterall. Any issues can be resolved quickly (24-48hrs) by sending copy, photos and link information to your Mentor.

Please do not forget that if we can be of any assistance to you at all, please call us for FREE on 0800 772 0762 or drop us a line here.

Thanks for taking the time to read today. 
A Happy New Year to You & Yours. Stay Safe & Be Well

James Convery
Lead Tutor - CEO

Thursday, 10 December 2015

The Civil Celebrant | The Civil Circle of Life | Part 4 of 4

Farewells and Funerals

A Mourning Flower
The Circle of Life will, of course, turn and there will be times when we experience great sadness. When someone we love dies the initial shock and distress can be overwhelming. We are barely able to think or process information but during these most difficult days we are faced with some pretty hard decisions. To turn away from what is traditional means that we will have to find something else to replace it and, if that is daunting in the happy moments, then during the distress and vulnerability of bereavement, one would think it an impossible decision to make. Yet that is what is happening more and more frequently.

The choice to exclude religion from a final farewell seems to be driven by the need for total honesty at the end of a life. If the deceased has not worshipped in life, found no comfort in a particular faith and had neither the need or desire to live inside a religious doctrine then it seems right, to those left behind, to honour the choices that were made by their loved-one during life.

The humanist approach at a funeral is the obvious choice for an atheist who has passed away and those attending will not expect any reference to a deity but, for families share differing views and feelings about religion, a ceremony conducted by a Civil or Family Celebrant offers some much-needed middle ground.

It must also be noted that when the ceremony is not dictated by a particular religion the funeral becomes a celebration of the life lived; a time to honour who the person was, what they loved, their achievements, their humour and how they enhanced the lives of all who knew them. In my experience this celebratory approach to all that the person was, rather than focusing on the sadness of their passing, gives the greatest comfort at the saddest of times.

Proper tribute can be paid to the deceased rather than a deity and the funeral ceremony can be constructed without having to consider the restrictions that religious services place on all end of life gatherings taken by clergy.

The committal is the time that most mourners find the most difficult to bear; at this time the coffin will be lowered into the earth or will disappear behind slowly closing curtains and it signifies the moment of final and absolute separation. Even at this most difficult time a Civil Ceremony can soften the last few moments; a civil committal is about the person who has died, what they meant to all who cared for them rather than the return to a faith that meant little to them whilst they were alive

We are unable to hold back what is inevitable - the Circle of Life will continue to turn. All that is mundane is made brighter by the key life moments we experience. Our lives would be lessened if we did not fully embrace love and celebrate a union of two people we care about.

None of us will ever be immune to the pure joy that is experienced when family is extended by a new generation. And we will loose someone we love.

The moments that define our lives will never change; how we honour them now can be!

See Part 1 | Challenging Tradition

See Part 2 | Choices? Make them personal!

See Part 3 | Milestones

Thanks to Kim Greenacre | Civil Celebrant | Celebrant House

Kim is a regular contributor to several magazines and a published poet. Kim is also a member of the UK Society of Celebrants and holds the Diploma in Family & Funeral Celebrancy awarded to Civil Celebrants. For more details about qualified Civil Celebrants in your area please click here.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

The Civil Celebrant | The Civil Circle of Life | Part 3 of 4

Renewal of Vows
The same dilemmas are faced by couples who manage to reach milestone anniversaries. The current C of E “Thanksgiving for A Marriage” ceremony begins with a formal prayer - if the couple are not regular church goers they may feel a little uncomfortable celebrating the longevity of their union in such a way. Much nicer perhaps for them to invite friends and family to a favourite beauty spot or to their own garden and be the focus of a ceremony written just for them? A bespoke Vow Renewal Ceremony will commemorate their love for each other and their proven commitment to each other - real life reflected in every aspect of the celebration.

The marriage ceremony is of course not the only service that is being scrutinised and found wanting. The traditional christening is also experiencing a decline and Princess Charlotte’s Christening earlier this year was the exception rather than the rule and not just because she is royal.

Although Christenings were already in decline in the latter half of the last century, one in three infants was still baptised into the Church of England in 1980. By 2011 that had fallen to just over one in 10.

This downward trend continues and when the time comes for new parents to formally welcome their child into the world their focus is now on the wonder of a new life rather than the infant’s connection to and acceptance into a religion. The fact that our society is a wonderfully mixed-bag of religions and customs cannot be ignored; the promises demanded of parents and potential guardians (formally known as God-Parents) during a Christening will no longer suit many extended families.

The issues are important but rather than depriving themselves of commemorating such a key event in their lives, these parents are seeking out Civil Celebrants to perform a Naming Ceremony. The ceremony is written after a consultation with the parents and usually the focus is on the miracle of new life, the promises they want to make to their infant and, if life guardians have been selected, confirmation of their promises to the parents and the child.

The civil approach to both of these life-changing events allows those who are celebrating to select a Celebrant who they feel they can trust and who they have an instinctive connection with. These are joyful occasions and if everybody involved with the preparation of the ceremony is completely relaxed and happy the magic happens! Heartfelt sentiments are written and then exchanged and life-long memories made!

Next Week | Part Four : Farewells & Funerals

See Part 1 | Challenging Tradition

See Part 2 | Choices? Make them personal!

Thanks to Kim Greenacre | Civil Celebrant | Celebrant House

Kim is a regular contributor to several magazines and a published poet. Kim is also a member of the UK Society of Celebrants and holds the Diploma in Family & Funeral Celebrancy awarded to Civil Celebrants. For more details about qualified Civil Celebrants in your area please click here.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Civil Celebrant | The Civil Circle of Life | Part 2 of 4

Choices? Make them personal!

A Superhero Themed Wedding - Why Not?

More and more members of our society now live a secular life. Separated, disconnected and, most importantly, without a desire or need for religion and therefore, do not want to include it in the key moments of their life. It also has to be noted that with some faiths still frowning on same sex unions, portions of our society cannot find common ground, let alone comfort, inside a religious dominion.

Of course this is where the Civil Ceremony should step in and, as far back as July 1837 marriages in England and Wales could, for the first time, take place in a Registry Office and quite significantly for that era, could be conducted by a Registrar rather than a member of the clergy.

For those not wanting to work out the maths that is 178 years since anything significant has changed. 178 years is a long time and the restrictions that govern these Civil Ceremonies have not changed during that period.

The stagnation and in-flexibility of the core elements of the civil wedding service and now, as importantly for most contemporary couples, where it must take place, prevent many partners who are deeply in love, from committing formally to each other. If the legal dictates prevent them from expressing who they really are and how they want to celebrate their union, they prefer to remain unwed.

Over the past three years there has a been a change in thinking and, even though the law has not changed, the determination of a few beautifully brave brides and grooms, has revitalised the marriage ceremony and the way it is conducted throughout the UK, by turning to a Civil Celebrant.

It is now possible, after taking care of the legalities of registering the marriage with a Registrar at a Registry Office and in the presence of two witnesses which, usually takes around 15 minutes, the couple are free to hold a ceremony of their choosing. The venue, style and content of a ceremony, led by a Celebrant is without boundaries or limits! In 2013 a couple from London held their ceremony in a shark tank, others opted for a tandem skydive, more recently another couple decided upon a Game of Thrones wedding theme complete with an Iron Throne!

On a more romantic note the content of the service is personal; the vows are bespoke and written for each couple, the readings can be selected from any source or can be commissioned especially for the event.

For couples who have mixed heritage and customs, this option is the only way they can blend the most significant elements of their cultures together and offers them the best opportunity to celebrate all that is great about their combined ethnicity.

There is of course another bonus to this idea; it can mean that super low-budget weddings can be turned into the stuff of dreams! Without the need for a high-priced licensed venue you can decide exactly what to spend your money on. If that means preferring to buy some amazing plants for your garden that will bloom year after year on your anniversary, make some bunting out of pink gingham, fire up your barbecue, have your Labrador as Best Man and have the biggest garden wedding-party ever, then so be it!

Next Week | Part Three : Milestones

See Part 1 | Challenging Tradition

Thanks to Kim Greenacre | Civil Celebrant | Celebrant House

Kim is a regular contributor to several magazines and a published poet. Kim is also a member of the UK Society of Celebrants and holds the Diploma in Family & Funeral Celebrancy awarded to Civil Celebrants. For more details about qualified Civil Celebrants in your area please click here.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Civil Celebrant | The Civil Circle of Life | Part 1 of 4

Circle of Life
Part One - Challenging Tradition

Our lives and the world we live them in change everyday. Some of these changes happen so fast we hardly notice them until they have crept right up on us and suddenly, when we take a moment to look around, we find theses changes sitting, centre stage, in our lives.

There are other changes that manifest at a much slower pace; so slowly, in fact, that most people do not see the primary differences, let alone the complete transformation they bring during the average, four score and ten, lifetime. These lumbering changes, more often than not, have nothing to do with biological or physical evolution, the affect of weather, soil erosion or glacial melt; they are simply trapped in tradition.

The dictionary definitely holds clues as to why, that which is held in this seemingly impermeable membrane, sheds all attempts to alter its form the way a good macintosh wicks away a deluge.

Tradition: the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation

synonyms: historical convention, unwritten law, oral history, heritage; lore, folklore

Understandably then, anything connected to “historical convention” would take time and more than a little courage to transform but recently individuals, couples and entire families are challenging customs that have stood for centuries and are enjoying, not only the process of transforming them but more importantly, the outcome!

In my role as a Civil Celebrant I have the privilege to witness such changes. This relatively new profession is without doubt a product of such changes and allows me the honour of meeting people who, preparing for one of the key circle of life moments, make a committed and informed decision to move away from tradition.

These choices, and when they need to be made, are obviously connected to the most emotional occasions any of us will face in our lifetime; the birth of a new baby, a marriage or civil union and of course, saying farewell to a family member or close friend at a funeral. Instead of mimicking the well rehearsed and familiar actions of their parents and grand-parents these deliciously brave souls base their decisions on who they really are and how they go about the business of living today.

To be able to appreciate the gravitas of such decisions we really need to look at the history and longevity of the ceremonies in question.

The quintessential church wedding has long been considered one of the cornerstones of English life but, if more people were aware of how long the current format of the ceremony and the vows it contains have been in situ, perhaps even more of the population would agree that a re-vamp is long overdue.

A little digging in the historical records of our country proves that to find any significant changes in the ceremonial or legal requirements of the marriage act we must go back several centuries. Interestingly (and quite alarmingly) it was not until 1140 that the Benedictine monk Gratian, considered that consent of both bride and groom should be essential and formalised this aspect into church law with his textbook, Decretum Gratiani - before that date a person simply had to be present to be bound by the, then, inescapable bonds of matrimony.

The Marriage Vows, as couples recite them today during a Church of England ceremony, actually date back to Thomas Cranmer, the architect of English Protestantism. Cranmer laid out the purpose for marriage and scripted the current wedding vows nearly 500 years ago in his Book of Common Prayer. The book was revised in 1552 and again in 1662, but the integral ingredients of the ceremony were first laid down in 1549.

The words that most of us are familiar with and consider to be the warp and weft of a traditional wedding ceremony “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer” etc. can all be traced to that time.

So surely, the very first question a bride and groom should be asking themselves is “If we step into a religious dominion are we prepared to be bound by the rules and regulations that were written so many years ago or are we, the individuals that form this couple, a little more contemporary than that?”

Next Week | Part Two : Choices? Make them personal

Thanks to Kim Greenacre | Civil Celebrant | Celebrant House
Kim is a regular contributor to several magazines and a published poet. Kim is also a member of the UK Society of Celebrants and holds the Diploma in Family & Funeral Celebrancy awarded to Civil Celebrants. For more details about qualified Civil Celebrants in your area please click here.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Natural Burials | Clandon Wood | A New Dawn

Clandon Wood Lead the way forward to the future for natural burials.

The Funeral Celebrant | Natural Burials | An Overview

Natural Burial in a wild flower meadow
Natural Burial Grounds were pioneered in the UK. Natural burial is the interment of the body of a dead person in the soil in a manner that does not inhibit decomposition but allows the body to recycle naturally. It is an alternative to other contemporary Western burial methods.

A Natural Burial Ground
The body may be prepared without chemical preservatives or disinfectants such as embalming fluid, which might destroy the microbial decomposers that break the body down. It may be buried in a biodegradable coffin, casket, or shroud. The grave does not use a burial vault or outer burial container that would prevent the body's contact with soil. The grave should be shallow enough to allow microbial activity (4 to 4.5 feet) similar to that found in composting. If the burial is any shallower there is the significant risk of attracting the unwanted attention of local wildlife (foxes, badgers, cats and dogs) Natural burials can take place both on private land (subject to regulations) and in any cemetery that will accommodate the vault-free technique.
A wide variety of land management techniques, such as sustainable agriculture, restoration ecology, habitat conservation projects, and permaculture, may be used to maintain the burial area in perpetuity. Landscaping methods may accelerate or slow down the decomposition rate of bodies, depending on the soil system.

A Modern Embalming work area.
The primary purpose of embalming is to delay decomposition long enough to allow the body to be viewed. Although this delay might be considered inconsistent with the objectives of natural burial, non-toxic and naturally derived embalming fluids without formaldehyde or other bio-accumulating elements may address many current concerns about ground contamination.
The UK does not require the routine embalming of bodies (unless body is repatriated). "Post mortem" (usually within 24 hours of death), mechanical refrigeration, chilling with dry ice, or some other technique can be used instead. The goal of cooling is to reduce the body's temperature to about 37 degrees F, retarding the microbial growth present during decomposition. Many cultures around the world use no artificial cooling at all, and bodies are regularly held for several days before their final disposal.

Special circumstances, such as an extended time between death and burial, or the transportation of remains on commercial flights (which often require unembalmed bodies to travel in expensive specialised containers), may necessitate embalming.

The most common embalming fluid is composed of organic chemicals and contains 5–29% formaldehyde, ethanol and water. This solution is biodegradable in time, but it cross-links proteins found in tissue-cell membranes, slowing down bacterial decomposition and inhibiting the body's breakdown in the earth. The ability of embalming fluid to contaminate soil or water tables has not been studied thoroughly. In alkaline soils, formaldehyde would be broken down through the Cannizzaro reaction and become Urotropin, but not all soils are alkaline.

Formaldehyde is a suspected carcinogen and damages the health of workers exposed to it in high quantities. It is implicated in cancer, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, disorders of the nervous system, and other ailments. The HSE has the power to require embalmers to wear respirators if the Permissible Exposure Limit air exchange allowance is exceeded, which may put funeral home workers at risk.

Natural coffins are made from materials that readily biodegrade. Ideally the materials are easily renewed or recycled and require less energy for their production.
Coffins (tapered-shoulder shape) and caskets (rectangular) are made from a variety of materials, most of them not biodegradable. 80–85% of the caskets sold for burial in North America in 2006 were of stamped steel. Solid wood and particle board (chipboard) coffins with hardwood veneers account for 80–85% of 
UK & Australian sales.

Most traditional coffins in the UK are made from chipboard covered in a thin veneer. Handles are usually plastic designed to look like brass. Chipboard requires glue to stick the wood particles together. Some glues that are used, such as those that contain formaldehyde, are feared to cause pollution when they are burned during cremation or when degrading in the ground. However, not all engineered wood products are produced using formaldehyde glues.

Caskets and coffins are often manufactured using exotic and even endangered species of wood, and are designed to prevent decomposition. While there are generally no restrictions on the type of coffin used, most sites encourage the use of environmentally friendly coffins made from cardboard or wicker. A simple cotton shroud is another option.

Natural burial grounds employ a variety of methods of memorialisation. Headstones, tributes, and other common markers may be allowed or prohibited. Trees, shrubs, and flowers planted on or near the grave can provide a living memorial and help create habitat. You could even have a flat stone made of reconstituted marble with a solar cell and gps chip embedded - family can find exactly where you are by downloading an app - progress I guess. Irrigation, pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers may be significantly reduced or eliminated altogether in favour of non-toxic and less resource-intensive plant management.

Natural burial has been practiced for thousands of years, but has been interrupted in modern times by new methods such as vaults, liners, embalming, and mausoleums that mitigate the decomposition process. In the late 19th century Sir Francis Seymour Hayden proposed "earth to earth burial" in a pamphlet of the same name, as an alternative to both cremation and the slow putrefaction of encased corpses.

Here in the UK The Association of Natural Burial Grounds (ANBG) was established by The Natural Death Centre charity in 1994. It aims to help people to establish sites, to provide guidance to natural burial ground operators, to represent its members, and to provide a Code of Conduct for members. The NDC also publishes The Natural Death Handbook.

The first woodland burial ground in the UK was created in 1993 at Carlisle Cemetery and is called The Woodland Burial. Over 300 dedicated natural burial grounds have been created in the UK.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Funeral Celebrant | Stillbirth and Neonatal Death

October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month hence this post.

 A Definition:

Stillbirth refers to the death of a baby after 24 weeks of pregnancy but before birth. A miscarriage is the loss of a baby before 24 weeks of pregnancy. The medical profession describes stillbirth as either 'intra-uterine' or 'intra-partum'. An intra-uterine stillbirth means that the baby has died in the womb.Having received a number of enquiries from our Funeral Celebrant Members about how to handle Stillbirth and Neonatal Deaths with regards to interviewing the bereaved and delivering the ceremony - our experienced Mentors were fortunately able to assist. However, we felt it necessary to signpost resources for our members, with a view to educating them and others.

This link will hopefully go some way to aiding the understanding of such a difficult subject matter.

Ideal Death Show 2015 | Winchester

So the autumn is here and time for the Ideal Death Show. This year we were out in force - not only did we have a large stand but we were fortunate to have many of our members put in a welcome appearance too.

Julia Hill & Angus Edmonds at Our stand.
A few thank you's need to be made to a number of our members particularly Julia Hill, master baker, who at times appeared to turn our stand into a cake shop with her wonderful creations. Next a big thanks to Ellie Farrell, Gilly Lockhart and Rob Farrell for their contribution to the logistics of the weekend.

Finally a big thanks to our members, in no particular order for coming along from far and wide to support the cause:- Kevin Gould, Lisa Bradley, Sue Wood (The Three Amigos), Jane Arnold, Lee Axford, Cindy Groves, Will Chambers and Angus Edmonds.

Many of you will know that our very own Ellie Farrell was nominated for the Funeral Celebrant of the Year at the Ideal Death Show - well done Ellie. However, to the consternation of many at the Gala Dinner a  Lady Reverend won - congratulations to her - but arguably Clergy should decide whether they want to be Clergy or Civil Celebrants as the two do not necessarily fit comfortably together as religious doctrine is not necessarily conducive to life centred ceremonies.

The Ideal Death Show itself was well attended and our stand was none stop all day. Lots of interest being shown for what we do and subsequently 19 people who visited the show have now enrolled on our courses.

We also ran a Free Draw for a Course of Your Choice and the lucky winner was Colin Onicca from Stafford, who will soon be commencing with his Diploma in Family & Funeral Celebrancy - Congratulations Colin and welcome aboard.

Fran, Carrie & Ian Lavendar
Congratulations also to our friends Carrie & Fran at A Natural Undertaking who won the Green Funeral Director of the Year Award - well done Ladies. Furthermore, congratulations to all the other winners on the night.

We look forward to receiving nominations for our members yet again next year - who knows - maybe the winner!

Monday, 31 August 2015

When I'm Gone | Advice to a son that lasted a lifetime!

We found a truly touching story written by Rafael Zoehler and thought we’d share it with you:
’Death is always a surprise. No one expects it. Not even terminal patients think they are going to die in a day or two. In a week, maybe. But only when this particular week is the next week.
We are never ready. It is never the right time. By the time it comes, you will not have done all the things that we wanted to. The end always comes as a surprise, and it’s a tearful moment for widows and a bore for the children who don’t really understand what a funeral is (thank God).
It was no different with my father. In fact, his death was even more unexpected. He was gone at age 27. The same age that claimed the lives of several famous musicians. He was young. Way too young. My father was not a musician and neither a famous person. Cancer doesn't pick its victims. He was gone when I was young, and I learned what a funeral was because of him. I was 8 and half, old enough to miss him for a lifetime. Had he died before, I wouldn’t have memories. I would feel no pain. But I wouldn’t have a father in my life. And I had a father.
I had a father who was both firm and fun. Someone who would tell a joke before grounding me. That way, I wouldn't feel so bad. Someone who kissed me on the forehead before I went to sleep. A habit which I passed on to my children. Someone who forced me to support the same football team he supported, and who explained things better than my mother. A father like that is someone to be missed.
He never told me he was going to die. Even when he was lying on a hospital bed with tubes all over him, he didn’t say a word. My father made plans for the next year even though he knew he wouldn’t be around in the next month. Next year, we would go fishing, we would travel, we would visit places we’ve never been. Next year would be an amazing year. We lived the same dream.
I believe — actually I’m sure — he thought this should bring luck. He was a superstitious man. Thinking about the future was the way he found to keep hope alive. The bastard made me laugh until the very end. He knew about it. He didn’t tell me. He didn’t see me crying.
And suddenly, the next year was over before it even started.
My mother picked me up at school and we went to the hospital. The doctor told the news with all the sensitivity that doctors lose over the years. My mother cried. She did have a tiny bit of hope. As I said before, everyone does. I felt the blow. What does it mean? Wasn’t it just a regular disease, the kind of disease doctors heal with a shot? I hated you, dad. I felt betrayed. I screamed with anger in the hospital, until I realized my father was not around to ground me. I cried.
Then, my father was once again a father to me. With a shoebox under her arm, a nurse came by to comfort me. The box was full of sealed envelopes, with sentences where the address should be. I couldn’t understand exactly what was going on. The nurse then handed me a letter. The only letter that was out of the box.
"Your dad asked me to give you this letter. He spent the whole week writing these, and he wants you read it. Be strong." the nurse said, holding me.
The envelope read ’When I’m gone’. I opened it.
If you’re reading this, I’m dead. I’m sorry. I knew I was going to die.
I didn’t want to tell you what was going to happen, I didn’t want to see you crying. Well, it looks like I’ve made it. I think that a man who’s about to die has the right to act a little bit selfish.
Well, as you can see, I still have a lot to teach you. After all, you don’t know crap about anything. So I wrote these letters for you. You must not open them before the right moment, OK? This is our deal.
I love you. Take care of your mom. You’re the man of the house now.
Love, dad.
PS: I didn’t write letters to your mom. She’s got my car.
He made me stop crying with his bad handwriting. Printing was not easy back then. His ugly writing, which I barely understood, made me feel calm. It made me smile. That’s how my father did things. Like the joke before the grounding.
That box became the most important thing in the world for me. I told my mother not to open it. Those letters were mine and no one else could read them. I knew all the life moments written on the envelopes by heart. But it took a while for these moments to happen. And I forgot about it.
Seven years later, after we moved to a new place, I had no idea where I put the box. I couldn’t remember it. And when we don’t remember something, we usually don’t care about it. If something goes lost in your memory, It doesn’t mean you lost it. It simply doesn’t exist anymore. It’s like change in the pockets of your trousers.
And so it happened. My teenage years and my mother’s new boyfriend triggered what my father had anticipated a long time before. My mother had several boyfriends, and I always understood it. She never married again. I don’t know why, but I like to believe that my father had been the love of her life. This boyfriend, however, was worthless. I thought she was humiliating herself by dating him. He had no respect for her. She deserved something a lot better than a guy she met at a bar.
I still remember the slap she gave me after I pronounced the word “bar“. I’ll admit that I deserved it. I learned that over the years. At the time, when my skin was still burning from the slap, I remembered the box and the letters. I remembered a specific letter, which read’When you have the worst fight ever with your mom.’
I ransacked my bedroom looking for it, which earned me another slap in the face. I found the box inside a suitcase lying on top of the wardrobe. The limbo. I looked through the letters, and realized that I had forgotten to open ’When you have your first kiss’. I hated myself for doing that, and I decided that would be the next letter I’d open. ’When you lose your virginty’ came right next in the pack, a letter I was hoping to open really soon. Eventually I found what I was looking for.
Now apologize to her.
I don’t know why you’re fighting and I don’t know who’s right. But I know your mother. So a humble apology is the best way to get over this. I’m talking about a down-on-your-knees apology.
She’s your mother, kid. She loves you more than anything in this world. Do you know that she went through natural birth because someone told her that it would be the best for you? Have you ever seen a woman giving birth? Do you need a bigger proof of love than that?
Apologize. She’ll forgive you.
Love, dad.
My father was not a great writer, he was just a bank clerk. But his words had a great impact on me. They were words that carried more wisdom than all of my 15 years of age at the time. (That wasn’t very hard to achieve, though).
I rushed to my mother’s room and opened the door. I was crying when she turned her head to look me in the eyes. She was also crying. I don’t remember what she yelled at me. Probably something like ”What do you want?" What I do remember is that I walked towards her holding the letter my father wrote. I held her in my arms, while my hands crumpled the old paper. She hugged me, and we both stood in silence.
My father’s letter made her laugh a few minutes later. We made peace and talked a little about him. She told me about some of his most eccentric habits, such as eating salami with strawberries. Somehow, I felt he was sitting right next to us. Me, my mother and a piece of my father, a piece he left for us, on a piece of paper. It felt good.
It didn’t take long before I read ’When you lose your virginty’:
Congratulations, son.
Don’t worry, it gets better with time. It always sucks the first time. Mine happened with an ugly woman...who was also a prostitute.
My biggest fear is that you’d ask your mother what virginity is after reading what’s on the letter.
Love, dad.
My father followed me through my entire life. He was with me, even though he was not near me. His words did what no one else could: they gave me strength to overcome countless challenging moments in my life. He would always find a way to put a smile on my face when things looked grim, or clear my mind during those angry moments.
’When you get married’ made me feel very emotional. But not so much as ’When you become a father’.
Now you’ll understand what real love is, son. You’ll realize how much you love her, but real love is something you’ll feel for this little thing over there. I don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl. I’m just a corpse, I’m not a fortune teller.
Have fun. It’s a great thing. Time is gonna fly now, so make sure you’ll be around. Never miss a moment, they never come back. Change diapers, bathe the baby, be a role model to this child. I think you have what it takes to be an amazing father, just like me.
The most painful letter I read in my entire life was also the shortest letter my father wrote. While he wrote those four words, I believe he suffered just as much as I did living through that moment. It took a while, but eventually I had to open ’When your mother is gone’:
She is mine now.
A joke. A sad clown hiding his sadness with a smile on his makeup. It was the only letter that didn’t make me smile, but I could see the reason.
I always kept the deal I had made with my father. I never read letters before their time.
I would always wait for the next moment, the next letter. The next lesson my father would teach me. It’s amazing what a 27-year-old man can teach to an 85-year-old senior like me.
Now that I am lying on a hospital bed, with tubes in my nose and my throat thanks to this damn cancer, I run my fingers on the faded paper of the only letter I didn’t open. The sentence ’When your time comes’ is barely visible on the envelope.
I don’t want to open it. I’m scared. I don’t want to believe that my time is near. It’s a matter of hope, you know? No one believes they’re gonna die.
I take a deep breath, opening the envelope.
Hello, son. I hope you’re an old man now.
You know, this letter was the easiest to write, and the first I wrote. It was the letter that set me free from the pain of losing you. I think your mind becomes clearer when you’re this close to the end. It’s easier to talk about it.
In my last days here I thought about the life I had. I had a brief life, but a very happy one. I was your father and the husband of your mother. What else could I ask for? It gave me peace of mind. Now you do the same.
My advice for you: you don’t have to be afraid
PS: I miss you

Thanks to Bright Side 

Ideal Death Show 2015 | Nominations Shortlist

A big shout out to our very own Ellie Farrell at Alternative Ceremonies UK who has been nominated for Funeral Celebrant of the Year 2015. Well done and well deserved Ellie and good luck for the big day on September 5th.

The remainder of this post is from the Ideal Death Show website listing details about the events host - Ian Lavender - and all the nominees.

The panel has sifted through hundreds of nominations for this year’s Good Funeral Awards.

The judges have requested that their deliberations remain secret. While they appreciate that many people will be disappointed, they wish to remind everyone that this is an annual event, and each year the method of selection improves. Please do not lose heart, just enter again next year.

Private Pike (Ian Lavender) from Dad’s Army will be presenting the awards.

We have longlisted the following:

Funeral Director of the Year
Steve Jefferies – F A Holland & Son

John McGillivray – Funeral Directors in Edinburgh

Graham and his team – Wessex Funeral Services

A.R.Adams Funeral Directors

Lucy Jane – The Individual Funeral Company

Derek Crawford – Hunter’s Funeral Directors

Les Davies Funeral Directors

Rebecca Diamond – A.W.Lymn

Bungard and Sons in Hove

Wallace Stuart

Alan Scollen – Scollen & Wright Funeral Services

Aaron Bewley – Bewley and Merrett

Embalmer of the Year
Matthew Newton of M-balm

Julie Smith – Stibbards and Sons Leigh-on-Sea

Most Promising New Funeral Director of the Year 

Judith Dandy – Dandelion Farewells

Anna Wardle – Bewley & Merrett

Colin Fisher – Colin Fisher Funeral Directors

Carrie Weekes and Frances Glover – A Natural Undertaking

Michelle Balam – Roseberry Funeral Service, Redcar

Tiffaney Grant – Leverton & Sons Ltd

Funeral Arranger of the Year
Janet Ward – Francis Chappell & Sons

Emma Fisher – Colin Fisher Funeral Directors

Sarah Wolsey – Daniel Ross Funerals

Celia de Silva – Francis Chapell & Sons

Angela Bailey – Harrison Funeral Home

Celebrant of the Year
Emma Curtis

Rev Juliet Stephenson

Jane Morgan

Pauline Hyde Coomber

Beverley Levy-Price

Ellie Farrell

Judy Mansfield

Derren Gallo

Croianna Bradshaw

Scott Solway

Lifetime Achievement Award
Felicity Warner – Soul Midwives

Ken West

Nigel Lymn Rose – A.W.Lymn

Mark Green – Co-founder the Bereavement Services Association

Josephine Speyer – Natural Death Centre

Charles Cowling – Good Funeral Guide

Major Contribution to the Understanding of Death
Angie McLachlan for her work with Ichabod

Carla Valentine – St Bart’s Pathology Museum

Felicity Warner – Soul Midwives

Hermione Elliott – Living Well Dying Well

Claire Turnham – Only with Love

Professor Tony Walter – Centre of Death and Society, University of Bath

Best Alternative Hearse
Levertons Funeral Directors Eco Hearse

Morris Minor Hearse

David Hall Vintage Lorry Funerals

Cemetery of the Year
Epsom Cemetery

Portchester Memorial Gardens

Horncastle Cemetery

Clandon Wood

Respect, Green Burial site at Laughton in Lincolnshire

Westmill Burial Ground, Swindon

Florist of the Year
Rebecca Sharp – Dazzle Me Daisy Do/Rainbows at Sunset

Miss Mole’s Flower Emporium

Cream & Browns Florist

Stems UK

Helen Pyle, resident florist at Memorial Woodland, Bristol

Association of Green Funeral Directors Green Funeral Director of the Year

Carrie Weekes and Fran Glover at A Natural Undertaking

Maggie and Tony Brinklow at Margaret Rose Funerals

Tracy O’Leary at Woodland Wishes

Jonathan Mees and Ian Hope at Oak Funeral Services

Crematorium Attendant
Andy Hands – Bramcote Crematorium, Nottingham

Charles Howlett – Superintendent at Chilterns Crematorium, Amersham

Gravedigger of the Year
Ivor Davies – Gwaelody y Brithdir, Caerphilly County Borough Council

Stuart Goodacre – Horncastle Cemetery

Andy Slade – Fairspear and Westmill

Coffin Supplier of the Year
Cradle to Grave

Feet First

Honest Coffins

Best Bereavement Resource

Down to Earth

The Loss Foundation

Natural Death Centre

To Absent Friends

Mortuary Assistant (APT) Team or Individual
Mrs Sarah Davis – Lead APT/Mortuary Manager at the Birmingham Women’s Hospital

Michelle Lancaster, North Tees & Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust

Mortuary Team at University Hospital of Coventry and Warwickshire

Kristoffer Hughes – Her Majesty’s Coroner

The Mortuary Team at the Princess Royal Hospital, Orpington.

Barbara Peters – Mortuary Services, University College London Hospital

Mortuary Team The Christie NHS Foundation Trust

Mortuary (APT) Team Rob Charlsworth & Les Fern – DRI Doncaster, Doncaster and Bassetlaw NHS Trust