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It’s been three short years this month since I was ensconced in Buckden Towers in the heart of Cambridgeshire, training to become a Civil Funeral Celebrant. It was a very intense, but rewarding course, which provided me with information, back up support, and a realization that, yes; maybe I could be of help to families in their darkest hour and assist them with giving their loved one the funeral service that they wished for.

I can recall all the positive vibes that I received from colleagues when I returned home, proudly holding my level three accreditation certificate. “This is the way of the future” they said. So, although I knew that in Catholic Ireland, a civil funeral would be slow to catch on, it would eventually become a popular choice for people, once they realized they had an option. So, I became proactive in promoting my service to as many funeral directors as I could. This was made a little easier in that I had already some years under my belt working in the industry. My first funeral service was that of a very prominent business person, and I was extremely nervous and suddenly everything that I had learned ‘went out the window’. Thankfully I delivered the service that the family had wished for, and I was off the starting blocks.

Over the next two years I slowly, but surely built up my reputation, and I was officiating at funeral services for families from all diverse backgrounds with each one bringing new ideas for their loved one’s ceremony. It was a steep learning curve for me – meeting families from all backgrounds in all situations. I am very aware that when I meet with a family, that I take them into my care, the same as a funeral director does when arranging a funeral. As a celebrant who helps a family express their wishes, I would probably gain a level of trust that a funeral arranger might not see. After I deliver a service, I will call to a family some weeks later, and present them with a bound copy of their service to have as a keepsake. Generally, over the course of the following months I might call, or telephone them, to let them known that they are in my thoughts. On one occasion, I met with a lady who almost ten months later, was still very ‘emotionally raw’ after the death of her mother. I was able to suggest that she contact her local bereavement group. She didn’t know that such a group existed, and a few weeks later she contacted me to thank me for caring.

Earlier this year I started a website to help promote my services. It was a very worthwhile investment, as my business suddenly grew beyond all expectations. While this has been very welcome, suddenly I found myself in the fast lane, and my follow up calls to families were put on the back boiler. I found that because I was so busy, I posted the ceremony script to families, as I hadn’t time to call! Taking families into my ‘care’ was suddenly down to the week of the funeral service, and no more.  Thankfully the month of August was a little quieter, and I was able to catch up with saying hello to families again. So, as funeral professionals, “Do we really ‘care’”?  We all have to run businesses, make a profit, and look to future growth, but a phone call or, if passing a house where only a widow now lives won’t take too much time, and that one point of contact could make all the difference in helping with our caring approach.

With our economy staring to awaken again, we might get sucked into the fast lane again, and forget about everything but ourselves. But we are in the business of helping families with the most distressing and emotional time of their lives, and we have to ‘care’ in order to take them into our ‘care’.

Padraic Cawley MICF, Civil Funeral Celebrant