Penny McCarthy Independent Civil Funeral Celebrant
Serving bereaved families in Shropshire, Worcestershire and beyond
mccarthypenny@outlook.com 07849 208924
As we navigate the difficult, but precious, task of preparing to say farewell to someone we love, we all need someone alongside us who we trust and feel at ease with. So if you like what you read on this site and would to talk things through, please feel free to send me an email or give me ring for a chat with no obligation.
The image of the Tree of Life perfectly symbolises my approach to Funeral Celebrancy, representing both a memorial to those who have gone before, and the knowledge that they live on through their influence in the lives of those who knew them.
The death of each of us is in the order of things: it follows life as surely as night follows day. We can take the Tree of Life as a symbol. The human race is the trunk and branches of this tree, and individual men and women are the leaves, which appear one season, flourish for a summer and then die. I too am like a leaf of this tree, and one day I shall be torn off by a storm, or simply decay and fall and mingle with the earth at its roots. But, while I live I am conscious of the tree’s flowing sap and steadfast strength. When I die and fall the Tree of Life remains, nourished to some small degreee by my life. Millions of leaves have preceded me and millions will follow me; the tree itself grows and endures.’
The Tree of Life
About me
I bring a broad range of experience to the role of Civil Funeral Celebrant. I’ve always worked with people, initially in education and community music. The wish to be alongside people as they go through some of the most difficult times in their lives led me to volunteering, first with Samaritans, supporting the distressed and suicidal, and then with Cruse Bereavement Care, supporting those who struggle to cope with their loss. In my professional life I retrained as a Mindfulness teacher, working with people suffering from anxiety and depression.
‘Many thanks for your care and consideration. it will not be forgotten.’
The experience of being closely involved in creating and leading funeral ceremonies for two family members encouraged me to look into training as a Professional Civil Funeral Celebrant. The more I found out about the role, the more it seemed like a perfect fit; I love the people I meet both my clients and the other funeral professionals I work with. I love hearing people’s stories and helping them to tell them in a way that brings out the significance of an individual life. It’s a privilege to work closely with families at a such a difficult time, collaborating with them to put together a ceremony that will fulfil the need to adequately honour and acknowledge the importance of their loved one’s life, and allowing them to say their farewells in the way that feels right to them. And I have to confess that I also enjoy the experience of leading the ceremony on the day, ensuring that each part of the ceremony goes according to plan. I completed my training in 2016 and have been working as a Celebrant ever since. I’m often asked how I can do this work that inevitably involves a great deal of sadness, but I can’t imagine a more rewarding job than helping people to put together a ceremony that helps them get through such a difficult time. I love to work with people from all walks of life, old or young, of all faiths or none, and to celebrate all that makes us the wonderful human beings we are.
‘From the time you spent with us at the house getting to know the sort of person G was, to the day of her funeral and after, my father has complimented your superb professional and personal approach to what you do. The fact you listened and were tactful and sensitive to family issues. You didn’t rush us, and the exercise of telling you all the fabulous things about our amazing Mum helped us all. The fact that you were able to paint a picture of G in your service that was so very true of her character and personality,and with the greatest of respect to her. We would like you to know how grateful we are to you.
Copyright Penny McCarthy 2022
Whether we see ourselves as religious or not, I believe that human beings have an innately spiritual nature, in that we all have a sense of connection with something greater – whether that’s something we call God, or something else like the earth and nature, or simply the rest of the human race. At times of great stress, such as bereavement, this sense of connection can be of enormous comfort and support When I meet with bereaved families I work with them to ensure that the final funeral ceremony embodies whatever brings them that sense of connection. In my own spiritual life I’m a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers). Quakers don’t have priests because we believe we’re all equally responsible for our own and our community’s spiritual wellbeing. For me, the work of a civil funeral celebrant is not so much a job, but one way of contributing to the wellbeing of the community in which I live.
I’m based in rural Shropshire, between Bridgnorth and Ludlow and mostly work within a 30 mile radius of Bridgnorth, but if you’re further away and you like my approach, get in touch and we can talk things through.
The philosopher Herbert Read wrote these words about the Tree of Life:
‘Just a line to say thank you so much for the support you gave us before and at the crematorium for J’s service. Our phone calls and emails to me helped enormously as I had never had to do anything like this before. Your support and compassion were second to none.’
‘Thankyou again for all your support and for helping to make a very difficult occasion so much easier’