What does a typical day at work look like for you?
As a self-employed funeral celebrant, I view my work as a privilege as I get to offer a much-needed public service. In today’s more secular society fewer people find themselves associated with a particular church, yet many still hold on to some form of spiritual or religious beliefs. When it comes to organising funerals often what is offered is either a fully traditional religious service or an atheist-style humanist service – neither of which may be truly appropriate.
I have been specifically trained and certified as a Celebrant to seek and meet the needs of families during their time of loss. I plan funerals to respect the customs of those of all faiths or none and everything in between. The most important concern for me is to ensure that each funeral I arrange will be personalised and truly reflect the deceased person’s beliefs or philosophies.
So, a typical day at work for me is likely to involve visiting a bereaved family in their home and predominantly spending time listening and learning about the person who has died. I will help the family think about the content of the funeral service they want for their loved one. This involves identifying whether prayers, poems and music are to be included, who would be speaking at the service (I actively encourage all those who want to take part), and I gather the information to be included in the tribute or eulogy.
Following the visit, I write a draft eulogy that will be viewed by the client/family before the funeral, to ensure their loved one is ‘present’ within it. I work alongside the funeral director to make the practical arrangements. I also enjoy spending time building up my collection of readings, prayers, poems and music that people may like to use for the ceremony.
What signals the start of your weekend/days off?
Saturday mornings start with a visit from my in-laws, laden with fresh and healthy produce from a local farm shop and treats for our 3 dogs heralds the weekend for us. After lunch, my husband rounds up our grandsons for the St Johnstone game. I usually spend Saturday at home and I enjoy preparing a nice meal from scratch or chilling with other family members. Sundays, we have breakfast in town before going to St Matthew's Sunday service.
What might people be surprised to know about you
I continue (futilely) to try and learn to play the saxophone. I have put I continue to try and learn to play the saxophone and I have put together a gin appreciation society in Perth. together a gin appreciation society in Perth (GASP) and I’ve also set up a monthly film club at St Matthews Church. I have completed the Caledonian Etape and managed to reach the summit of Ben Nevis.
Top of your bucket list?
Mmm – 18 months ago I would have said that a trip to Bora Bora was at the top of my bucket list. I have wanted to go there since I first saw a picture of the Island many years ago – a time when there was virtually no accommodation available.
However, I am much more aware of my own mortality since having treatment for breast cancer (and finding out last Christmas that I have the BRACA 2 mutation). My husband and I have already been lucky enough to visit many countries around the world. Now though I believe it’s the smaller things that matter more. Like, spending as much time with those I love, meeting new people, being mindful of how lucky I am, appreciating the beauty of Scotland that’s on our doorstep.
Finally, high on my bucket list is to keep working and make a success of being a Celebrant! I’m not nearly ready to stop yet!
Worst job you’ve ever had?
That’s a hard question- I’ve had a couple of jobs that were unnecessarily stressful but I believe we can learn something useful from every experience we have whether it is good or bad. It’s from our experiences in life that our character or personality is carved from. Bad experiences tend to push me on. I am truly a life-long learner and I believe it’s never too late to learn something new. In fact, I think we each have a duty to make the most of ourselves and our lives. I left school with a ‘B’ in English. To get enough qualifications to do nurse training I went to Perth College and I spent more than 20 years as a nurse, most at Murray Royal Hospital. I loved being a nurse but I wanted to learn so at 34 years old I went to Dundee University to study for my MA in Psychology. I then completed my PhD in health service research at Dundee. The last four years or so I carried out a research study with families from Perthshire who were living with dementia.
In between my paid work I have worked as a volunteer bereavement counsellor for CRUSE, trained to take funerals and a worship leader in the Church of Scotland. Every one of these jobs has brought different rewards and trials.
Who or what inspires you?
My faith. I have always ‘felt’ I have been looked after but never would I have comfortably talked about God. I always had a sense of being in a ‘holy’ place when at the bedside of patients as they died. I started to become a Christian about 15 years ago (and I’m still a work in progress) when I had been with my dad for pretty much all of the last few days of his life. It was during this very special time that my dad – and as far as I know - for the first and last time - spoke of whether he had been good enough to get into heaven. It seemed to me then, that there was a presence – a ‘facilitator’ in the room with us. It wasn’t until after he died that I came to believe that my dad had been doing this thing called repenting. And because it is never too late to do this, if Heaven exists, he will be there. Although it’s the inner strength that I get from my faith that keeps me going I do not and will not, ever push my faith on to others.
Funnily enough- answering this question has reminded me that it was my dad who first taught me to read, tie my shoelaces, tell the time and continued to encourage me with my studies.
Tell us about a weekend you’d love to live again?
We were at the last Loopallu festival a couple of weeks ago. It was great to spend time with my husband, enjoy the variety of music and just chill out. However, for me, it’s more about appreciating the events at the time then taking all opportunities to experience new things and new places rather than re-living previous events.
What’s the best part about your job?
Being invited into very intimate and sacred moments of people’s lives. Helping families/clients plan the funeral they know would be pleasing to the deceased.
What’s in the perfect day off breakfast?
Poached or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon followed with brown toast and my mother-in-law’s homemade jam.
Complete this sentence; the best things in life are …
“Taking the time to stop and stare” (inspired by the poem Leisure by WH Davies). Sharing food and spending time with friends, family and meeting new people.
And importantly, being adored by grandchildren!
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