Let’s talk about death, darling!

Talking about our inevitable death and our wishes after the event, is not usually included in light conversation for date night.  Despite us all knowing that we will die, many of us never let our loved ones know what we hope for at the end of our life.

As a Celebrant, I often have detailed conversations with family members to ensure every detail of the service we put together is exactly in line with the wishes of the departed loved-one.  An integral part of writing the ceremony, is often including particular words or music that meant a great deal to everyone present.

Let’s talk about death – over pudding!

Despite being a Celebrant, I realised one weekend, that I had never spoken in any real detail with my husband, John, about what I would like for my life celebration.  Even with my experience and training, I found it slightly difficult to pick the right moment to talk about death. To suggest we ought to make it clear for those left with the task of arranging our funerals, if there was anything particularly important to us that we’d like them to include or consider.

I am pleased to say, that once I got over the initial “this isn’t the most positive thing to talk about over pudding, but I’d like to talk about death, darling” John and I had a constructive, positive and at times even funny conversation.

We talked about where and how we wanted to have our bodily remains left, and both agreed we liked the idea of being cremated.  John has always said he’d like a Viking send-off. After giggling about sending him down the garden stream in a log boat, set alight with his charcoal, we got a bit more practical and agreed a Life Celebration where we were by water would be more manageable.

Our conversation lead to memories of loved ones

We talked about who we’d love to have there, and why.  We shared ideas on who we’d want to speak and what stories they might share.  I was reminded of my first experience speaking at a funeral, when John’s dad died. I was asked by his mum to write and deliver the service, with just two days to prepare.  Before long we were remembering holidays we’d shared before his dad became ill. It was one of the most positive conversations we’ve had about him since his death 12 years ago.

One of the big things we acknowledged, was that the service is really for the people we leave behind.  We wanted to be sure the ceremony would be positive and uplifting for our daughter and friends. We hoped the people we’d ask to read would share joyful and happy memories.  By preparing as much as we could in advance, we were removing some of the burden for those that had to plan and make arrangements during a challenging time.

We also talked about how important it was that we didn’t ‘take over’ the planning, or prevent our daughter, or each other, from doing what felt right at the time. Over-planning on behalf of our loved ones is not necessarily the blessing we think it is. Allowing them to include what they want, and need, is vitally important.

I want poetry with a leaning towards Pam Ayres

I made him promise that, if he is around to help plan my service, nobody would read “Stop all the clocks” by W.H. Auden; it would have our daughter in pieces.  By the same token, “The life that I have” is far too much like him for her to cope with it at his service, so we’re planning on short, simple and possibly even comedic poetry, with a leaning towards Pam Ayres.

And all the time that we talked about these plans, we held each other’s gaze. We smiled and listened intently.  We cried a little too; the thought of being here without each other brings no joy. After 37 years together, I don’t spend time imagining a life after John. Yet this evening’s conversation, heart-wrenching, laughter-creating and above all, surprising, had proved to be soothing and calming. Leaving me with a sense that, despite the fear, we can talk about death; even with those we fear leaving the most.

From my heart to yours


If you’d like to have an informal chat about creating a Celebration for someone you love, why not book a zoom and a coffee with me. It’s free of charge, we’ll chat online for about 15 minutes and see if I am the right Celebrant for you. You can book here: BOOK A CHAT WITH DINAH

If you’re interested in finding out about the career of an Independent Celebrant, take a look at the Celebrant Coaching and Training Academy. All our courses are created to help you become an exceptional Celebrant.

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