Penny McCarthy Independent Civil Funeral Celebrant
Serving bereaved families in Shropshire, Worcestershire and beyond
mccarthypenny@outlook.com 07849 208924
Creating the ceremony - together
If you’ve never had to organise a funeral before (and most of us haven’t), the prospect can be daunting. But don’t worry, I work closely with you, your Funeral Director, and the staff at the funeral venue, to bring together all the elements of the ceremony. Broadly speaking the Celebrant is responsible for everything that happens once everyone has arrived at the funeral venue and the coffin has been brought in, but please feel free to ask me about anything that is concerning you at any point. If I don’t know the answer then I know who does!
Meeting to discuss your wishes
I understand that suffering a close bereavement is emotionally and physically draining, and that when we meet you may be feeling far from fit to organise an important event. My wide experience of working with people going through difficult times in their lives gives me the skills to put you at your ease and gently guide you through the process, offering suggestions if you’re unsure and encouraging you to add personal touches, or following your lead if you know what you want. I work sensitively and creatively with you to create a beautiful funeral ceremony that will appropriately honour and celebrate the one you love, allowing you to say your farewells in the way that feels right to you. Many people find that this opportunity to talk at length about their loved one, to someone who is genuinely interested and curious about their life, is just what they need and they feel better for it afterwards.
On the day On the day of the funeral I’ll be at the venue at least 30 minutes beforehand to welcome you when you arrive, ensure that everything is in place, and to allay any last minute worries. I can lead the whole ceremony or act as master of ceremonies, supporting you and introducing the different parts of the ceremony and speakers if you and your family would like to lead it yourselves. I’ll be there after the ceremony as well, on hand should you have any questions or concerns. Afterwards I’ll be in touch the day after the ceremony to check that you were happy with the arrangements and send you a printed presentation copy of the text of the ceremony a few days later
Writing your own tribute
I love hearing my clients’ stories and writing tributes to their loved ones, but it’s also wonderful when families wish to write their own personal tribute and I’m very happy to help you with this if you don’t feel so confident, and to support you in speaking on the day. It can be difficult to speak in public when you’re already feeling emotional, but most people who do are glad that they did this one last service for their loved one. And don’t forget, I’ll be there to back you up on the day if you’re not sure you’ll feel up to speaking.
‘Thankyou so much for your letter and the copies of the text of the ceremony. I was so thrilled to receive them. It was a privilege to have you to conduct the ceremony and many people who were there have commented how well you led the funeral - so calm and unrushed. In fact P said he would wish that you would conduct his ceremony when his time comes! I do find comfort in having the whole ceremony to read whenever I wish.... I feel very lucky that A sent you to me. I am certain no one could have done better for my Dad.’
Alongside you all the way
Once the date and time of the funeral is agreed I’ll give you a ring for an initial chat so we can begin to get to know eachother, so I can find out some basic information, and to discuss any concerns you may have. We’ll agree a date and time to meet, either in person, or by Zoom if that’s not possible. Very rarely if neither of those options are possible we’ll have this discussion over the phone. The main meeting usually takes about two hours, although it can be shorter or longer, depending on how much planning you’ve already done. If you already have a clear idea what you would like included in the ceremony then I’ll work with you to fulfil this, but it will probably take less time. We’ll take time to think through all the elements of the funeral, including any music you want to be played, and discuss whether any family members or friends wish to contribute by writing or reading a tribute or poem, playing a piece of music, or leading a symbolic gesture, such as the lighting of a candle (where permitted by the venue), or the planting of a tree at a woodland burial. But most of the time will be spent talking about the person who has died, so I can find out as much as possible about their life story and personality. This enables me to write a tribute that will truly reflect the person you knew and loved, (unless you’re writing your own), but it’s also so that I can ensure that all the other ceremony wording is in keeping with their personality and values. I’ll discuss timing with you so we can be sure the ceremony fits comfortably into the time allotted without it feeling rushed.
After the meeting, I’ll email you with a summary of what we’ve agreed and flag up any further information I need. If the funeral is to be at a crematorium the music is usually provided by a digital music service and I will ensure this is ordered promptly. I’ll stay in touch with you and, as soon as the first draft of the text is ready, usually four or five days after the meeting, I’ll send you a copy for you to comment on and amend as necessary. This is a most important part of the process as it means that you can be sure that you’re completely happy with everything that will be said on the day and that there are no errors we’ve all been to a funeral where the officiant got a key name or place wrong! If there are alterations to make or contributions from family or friends to include, I’ll send you an updated copy of the text for final approval.
Thankyou for making a sad day so much better We wanted everything to go perfectly for L's farewell. You made that happen. You have a truly caring nature and we couldn't have asked for anyone better to conduct L's service. Penny, we are foreve grateful to you.’
Copyright Penny McCarthy 2022