“You can’t do that at a Funeral” is a phrase I’ve heard too many times. It’s not surprising that people think that way. The common perception of a funeral service is that it is a sombre occasion when people mourn, cry, sing hymns and listen to a Minister read prayers before the coffin disappears into the fire or ground. But not at a Civil Funeral!
Now, I’m not saying that we dance in the aisles, although I have had Morris Dancers and Line Dancers at my services, but we do smile, laugh, clap and, sometimes, joke. The content of a Civil Funeral really does depend on the character of the person who has died. Of course it is a sad occasion too and people will cry. But, with a loving and relevant service it provides a time to say goodbye that is full of light and shade.
It is all about that person and not about a particular religious institution. You can light candles, have poems, music, readings and family tributes, standard bearers if the person who has died was in the military, flags on the coffins, even a slide show of photographs – whatever content is meaningful to the family. In some crematoria you can also have an audio recording or video recording of the service.
If the person who died had some religious beliefs then a Civil Celebrant can include hymns and prayers at the funeral, but if that person was very religious then, of course, a Minister is the right choice to lead the service.
The final part of a funeral service is known as the ‘Committal’. At a Crematorium you can choose to have the curtains left open or closed. Generally, in the UK, the coffin remains where it is, so there is no opening of doors, squeaking of wheels as the coffin moves and certainly no flames!
Some families choose to leave the curtains open so that they can touch the coffin before they leave or put single stem flowers on it, while other families prefer to have them closed which, in a sense, brings them closure.
It is our privilege to be able to lead these services and we work hard to make sure the service not only reflects the wishes of the person who died, but that it also brings some comfort to their family and friends.
I would like to finish with this blog with a good old-fashioned joke from Tommy Cooper, which was used at one of the funerals I conducted recently:
“I went to the funeral of a tennis player the other day. It was a great service……”