Good Funeral Awards opening address

Charles Cowling

The Good Funeral Awards opening ceremony comprised a cavalcade of alternative hearses, a flower arranging contest, a dove release and a performance by the green fuse choir. It culminated in this address by funeral celebrant Belinda Forbes. You had to be there, of course, to get the full 120% because Belinda’s delivery is very compelling. But the 100% version still says it all.  

 

Looking around tonight, I think it’s fairly safe to say that we’re a mixed bunch.  But, as well as our funeral work, we do have something else in common…

We worry. And it’s not surprising.  With funerals, there’s only ONE chance to get it right.  No re-takes.

I worry about everything.  As the hollow-eyed man who is my husband will tell you.  However, most things are in our control so, it’s the day of the funeral when I do most of my worrying.  On one occasion I was so worried that the family bearers were going to drop the coffin that I did the only thing a celebrant can do in a situation like this. 

I shut my eyes. 

But whenever I’m worrying, there’s one thing I know I can depend on – all the people around me who care as well, wanting THIS funeral to be best it can be.  And to everyone I work with and the staff at my local crematorium in Bracknell: THANK YOU for looking after me and making me smile.

And so, despite the worry, I can truthfully say…

I love my job. 

But I don’t make a habit of telling people this.  Because they might think I’m saying, ‘I love death.’  Or worse, ‘I love it when people die.’

When we say what we do for a living, some people are fascinated and want to know more.  Others are so desperate to escape, SO determined NOT to know more, that they’ll put their hands up as if trying to protect themselves from what we might reveal!

Part of the shock is our fault of course.  Because we cunningly disguise ourselves to look like normal people. 

But tonight, thanks to a slightly bonkers yet wonderfully brilliant idea by those visionaries, Brian Jenner and Charles Cowling, we can reveal ourselves.  IN ALL OUR GLORY.

Instead of words like dismal, unpleasant, sombre and depressing we can UNASHAMEDLY use words like devoted, enthusiastic, dedicated and inspirational. 

And one day we’ll be able to tell everyone what we do for a living without apologising and saying, ‘It’s not as bad as it sounds…’

Finally, some advice from a lady who writes posts for the Good Funeral Guide Blog: that wise and fearless funeral-goer Lyra Mollington.

‘To the finalists: well done and my very best wishes.  And, if you win one of the awards, try not to look too elated or smug: just a serene acceptance that your brilliance has at last been recognised.’

And I now hand you back to the force of nature that is our host this evening.  The loveliest and most generous man in the land of funerals, Mr Charles Cowling.

 

ED’S NOTE: It was an inviolable condition of publishing this that the nice bits about me stayed in. Pass over them. Brian is justly garlanded

16 thoughts on “Good Funeral Awards opening address

  1. Charles Cowling
    Lula

    Well my mum is a celebrant and I can’t wait for people to ask me what she does so I can tell them. Even if they don’t I’ll crowbar it in there! Great speech!


    Charles Cowling
  2. Charles Cowling
    Ginny

    Wow – a fab speech from Belinda. Before I met her I was totally ignorant about the industry but she has taught me so much in a factual, professional and compassionate manner , not to mention her sharp wit!
    When people have attended one of her funerals they come away knowing they have attended a very special ceremony with their loved one at the heart of it. She is keen and enthusiastic and I know she just loves her job while recognising the help, support and professionals that make that possible.
    Oh yeah – and she did look good in that dress!


    Charles Cowling
  3. Charles Cowling
    Evelyn

    The more I read, the more I wish I’d been there! This is a brilliant speech by Belinda. She manages to capture our thoughts and feelings as if by magic and distill them into a perfect vignette of life in funeral world. We don’t exist in isolation, none of us can succeed alone. We are networked by invisible threads of referral, friendship and recommendation, creating a safety net of support and professionalism for our precious families.


    Charles Cowling
    1. Charles Cowling
      Rosemary Dry

      Hello Evelyn, like you I wish I had been there. I have just done my first funeral after a two and a half year break, which I felt able to take on after encouragement from Belinda. She is indeed an extra ordinary person, and brings something of herself into her services which I think offers so much empathy, compassion, and a sense of calm to the families.


      Charles Cowling
  4. Charles Cowling
    Simon irons

    Sorry I missed this, was it a sell out how many people attended, will try for next year. Might even nomInate myself for an award … Lol


    Charles Cowling
    1. Charles Cowling
      Charles

      Do, Simon. We are non-denominational, as you can see.


      Charles Cowling
      1. Charles Cowling
        Charles Cowling

        What category would you like us to put you down for? (We shall have extra categories next year.)


        Charles Cowling
        1. Charles Cowling
          Ru Callender

          Bad Crematorium of the Year. Sorry to be cynical, but….


          Charles Cowling
          1. Charles Cowling
            Charles Cowling

            Line of least resistance: Best. The magnitude of the task of identifying the worst is daunting.


            Charles Cowling
          2. Charles Cowling
            Belinda Forbes

            And there I was thinking of ‘Best Crematorium’ of the year. Maybe ( and I know it’s a long shot) it would encourage the not-so-good ones…


            Charles Cowling
  5. Charles Cowling
    Belinda Forbes

    Thank you very much for all your kind comments. Afterwards I met Rev. Paul of motorbike funeral fame and he said that when I stepped up onto the stage he thought I was an opera singer. I think he was disappointed when it was a speech not an aria!


    Charles Cowling
  6. Charles Cowling
    David Holmes

    Belinda is just brilliant. A real gem.

    ‘Networking in the garden’ – prompts me to relate that Barry Albin-Dyer recognised me from a distance – we last met over 15 years ago. Despite that – he also remembered my name which is staggeringly impressive. Unfortunately he also remembered that I had more recently written in the funeral service journal – commentating on his TV covered cane waving and hat routine. Being a top bloke – he took it in very good part 🙂 thanks Barry. Your award was well deserved.


    Charles Cowling
  7. Charles Cowling
    Paul Hensby

    The prelude in the lovely garden in which a lot of great networking took place, followed by the excellent awards ceremony. Charles was in great form, and a special mention too to Kristie West who made the first nomination speech…short, warm and engaging. Congratulations to Brian Jenner who put so much work into the Joy of Death weekend and all the winners. Although it was not so much about winning as ‘being there’.


    Charles Cowling
  8. Charles Cowling
    Ru Callender

    Belinda’s beautiful opening speech set the tone perfectly. Not just articulate and funny, but glamorous too.


    Charles Cowling
    1. Charles Cowling
      sweetpea

      Hear, hear! Gwyneth Paltrow eat your heart out.


      Charles Cowling
      1. Charles Cowling
        Charles Cowling

        Goodness, is that her present loopy Hollywood diet?

        You’re quite right, though. Belinda is a wand in human form.


        Charles Cowling

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