Our next Civil Celebrant we would like you to meet is the very lovely Linda Hodgson
Celebrating Life with stories told from the heart…
Every time I go to meet a family, I go with an open mind and an open heart. I am conscious that I am entering their lives at a very difficult time, as they deal with all the consequences of their loved one’s death, there are so many practical things they have to do, at a time when they are emotionally vulnerable. So for me the most important thing I can do, is to help to ease the burden of preparing the funeral service.
I always greet them with a smile, and if they ask me if I would like a cup of tea, I usually say ‘if you are making one that would be lovely’ and as I explain that I prefer it not too milky ‘builders’ style, quite strong, it breaks the ice, distracts them for a while. Then we sit down together and start to chat.
I believe that everyone has a story to tell, and sharing their loved ones story at the time of their funeral is a way of honouring them and acknowledging their time here on Earth, no matter what their life might have been like, for I honour every single life. Some lives have been filled with adventure, travel, career achievement, family harmony, other lives might seem lonely to the outsider, some may have been filled with the challenges of addiction, or family conflict, I give them all equal attention and care, particularly those that have died in more difficult circumstances, or have left behind a fractured family, my heart goes out to them all. To me it is important to bring some dignity to them, to look for the nuggets of love that were present in their life, I am always amazed at our capacity, as humans, for unconditional love, and in the end that is all that matters and what I look for in everyone’s stories are the moments of love shared.
So when I sit with a family and encourage them to talk about their loved one, sharing in memories, thinking about them when they were well, and living their life, and choosing poems and music for the service, the families tell me that they find it quite cathartic.
Not only do they have a sense of relief that I will be there supporting them through the service, they also feel that the conversation has helped them to remember a time when their loved ones were not ill, or frail, or suffering from dementia, or with their mental health or fighting off cancer, talking openly in this way is just a small step on their long journey, to living their life without that person by their side. Sometimes we shed tears together as they talk about their memories, and the qualities that made their loved one the unique and amazing human that they were.
Some people know exactly what they want to do to say goodbye to their wife, husband, life partner, mother, father, sister, brother, son or daughter, granny, grandad, or even distant relative, they write their life story, share their memories, choose all the music, decide that they want to toast them with a tot of Baileys at the end of the service, or release Dove’s to help their soul on their journey, or simply place a flower on the coffin as they leave.
Their stories make us laugh, make us cry, the whole rollercoaster of emotions are experienced during the service. Sometimes family members can stand up and read the life story or a poem.
When families feel that they would not be able to stand up and say anything, and are not sure what to do or how to even start writing a life story, I sit with them and reassure them that I can do it all, and we spend time talking and chatting whilst I write fantastically fast to capture all their memories.
As a Life Celebrant, I will do whatever a family wants to do to celebrate their loved ones life, many people no longer want a full religious service, but still have an underlying faith, so for them I do a semi-religious service, where we sing hymns and say a prayer, as well as share in memories, so it is still life-centred and personalised. Other families want a service that is totally life-centred, with no religious content. Each service I do is created from scratch to ensure it reflects the essence of the person that we are saying goodbye to.
I have been doing Celebrant work for just nearly 3 years now, I always say that I have found my vocation. It is always a pleasure to work with my Funeral Directors, particularly Richard and Ben at Bungard, the care they show to their families, is always heart-warming. I feel privileged every day to be able to help families at such a difficult time, and I am always honoured when they return to me, as many have, but to me the most amazing part of being a Celebrant is witnessing the power of the human spirit, and the capacity for love, forgiveness, and kindness. As I walk my dog down on the beach, I look to the sky and think how lucky I am to be able to see the wonder of our world every day, and be a part of celebrating life’s journey.