In July 2016, I gave up my career as a teacher in order to train to become a funeral celebrant, to write and lead funerals. What brought about this change?
Well, a few things coincided: I was diagnosed with having a basal cell carcinoma, a harmless form of skin cancer. I did hear the word ‘harmless’, but I also, of course, heard the word ‘cancer’ and it shook me. I resolved, there and then, to leave behind the stresses and pressures of teaching in this current climate in schools…and also to laugh more!
I had become more and more thoughtful about the unequivocal fact that death is certain, but the timing of it is uncertain. My death, but also that of my parents, children (two boys), sister, partner, and friends. That scared me and still does.
Then I met a celebrant – and it was a light bulb moment for me! Just the word ‘celebrant’ resonated with me, but as I researched it further, I began to see how it could dovetail with my growing awareness and interest in death.
That may sound morbid but to me, talking about, and working with, death is a passion. It feels so crucially an important part of life and living. I co-facilitate Death Cafes every 8 weeks, where we offer an open space for people to talk about anything to do with death, dying, grief, bereavement. We hear each other’s stories, fears, concerns, and questions. Facing death in this shared way connects it back to life so we can embrace life more fully, with fewer fears and a lot more courage. I feel I want to walk closer to death and bereavement, and in that way, dissolve some of my own fear.
I also offer sessions to support people in planning a funeral, maybe their own or for another. I feel a commitment to helping to clarify the whole wonderful range of options that are open to us and enabling choice.
My work now feels as if it is a calling. I value connection with people in very honest and profound ways and enjoy communication when our emotions are to the fore. It is important to me that I have a spiritual dimension to my work now – the ‘soul’ that was so sadly often missing when working in the school environment. I feel now as if I am working from the heart.
Other things about me are: I love the great outdoors, camping, walking in hills and cloughs, I’m an experienced reflexologist, I enjoy cycling, I swim often, I adore the undersea world and I am an advanced scuba diver. I spent a number of years being trained in NVC (Non-violent communication or Compassionate communication) and have been a long-standing member of an NVC practice group. I enjoy being part of groups and teams. I have travelled extensively in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand and various African countries and lived for 3 years on the tropical island of Zanzibar. I take a lot of photographs and enjoy looking at all types of art. I love a wide range of music, I sing in a community choir and I enjoy dancing at parties. Books are important to me and being with people, including, very definitely, babies and children.