How To Write A Tribute To A Loved One

Writing a tribute to a loved one to read at a funeral can seem a daunting prospect, can’t it. I mean, where do you start? Often we are writing these at one of the saddest moments of our lives and it can be hard to think of the things that made this person great, when it breaks your heart to recall these things you will miss.

But equally, putting to paper the things about your loved one that made you smile can be therapeutic and help us in our time of sadness.
So where do you start? There is no real answer to this – just write the first things that come to mind. If it is easier, make a list of everything that reminds you of them. you can always flesh the list out afterwards – or not! Some people just like to read out a list as a tribute – there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to sharing how your loved one made you feel.

If you are really stuck, here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Three words you think of when you think of your loved one
  • What colour does your loved one remind you of?
  • Would your loved one have a ‘soundtrack’ to life? For example, if you could imagine music to accompany the life and the things they did, what would it be?
  • If you were making a recipe of your loved one, what would you put in it (eg, a scoop of love, a pinch of reason, a spritz of chanel no 5…)
  • What are three significant moments or milestones you shared with your loved one?
Lastly, it might help to create a ‘mood board’ of things your loved one liked, with pictures of them. Even just describing the mood board is a great tribute.
when it comes to writing your tribute, there are no rules- you don’t have to go in time-order, and you could even write sentences down and randomise them – like a poem, or link the sentences with a ‘catch phrase’ (some examples of this style of ‘poem’ below)

One the Day:

You might be a bit nervous about reading you tribute out on this emotional occasion. Here’s a few tips:

  • Take some tissues – remember it’s okay to feel emotional, everyone will understand if you feel emotional during your tribute
  • Your celebrant will be there to help you! Send them a copy of your tribute and let them know if you would like them to read it on your behalf. We are happy to do this, and we are just as happy to stand by and if you give us the nod, to pick up your tribute if you feel like you can’t continue reading it. We are here to catch you, basically.
  • Take your time to read it, take a breath after each sentence.
  • Remember, you are surrounded by loved ones, and people your loved one knew and loved. They are not there to judge you at all, they are there to share your lovely words about the person who they also loved.
  • Print your reading out with a large font size – the lighting is typically soft in a funeral venue so your usual font size might be difficult to read – the bigger the better!

And Then The Sun Came Out…

Most of us, when we attend the funeral of a loved one, even if we don’t believe in the after life, look for a sign that they are still with us. Yes, it might be wishful thinking, but we take comfort in signs, it makes us feel like our loved one is there, looking over us, and death isn’t the full stop at the end of life.

At yesterday’s service, it really felt like there was a sign. It was a freezing cold day, there were even a few wisps of snow, starting to whisper out of the sky, but as soon as the hearse arrived, the sun came out. Without the bitter temperature, you would be forgiven for thinking it was a lovely summer’s day. The sun stayed out, and bright until the curtains were closed at the committal. If there was anyone at that service, looking for a sign, then that would have been all the reassurance they needed.

Here’s an inspiring poem, which I read as part of the service…

When I’m Gone By Mosiah Lyman Hancock

When I come to the end of my journey
And I travel my last weary mile
Just forget if you can, that I ever frowned
And remember only the smile 

Forget unkind words I have spoken
Remember some good I have done
Forget that I ever had heartache
And remember I’ve had loads of fun 

Forget that I’ve stumbled and blundered
And sometimes fell by the way
Remember I have fought some hard battles
And won, ere the close of the day 

Then forget to grieve for my going
I would not have you sad for a day
But in summer just gather some flowers
And remember the place where I lay 

And come in the shade of evening
When the sun paints the sky in the west
Stand for a few moments beside me
And remember only my best

It’s Okay Not To Wear Black…

Firstly, let’s get this straight. I really like wearing black. I wear it a lot, and it goes with everything. But when it comes to my own “send off” I would ask people to wear something colourful that reminds them of me and that makes them happy.

In the Western world, the wearing of black as a mark of respect crept into fashionable mourning practices in the 1870s, after Queen Victoria’s beloved Albert died in 1861, and she donned the black funeral garb which she never really took off. It was customary to mourn your nearest and dearest for two years – so you would wear black for two years. Widows, like Queen Victoria, often wore black for far longer, some even for the rest of their lives – you’ve all heard of ‘black widows’, right? It was thought that this person was showing their love and respect for their dearly departed, thus also sending out the message that they are not available to conduct another relationship as their loved one is still in their heart.

Wearing dark clothes to mark a death has been in our culture for at least 500 years – and before then, people might wear a piece of clothing that made them uncomfortable, to match their suffering, or to symbolise to others that their heart is broken.

In other cultures, wearing bright clothes to mark a death is common practice. Wearing the colours to celebrate a person’s life but also as symbolism. for example, in some cultures, wearing white at a funeral signifies purity, purple has a sacred and spiritual meaning to it and in ancient Egypt, gold was associated with the afterlife.

There is a school of thought that says wearing black at a funeral will help you mourn as it encourages solemnity, while colours encourage happy thoughts. It is entirely up to those planning their ceremony to decide on the best way to mourn or celebrate their loved one. If you feel asking mourners to wear something colourful is the best way to remember your loved one, than I say go for it. But you can inject a bit of their personality into your proceedings if you feel wearing black is more for you. you could ask people to wear a certain flower in a certain colour, or something colourful/in a certain colour along with their black funeral attire. You can also ask your celebrant to take part too. And if you have asked us to wear a certain colour or flower, we can add that as part of your loved one’s story – the significance and what it means to them.

We are always happy to respect your wishes – it’s what we do!

Video Link Funerals – and How to Involve Those At home…

In these unprecedented times, and with limited numbers on people attending a funeral, not everyone can say goodbye to a loved one ‘in person’. Saying farewell is important as it helps the grieving process and enables us to celebrate their lives and appreciate how important they were to everyone who is paying their respects.

It can be quite a difficult task for a family to decide who can attend – especially when numbers are limited to an average of 16, but what does make the decision slightly less painful is the ability to have the service webcast so those who cannot attend the funeral can either watch in real time, or at a time that is convenient to themselves, by way of a video link which is provided, securely, before the service. Some crematoriums offer to record services and can provide a USB with this on. Both of these services are available for a fee, and your Funeral Director can usually take care of this for you.

If you are broadcasting a service, it is a really lovely thought to acknowledge those who will be watching, so they feel included in the service and part of the deceased’s life. Here’s a few ways a celebrant can involve those at home:

  • A special welcome in the opening speech – A celebrant can welcome those watching on the link, as well as those attending in person. If there are important people in the deceased’s life, who could not attend the funeral for their own reasons (eg distance, illness…), it is lovely for them to be acknowledged by name.
  • Involve them in an action – for example, if the deceased liked drinking tea, while those attending the funeral in person pause for a moment of reflection, those at home could be encouraged to raise their cups and think about the lovely times they had with their loved one
  • Invent a ritual to spread light and love – While most indoor venues don’t allow naked flame (this might be different if you are holding your ceremony outside), there is no reason why those watching at home can’t light a candle. Your celebrant can write a simple candle ritual that asks those at home to light a candle to send the light of their love for the deceased into the universe. Of course, you would need to prepare those watching the ceremony that they would need to have a candle ready. This can also be performed with battery operated candles and other things such as incense.

There are many other ways you can involve those unable to make a ceremony in person. You can contact me directly if you think I can help you create your special moments.

A Poem for All Soul’s Day

Their loving soul has touched us all,
They didn’t need to stay;
Their spirit touched each one of us,
Before it sailed away.

We all know souls arrive on earth
With special roles to fill
And theirs has fully played its part
Their memory guides us still.

They had a very special soul
They stayed but just a while;
So if and when you’re feeling sad
Recall them with a smile.

For then you’ll know inside your heart
The reasons why they’ve gone;
And never feel too empty that
Their role down here is done.

Their spirit touched each one of us,
No other ever could.
Forever we willcherish them
The way we know we should.

(Anon)

#soul#allsoulsday#memorial#funeral#rememberance#funeralpoem

Why did I Become A Celebrant?

I’ve been asked this a few times recently… ‘Why did you want to do this?’ and the answer is pretty simple. I just want to help people say goodbye to their loved one in a memorable and special way, and create moments that will be memorable…

All of us have had a pretty crappy year, and this year we said goodbye to a lot of people. Big T was my father in law, and he had not been well for a while. Three years ago he had a stroke at the wheel of his car and crashed into someone head on. We thought he was going to die there and then as he was rushed into hospital and was in the intensive care unit for a few weeks, unable to move because of his injuries. After that, he was sent to a ward, and eventually came home. This was the start of a few years of further strokes, an advanced dementia diagnosis, numerous falls in the house (and ambulance crew visits/hospital admissions) and outside (the most shocking fall was last October when he fell head first down a car pit and broke his spine), and eventually admission into a care home as he was paralised from the waist down and unfortunately we couldn’t care for him. It’s sad to say that because of the Coronavirus, the last time we saw him was in February as the care home locked down to protect the residents, and we didn’t want to confuse or agitate him by looking at him through the window (we knew this would make him upset and angry).

Sadly, Big T died in June and we said goodbye to him. And because of the coronavirus situation, we were allowed to take home the floral tributes. We knew we were going to sprinkle some of his ashes around the huge tree, which his brother Robin had planted when he bought this house many years ago, so we used the petals to say our own special tribute to Terry, sprinkling them around the tree in his memory and saying a few words of our own.

Saying goodbye to your loved one in a special way, a fitting way, is an important part of grief. We need to be allowed to cry and release those emotions. We need to be able to recognise our loved one in the words that are said to be able to remember and to mourn. And this is what we, ourselves, did. And from that moment I decided I wanted to help others remember their loved ones in the way they recognised too… So I got in touch with the Fellowship Of Professional Celebrants (Terri is excellent, btw!)

I was so inspired by what she does that I also signed up to become a marriage and family celebrant – as I think it’s important to make all the important ceremonies in your life relevant to the way you live your life. And besides, I love a wedding! Who doesn’t?

So that is my story! It is thanks to Big T that I have embarked on this and I hope I do his memory justice with the ceremonies I officiate. A piece of Big T will go into everything I do…