The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Second hand truth

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

“God, this is awful,” I mutter under my breath to my cousin who is sitting beside me on the pew at the front of the chapel. The funeral celebrant, who had never met my mother, is reading the eulogy. On top of everything else, she has a monotonous voice and is droning on about someone I do not recognize, certainly not my mother.

So begins a blog by psychologist Jane Christmas.

My mother’s personality was so complex and her life so sad, and my sister and I had barely taken a breath to start thinking about what it meant to have lost her. The celebrant suggested we could tell her about my mother’s life and she would write it, so we agreed. It was a mistake. We should have written it and at least presented my mother accurately at her own funeral.

Read the whole post here.

6 comments on “Second hand truth

  1. Monday 3rd January 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Hear, hear, Nicola. So many celebrants think this is something they are doing for a family. Mistake. They are doing it WITH them.

  2. Nicola

    Monday 3rd January 2011 at 4:06 pm

    One crucial point – the celebrant should have sent the family a copy of the tribute to approve BEFORE reading it out. I never read a tribute without knowing the family has checked it first, not just for accurate names and dates but to ensure it’s a true reflection of the deceased. The family need to recognise the person being talked about and feel comfortable with the type of language used to describe them. What a shame this didn’t happen…

  3. Thursday 9th December 2010 at 6:22 pm

    I so agree with Gloria.

    Of course we all try to put a positive spin, but the positive spin in this case should have been as the daughter pointed out (eg) – she liked the social side of tennis, not the attempt at a grand slam.

    It sounds like this was a poor celebrant, but the family has no chance to rectify, after the event.

    Gloria’s questions are pertinent. Why the rush? Why was the celebrant doing the whole thing?

    Surely one of the first questions to ask a family is “would anyone like to speak at the funeral?”

    The best ceremonies we do are the ones where we say the least, just introduce the speakers and make sure the music plays at the right time – celebrant as compere/assistant stage manager. Sometimes we have to go in front of the limelight, but it’s never first choice.

    What a sad story. I trust that their father’s funeral went much better.

  4. Wednesday 8th December 2010 at 6:53 pm

    sorry, that should be “sick,” not “sicl.” Shouldn’t comment whilst I’m still cross.

    Of course, sometimes people really can’t manage a tribute and need to tell the celebrant what it is they want said for them. But these people could have done it. Bah!

  5. Wednesday 8th December 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Deeply depressing. The key statement for me in the whole post seems to be this:
    “Initially, we were going to write the eulogy ourselves, but found the whole process really difficult because it was too soon to process fully what we wanted to say.”
    So, given a little more time and the right sort of support, they could have managed it. WHAT’S THE GODDAM RUSH? Why do people keep getting getting shoved along into hasty arrangements, and by whom? They could have done this themselves, perhaps with the celebrant just framing it and sorting out the procedural stuff.

    Having said that, it does also sound as though the celebrant was breaking half the rules in the compulsory rule book we’ll all have to learn by heart when I take over (yes I know it’s taking a long time – Rome wasn’t demolished in a day…)
    1. She makes it sound as though she knew the dead person.
    2.She assumes things, i.e. she extrapolates without foundation from what she’s been told.

    She does these things probably because she wants to seem sympatico. Complete flop – never works.

    As for the monotonous voice – should have been sorted out at interview and training – aah. What interview? What training? One wonders….

    Whatever else it’s about, it’s about effective projection and communication. Some people shouldn’t be teachers if they can’t talk well in front of people. Ditto celebrants. Sorry, that’s it. I can’t navigate sailing boats – makes me sicl. End of story. Monotonous voice? Unfortunate – sorry, do something else.

    Poor people. What a shame. How bloody infuriating.

  6. Sonya

    Wednesday 8th December 2010 at 6:05 pm

    I can so relate to this. Having someone else do a wright up seemed to be such a welcome help at the time but at what a price…

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