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Saying Goodbye As You Choose



The story of progress is the story of increasing choice. At one time, people had little choice over what happened to them not just during life, but at the end of it too. Their jobs, religion and even marriage-partners were chosen for them by others. And so, of course, were their funerals. If you belonged to a particular religion, you had to have your funeral conducted according to its rules. Nowadays, all that has changed. We can choose our own religious beliefs, so not everyone will want a traditional funeral or cremation conducted by a priest or some other official figure. Instead, we might have a celebrant, someone who will oversee the ceremony according to our exact wishes. The movement of celebrancy, as it is called, is usually associated with secular humanism, which is based on the idea that there is no God and no life after death. Humanists think that we should make the most of our time on earth and live according to ethical principles that aren't based on religion. At a humanist funeral, then, the celebrant won't talk about heaven or the afterlife. The departed person has reached the end of their journey and the people who attend the funeral are there to honour their memory and celebrate the good things in their life. There are no fixed rules about how to do this, because humanism does not lay down strict guidance in the way traditional religions sometimes do. It's up to the individual, who can choose a celebrant in advance and discuss the funeral with them in detail if that is what they wish. The ceremony will reflect their own tastes and preferences, not those laid down by tradition or fashion. But maybe your preference will be for tradition of a different kind. Humanists aren't the only people who prefer to use a celebrant at their funeral. Pagans and other followers of alternative religions use them too. Paganism is a big movement and contains all kinds of beliefs, but it is particularly associated with respect for the earth and the environment. Pagans believe that we are given life by soil, water and air, so a pagan funeral is often about the way the departed person is returning where they came from. We're part of nature, so we shouldn't harm or pollute nature either during life or at the end of it. Some pagans believe that there are real gods and goddesses, and real spirits in trees, rivers and other natural places. Other pagans see beliefs like this as symbolic, not literal. Again, it's about choice, so the celebrant will conduct a pagan funeral ceremony to reflect the departed person's individual beliefs and preferences. This is also true for humanists, because that is the good thing about a funeral plan: you can decide now about what will happen at a time when your earthly decisions are finally over. Finance is obviously a very important part of a funeral plan, but you can go much further. If you want to use a celebrant, experienced funeral directors can offer guidance about where to find one. As celebrancy has become more common, funeral directors can recommend celebrants too. Do you want an elaborate ceremony or a few simple words? Do you want to discuss the ceremony in detail with the celebrant who will conduct it or leave things in their hands? It's up to you. Planning a funeral is about personal choice and celebrancy will be part of a funeral plan for many people. That's the way it should be, because the end of our earthly lives is an important event whatever we think happens afterwards.
National Federation of Funeral Directors