|Caitlin Doughty - founder of The Order of the Good Death|
Most people who are curious about the work of a celebrant, focus on what we celebrants call “Family Celebrancy” - the planning, writing and delivery of joyous events like weddings, naming ceremonies and vow renewals. Few want to know about funerals or memorial ceremonies so I tend not to bring up the topic unless asked.
I began the previous paragraph with the word “most” - as opposed to “all”. In fact, recently two female friends have asked me about the celebrant’s role in helping grieving relatives plan their loved one’s last journey.
In both cases my friends also wanted to share their own experiences of attending funerals. Their stories brought home to me - yet again - how this most personal and moving of all ceremonies can be made or ruined by those “in charge” of the event.
There is no doubt that a sympathetic celebrant working closely with the deceased’s family; and a caring funeral director can make this - whilst still the saddest of occasions - into a true celebration of a life well lived. I would hope that a “good funeral” can help with the grieving process and afterwards I like to hear the comment that the deceased, themselves, would have approved of their own funeral.
I will be finding out more about “The Order of the Good Death” - an organisation of funeral industry professionals, academics and artists who explore ways of preparing our death-phobic culture for inevitable mortality. Its founder is a remarkable young American mortician called Caitlin Doughty.
Caitlin is also the author of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory” and creator of the web series “Ask the Mortician”. She is a passionate advocate of death acceptance and the reform of Western funeral industry practices. I am looking forward to hearing her talk at the Barbican Open Salon, London on April 15th.