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How's it all going...

In the week-to-week world of funerals, as a celebrant working with and alongside conductors, arrangers and many others, we each play an important role in all that comes and goes with each service, and the natural sadness and joys remembered, with the passing of someone loved.

My dad is eighty-seven now and keeps an eye on the Tribute pages in the daily paper, and awhile back told me that from time to time he sees an old friend's name among the memorials.

He often asks with that kind knowing look.…'how’s it all going?'

I’ve come to see over these near seven years, a pride in his eyes, having a son who works as a Funeral Celebrant.

Likely for most of us in this ‘profession of end of life’ it was not generally a career, which we ran from school shouting I’m going to be a Celebrant, a Funeral Conductor, a Mortician.

It is however, on being a part of it, a most special, respected and unique responsibility to help so many people in this vital way.

It seems for those with far more years gone than left to come, age and experience rings a vastly different take on the value of things we do, the importance we place on them, and how valuable others see it and us..!

'Yes, it’s steady...' I add, recalling years back when asked by a friend what work I do, and on explaining, he smiled in a very real, practical and warm hearted way saying

'very good, their will always be more to do'

At a service a few months back at Bunurong Memorial Park, where 150 or so family and friends of the deceased gathered – for a Scotsman from Glasgow.

The piper played 'Will Ye No Come Back Again' and like in so many services, the idea and reality spoken, that amid all the things we experience and see, create, do and share, the conditions and situations we find ourselves, life is ever changing...

‘...What has been gathered will be dispersed, what has been accumulated will be exhausted, what has been built up will collapse, and what is born will one day die’. Buddha

What is it then we each do, we each bring to our work, warmly welcomed, seemingly mundane, yet deeply cherished, so vital to the doing of this unique job and important livelihood of ours.

When that voice on the phone, you as Conductor or Arranger asks the Celebrant ‘Would you be available next such and such a day and date?

We call the family and make contact, that vital connection of human warmth. So begin the days - leading up to those hours - when things stop for a brief time – and in the calm quiet, those gathered from near and far, with tears and smiles from a thousand different places – they say their personal and public thank you's and farewell.

Right there in our warm smile and readiness to step up, in our unique ways, presence and style, we too gently ask ‘how’s it all going…?’

And there in those moments the hints and hallmarks of our talent and compassion come forward.

Our professionalism, friendliness, practicality to bring it all together – from order of service to graveside committal - the readiness to listen and learn, our cultural adaptability to tune in to the nuances of human nature, life stories, amid bare emotions and the inherent wish for happiness and freedom from suffering which we all have at heart.

In the very first funeral service I did in 2010 as a Professional Celebrant, which was at Le Pine Funerals Croydon, on meeting the family in the days before, the teenage children asked me to read their dad's favourite poem.

I'm not sure if he wrote it or someone else, but it was special to them, because it was special to their dad. The sentiments and aspirations are a gift for us all.

‘There is really nothing you must be,

except yourself.

There is nothing you must do,

except be yourself.

There is really nothing you must have,

except yourself.

There is really nothing you must know,

except yourself.

There is really nothing you must become,

except yourself.’

Of we the people and colleagues who work here, conductors, arrangers, drivers and attendants, celebrants, printers & graphic artists, caterers and the tea lady’s, florists and pipers, musicians and performers, AV specialists, and many more…

Together we bring all sorts of experience, sensitivity, kindness and compassion to help make that unfamiliar occasion - just that little less sad, somehow more bearable, more real.

And over cups of tea and sandwiches, and handwritten notes in days and weeks to follow…

‘You did him proud’ ... 'she would have approved’ …. ‘You fitted the family mould beautifully’ … ‘thank you so much'

To each conductor who have chosen me to work with their families and clients, thank you for every one of those precious gifts, and opportunities to serve again and again.

Looking forward to the next time conditions entrust me to work with you.

That's about it for now ...

Best wishes, of health, harmony and happiness, to you and your family for 2017.

With kind wishes always.

Julian Bamford

Funeral Celebrant & Master of Ceremonies


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