There are many ways in which you can include rituals in funerals and memorial ceremonies. You are only limited by your imagination, in my view.
I recently conducted a Remembering Ceremony, a memorial, for a spritely nonagenarian in my church family who recently passed away and elected not to have a funeral. I was asked to develop a memorial for inclusion within the church service one Sunday, so our church family could say goodbye.
The lady, Margaret, was a voracious reader and I learnt from her family that she had spent some time working for a publisher in her younger years. She read everything she could, a love that was passed down to her four children. She loved attending book launches and author talks at the local library, and was a regular library patron.
I could think of nothing better to honour Margaret than by acknowledging her great interest in and love for books and reading. I developed a "Book Tree" ritual which I included in the Remembering Ceremony on November 12. The ritual involved creating a tree by stacking books on a Lazy Susan. placed on the church altar. The largest books went on the bottom, medium-sized books in the middle, and smaller books at the top. In a nod to the church family, a bible was placed on top.
In the weeks leading up to Margaret's ceremony, the church family was reminded to bring good, clean second hand books along on the appointed day. I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer number of books brought forward on the day.
Set to the beautiful rendition of “The Prayer” by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli" as the theme of quiet reflection, church family members and visitors attending the service brought forward their books. I took the books from each person, and then waited until everyone had presented their bookish offering before I set about developing the Book Tree during the remainder of the song.
The end result was quite spectacular, and being able to spin the Lazy Susan added another special dynamic to the ritual. It was, in my view, a fitting tribute to someone who loved books and reading.
The books will be donated to the Michael Egan Memorial Book Fair, an annual event which will take place in Dubbo, NSW, in April 2024. These will be gifts that will keep on giving joy to others, and we think Margaret would be very pleased with that. .
I also performed a water and petal ritual during committal, supported by a prayer.
It is an interesting and invigorating space to navigate between the religious and secular in farewell ceremonies like this. The feedback from those attending, including Margaret's family, was very positive.
How people say goodbye is a very personal thing. This blog is by an experienced, professional civil celebrant who provides bespoke (custom-designed) ceremonies for people pre-planning their farewell, or for family members organising a goodbye for someone who has passed.