Tuesday, 29 September 2015

More thoughts on time - Communing with Nature | Green Funeral | Civil Celebrant

Perhaps the eulogy had to be discreetly edited, the processional music faded halfway through, the reflection time subtly abbreviated or the mourners gently nudged out at the end of the ceremony...

However it is achieved, it must be remembered that crematoria slots are usually 45 minutes and to overrun is the the show jumping equivalent of an undignified elimination - for instance, horse and rider ploughing through the triple combination and refusing three times at the water.

It seems to me that, after a lifetime of dashing about, our final journey should not  - in any way - be rushed. Our loved ones should be able to have as much time as they need to say their final goodbyes - without even the tiniest hint of pressure to hurry up.

So the Colney Woodland Burial Ground in Norwich gets the thumbs up from me. Two weeks ago I was called upon to officiate at a Celebration of Life memorial  there and was very pleased to hear that there would be no other ceremonies immediately before or after ours. 

The Woodland Hall, Colney
The Colney team also confirmed that there would be no problem if our ceremony were to overrun the hour that had been booked in the Woodland Hall. (Which it did by a full ten minutes). 

Family and friends were able to meet before the ceremony in the aptly named “Gathering Hall” for tea and scones - the latter being a favourite of the deceased. There was no sense of pressure to begin the ceremony promptly; and everyone was given as much time as they needed for these refreshments which were especially welcome for those who had travelled long distances to be there.

After the ceremony, the walk through the woodland area to the chosen spot to scatter the ashes, was also unhurried. It was exceptionally peaceful  meandering along the path through the trees allowing each person to be alone with their thoughts and memories and in harmony with nature.

Some families choose to scatter wildflower seeds with the ashes and I am told that the bluebells are especially beautiful there in the spring.

While no funeral can ever be pleasant for anyone attending, it can be a strangely satisfying experience - a true celebration of a life well lived. By taking as much time as we need to say that last goodbye,  it can also provide the opportunity of closure. 

Walking away, I have a re shuffle of life’s priorities. I thought, in the overall scheme of things, how important is it really to be under constant time pressure?  

And, most importantly, let’s always make the time to tell those we love how important they are to us … while we can.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Deadline Looming ? Let’s not rush the Final Journey | Funeral Celebrant

How time aware are you? By this I mean, if someone asked you for the time, without looking a your watch, how close to the correct answer would you be able to guess? Would it be seconds, minutes, hours away from the correct time ? 

Perhaps you are reading this whilst enjoying the luxury of being completely ‘time unaware’ - in holiday mode - and so disconnected that you don’t even know what day of the week it is.

I am currently wallowing in this relaxed, happy - and jet lagged - state. 
But the majority of us - most of the time - spend much of our lives under some sort of time pressure. We often hear people sigh ‘If only there were more hours in the day’ as everyone is too busy to fit everything into their hectic timetable.

When I worked on radio I was ├╝ber time aware. 
Every on-air second is a valuable commodity. There were advertising slots of 20, 30 or 40 seconds, interviews, jingle and music tracks lengths to juggle with. All this adds up to lots of mental arithmetic calculations preceding each hourly news bulletin. 

After many years in front of a microphone, I had it down to a fine art. I could look at the lines of text, or a guest on the other side of the desk, and know exactly how much needed to be said to create a seamless transition to the top of the hour pips. To crash them was the show jumping equivalent of 4 faults, while a clear round - every hour- was what was required.

My broadcasting experience stood me in good stead during my celebrant training. I totally understood the importance of working with a detailed and precise running order - or Anatomy of a Ceremony. And when it came to planning and writing funeral ceremonies, bearing in mind the strict time constraints imposed by crematoria, I understood perfectly the importance of accurate timings for each and every section.

As with the radio listeners, it is also crucial that no one attending a funeral should feel even a hint of time pressure. It is up to the celebrant and funeral director to bring about this relaxed state of affairs by accurate time keeping and careful preparation. 

Like a skilled radio presenter - or a swan on the water - we must at all times appear serene,cool, calm and collected … even if our legs are frantically paddling away beneath the surface.

More thoughts on time … next time.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Fifty Shades ... It's all about The Palette | Wedding Celebrant

Shades of artichoke - a personal favourite
Time was, when someone mentioned their “palette” you would think about the board used by artists to mix their paints … or perhaps - if  there had been a mix up with either of the homophones “palate” and “pallet” - their sense of taste, or even a platform used in a warehouse for moving things around.

But today - especially if there is a wedding in the air - the word “palette” refers to the tones of colours that will create the wedding theme for outfits, flowers and table decorations. At least that is clearly the case Stateside.

At the weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend (as a guest, not celebrant) a beautiful wedding in Berkeley, California. The venue was an open air amphitheatre-shaped clearing in a woodland park on
From sage to basil
an extremely warm, early September evening.

I had first visited the venue with the bride and groom back in May. I recall looking down the grassy banks at a  group of long legged, Californian lovelies lined up for photographs. There were about a dozen of these bronzed and polished young women each wearing a different shade of apricot and they were positioned - like a paint chart - by the depth of colour of their dresses. 

It was all so polished and perfect that I thought that we had bumped into a magazine photoshoot or possibly the filming of a DIY home decoration commercial. 

But no, the bride-to-be informed me that  what we were witnessing was the taking of wedding photos. She explained that the current trend was not to choose one single colour for the bridesmaids’ dresses - instead, (and this is where I first heard the word in this context) it was all about the “palette”.

Like the word itself, the scene below suddenly took on a whole new dynamic. Who decides who gets the baby-soft blush peach shade and who - at the other end of the spectrum - has to wear the almost glow-in-the-dark orange creation. 

Although the style of the dresses could be pretty much what you like, I found myself wondering about arguments and fallings out over FaceTime  and even a ‘swatches at dawn’ scenario at the hen weekend.

I should perhaps also point out that the same colour palette situation applies to the “groom’s people” who comprise men and women - friends and family - of the groom who also line up for the ceremony in a colour coordinated manner.
Groom's people and bridesmaids

So, back to our 'Labor Day' weekend celebration … the palette was perfect for the woodland setting. The bridesmaids wore shades of green - from the softest sage, through pistachio and mint to - staying with the herbs - dark basil tones. While all were dressed in greys and silvers on the groom’s side. It looked magical.

And me? What did I wear? Well, by happy accident, my bottle green lace dress was a perfect match. In fact - if I had been thirty years younger - I could have stood beside Miss Dark Basil in the bridesmaids’ line up!