My name is Susan French and I have spent the last twenty years working as a teacher. In that role I particularly enjoyed meeting the huge range of characters that came into my classes. I am the only teacher I know who actively enjoyed writing reports. The chance to reflect on a pupil accurately, to pin them down as a person, to show I had noticed and appreciated them specifically was something I felt was key to my role and something I personally found very satisfying. During the last ten years I have also supported elderly family members on a practical level while they were alive, and on their death contributed to the eulogy. I found writing about the person I knew similarly engaging, a sort of report on their life, and it was heartening to feel the congregation respond warmly in recognition.
We had all known and appreciated that individual’s particular quirks and traits. The decision to move into becoming a Civil Celebrant evolved through these experiences, plus the fact that my husband is a Crematorium Manager. While the public, understandably, have as little to do with funerals as possible, I know the care and respect which people working in this sector have for the process. The focus has long moved away from a formally imposed service and is all about the funeral being an opportunity for family and friends to remember the deceased in the way that they want. The role of the celebrant is so important in reading the tone and reflecting the emotions at play.
Sudden and unexpected deaths inevitably impact very differently on the bereaved than when someone who has lived a long, full life dies after a short illness. Close collaboration with the family means the music, readings, words spoken allows their sensitivities to be respected and met. s a design teacher one of my bugbears was when students used the word ‘unique’ as a lazy way of meaning ‘a bit different’. I always tell them, most products are reproduced exactly, only YOU are unique. This is the element that I am interested in as a celebrant. People can be all sorts of things – kind, funny, imaginative, brave ….. Their experiences will affect them, their relationships will develop them. Everyone is special, and that is what I wish to help families remember, mourn or celebrate.