After two years of hard work, we are thrilled to announce the publication of our book,
'Poetry for Funerals'
My journey as a celebrant started in 2008 in New Zealand. Initially, I was a marriage celebrant, and although I loved it, it didn’t feel like my calling. Funeral services were not something I thought I would be able to do. It was my lovely Mum, who persuaded me that my talents would lie in helping families with funerals. Rather reluctantly, thinking I would be entirely too emotional and cry at every service I took, I found a funeral director who trusted me with my first service.
I can remember stepping up to the lectern, a lump in the back of my throat, thinking I am never going to get through this. I had become way too attached to the family I was helping, their loss felt like my loss.
But I got through it and at the end of the service the family thanked me for the service and how personal it felt.
And at that moment I realised my calling, was to be a funeral celebrant.
Over the years I have got a little better at keeping my emotions in check. But I believe it’s my empathy that makes me a good funeral celebrant.
He was an actor, writer, videographer, and an all-around lovely man! He was fascinated by my work and started coming along to the funerals to help with sound. After a little while, I suggested to him that he read a poem for me at a memorial service I was taking in the park. No one else was speaking and I felt like an hour of just me was too much. After a lot of persuasion, he agreed to do it. After that day he needed no more persuasion and started working towards becoming a funeral celebrant himself.
I may be a little biased, although I don’t think so, when I say, he is truly the best celebrant I know. He is amazing with families, has empathy in abundance, and is a wonderful listener. He also a talented writer and we started writing and performing services together, as one funeral director put it ‘as a tag team’. We felt that as two celebrants we could offer something truly unique. Our motto became ‘Two hearts are better than one’. Our poetry was a natural progression of our work.
We started writing the poetry for our book some years ago when we met a beautiful family in a farming
community in Beaudesert. Andrew’s wife Gayle had died, she was a relatively young woman, with so many things left to do and so much still left to give. His grief was so hard to watch. The love this family shared was something truly special and it was hard for us as husband and wife to not put ourselves in their position, the loss of my beautiful husband is something I cannot begin to even contemplate. Our empathy for Andrew was overwhelming in every way possible.
As we sat and listened to his beautiful stories and started to plan Gayle’s service, we knew that nothing we had in the way of poems or prose would fit this funeral. We showed him various poems but nothing was right.
We found ourselves caught up in his emotion and before we realised what we were doing, we had offered to write something unique for her.
We both felt a little sick coming home in the car and spent much of the journey in silence. What possessed us to think we could write a poem for someone?
But as we poured over our notes from the meeting, we could hear Andrew’s voice in our heads, and the poem as simple as it was, wrote itself. And it was simple, it certainly wasn’t Keats or Tennyson. But it was about her, and to our relief Andrew loved it. After the funeral, we gave Andrew and his family a framed copy of the poem and I know it meant a great deal to him.
We are proud of that first poem in all its’ simplicity ‘The Sun is Up’ represented something new, a new way to help the families in our care. From that moment on we started writing poetry for some of the families we were helping.
There are some incredible poems for funerals, ‘Look for me in Rainbows’ will always remain one of mine, or ‘Do not stand at my grave and weep’ which still brings me to tears when I have to read it for someone. I have read both of these beautiful poems so many times at memorials and funerals and will continue to do so. But we wanted to offer some new poetry, poetry that could be customised to the family’s individual needs. Plus we wanted to give other celebrants and families more choices.
All of the poems in our collection, as much as possible are customisable. Next to each poem are tips to customise the poem for a person. Whether that’s as simple as replacing a name in our poem ‘The Jigsaw’ or the types of flowers they liked to grow in our poem ‘The Gardener’. We wanted to give other celebrants, officiants, and families poems that could be bespoke for their loved ones.
Craig and I are incredibly proud of our book. The last two years have had their challenges and there were times when we thought we would never get it finished. To have a copy in our hands is so exciting. I feel like we have achieved something really special.
We are incredibly proud of this book and the effort that went into it. As I said before it’s not about being the next Keats or Tennyson; it's about capturing the essence of each person and creating something special for their loved ones. Each poem in the collection is dedicated to someone special, and we've included a brief snippet of their story to honour them.
We are incredibly grateful to all those people who encouraged us to write this book. Who believed in us as celebrants and writers. As we look to the future, we hope to continue adding to our collection and creating more meaningful tributes for those in need.
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