Penny McCarthy Independent Civil Funeral Celebrant
Serving bereaved families in Shropshire, Worcestershire and beyond
mccarthypenny@outlook.com 07849 208924
A unique and meaningful farewell for your loved one The death of someone we love is one of the most painful experiences we ever have to face, and if you’re here because you’ve recently suffered such a loss then please accept my sympathies.
My name is Penny McCarthy and I’m a qualified and experienced Civil Funeral Celebrant, working with bereaved families to create funeral ceremonies that fulfil these needs. Every part of a ceremony I co-create with a bereaved family is individual, designed to reflect the personality and beliefs of the person who has died.
From the words of welcome which open the ceremony, to the words of comfort which close it; from the telling of the story of a life that has been lived, to the words of farewell (sometimes called the committal), spoken as we let go of the life that has ended. From words of wisdom drawn from the work of great writers and poets, to music that was significant to the person who has died, or which expresses an important sentiment. And, when words aren’t enough, using symbols that have the power to express more potently what we feel - an open book, the lighting of a candle (where permitted by the venue), the placing of objects important to the person who has died .
All these elements are woven together to create a unique farewell to a unique individual and help us begin to let go of us some of our pain and begin the process of coming to terms with our loss.
A ‘good’ funeral?
I t may seem strange to speak of a funeral as being ‘good’. Surely it’s the last place we want to find ourselves. But funerals have an important purpose for those left behind in helping us come to terms with our loss. A good funeral is like a journey. We arrive, feeling lost and in pain, perhaps unable to really accept that the person we loved has died. Through words, music and symbolic actions, we acknowledge the pain and loss we feel, we honour, respect and celebrate all that was good about their life before formally saying our farewells. And funerals aren’t necessarily all sad - as we remember the life of our loved one and all the joy we shared with them, there will be smiles, too, and even laughter. And when we ‘get it right’ we leave at the end feeling changed, somehow better, lighter. We’ve acknowledged the importance of the life our loved one led, the impact they had on us. And along the way we’ve let go of some of the pain, and begun the process of coming to terms with a life without their physical presence, knowing too that, in a very real way, they will always be with us. Many of my clients say afterwards that they were dreading the funeral, but in the end it was a good day and they felt comforted by it.
‘I must say a big thankyou for leading A's funeral. It was a celebration of everything that made her a unique person. Friends and family have commented that we summed her up perfectly – warts and all!...She would have loved it....You covered everything in such a remarkable way, reflecting her true spirit..a good combination of levity and deference. Penny, you made it meaningful, uplifting and a very personal farewell. Thankyou so much – she would have approved!’
When someone we love has died, saying our farewells in a way that instinctively feels right, allowing us to express our feelings of loss and sorrow, while also honouring and celebrating their life, is an important part of the healing process
Simple dignified farewell, or joyous celebration of life. Religious, spiritual or completely non-religious. However you choose to do it, it’s a privilege for me to travel part of your journey with you and help ensure that your loved one receives the funeral they - and you - deserve, and I’ll do my utmost to help you achieve that.
A kind of funeral that’s responsive to your needs
Many people find that traditional religious funeral ceremonies, of whatever faith tradition, no longer accurately reflect the nature of their beliefs. Humanist ceremonies may exclude any mention of religion or spirituality. As an independent celebrant I’m free to respond to your wishes. So whether your loved one had no religious belief or held a spiritual belief which didn’t quite fit into an established faith tradition, or had a more philosophical approach to life, I’m equally happy to work with you to design a ceremony that reflects that. I’ve led ceremonies with no religious content, that honour beliefs in Paganism, Buddhism and Judaism, and others for people who had very personal spiritual or philosophical beliefs. And if you’d like a family member or friend to lead a part of the ceremony drawn from your faith tradition I welcome this and will support them to do so.
‘Although it was a sad occasion and most of us shed a few small tears, the reflective and philosophical tone of the ceremony was in keeping with my father's spiritual outlook and has given me great comfort.’
‘We could not have asked for anything more, what a perfect farewell to a wonderful woman. Everyone commented on how lovely the service was. Thank you Penny, for making a really difficult time for us a little bit easier.’
The tone you set was perfect in every way. It was not too sombre nor too joyous, it held a middle ground which was exactly what I was looking for. It was respectful and was a true reflection of D. The praise from all who attended was universal and it has certainly raised a question in many minds about how they would like their own funerals to be conducted.’
Copyright Penny McCarthy 2022
‘We have a mixed bag of friends of different beliefs and views on life and they all seemed to have come out more uplifted than downcast. It was what it was meant to be - just a celebration of life as C and I have always thought it should be.’
For a copy of the leaflet ‘Planning a Civil Funeral’, click here