3 Reasons I’m Grateful To Be A Funeral Celebrant
"So, what do you then, Pete?"
It's a typical question when you meet someone. Soon the conversation gets around to asking what kind of job you have.
I say, "I help families write the words for a funeral of someone they love. I support them and take away the worry of bringing together a funeral service. I'm what's called a funeral celebrant."
The response often goes one of three ways.
A variation of, "That must be morbid and sad then?"
Or more often, "How did you come to be a funeral celebrant?"
My Journey To Become A Funeral Celebrant
The journey of becoming a funeral celebrant has taken me over 40 years. Everything I have done in my work life prepared me for this role. I could now be pursuing many other avenues of work, but I am grateful to be a funeral celebrant.
It is something your family will face, saying goodbye to someone you love. A funeral celebrant is there to help, support and guide your family through those heartbreaking days. It’s my role to bring together a fitting and appropriate celebration of your loved one's life.
There are 3 important reasons why I am grateful to be a funeral celebrant.
I’m Grateful To Be Working With People
Some people are good working with things; others are great at working with people. I have always been in that second group. There are a particular set of skills you need to when working with people. But there is something innate about it too. Things like empathy, the willingness to listen, and patience. I've been a Senior Manager in the Insurance Industry. For ten years an Ordained Minister of a church. Then an Executive Director of an International Charity. I've studied, developed and grown those abilities. While you can learn these skills, as I see it, life and experiencing it better moulds us to be the people we are. There are some benefits to growing older, and experience of life is one of them! What matters most to me now is how I can use this experience to support the people I am helping.
Often, families, I work with will post in Google Reviews how they feel when working with me. Here are some of actual words they say.
Peter is so easy to talk to at such a difficult time. We had a lovely chat about Mum, over a cup of tea, and at the funeral, it felt as if Peter knew Mum personally, as he gently led us through a beautiful journey of reminiscence. Nothing has been too much trouble for Peter, and we are all very grateful to him for a beautiful service. Anne Greenwood
We could not have wished for a better celebrant to help us to organise and lead Dad's funeral service - it truly felt like a celebration of his life. With your care and compassion, you were able to put the whole family at ease when preparing for the funeral. Alison Aston
Peter is warm, empathetic and organised. Having, listened carefully to what we wished to say, he delivered the eulogy of my mum so well, some people asked if he was a friend! Carol Hancox
Peter's calm and gentle support and guidance through the whole process took all the stress out of planning the funeral at a time when emotions are so raw… Peter and Hilary Mobbs
I’m Grateful To Use My Creative Skills
The first creative skill I’m grateful to use is being a writer. To write clear, concise and creative words helps me as a funeral celebrant. I have written now over 800 funerals and published two books. Writing is both an art and a skill. Often I stand outside the crematorium and listen to a service taking place. Those regular cliched phrases leave people thinking it is nothing like the person I knew. So when writing a personal eulogy, I find unique phrases. I will find an original theme, even specific quotes to build word pictures that bring to life again in the minds of family members and friends there the person that has died. Recently, someone said when I was visiting them, “there is no story to write in my sisters life.” We all end up as stories, every life has a story to tell, and every life has a story worth telling. My role as a funeral celebrant is to find that story, write and then tell it. I am grateful that as a funeral celebrant I get to write the words to say at a funeral.
The creative skill I’m grateful I get to use is public speaking. My school reports had a common theme. Not, unfortunately, good grades. But the frequent observation I would have done much better if I'd stopped talking so much! Being a confident public speaker is something I've worked continually to develop over many years. I’ve even won awards for public speaking. I was the President of a Toastmaster's International Club in the Midlands. My skill in public speaking is often felt as much as heard when I deliver the words that I have written for a funeral. Again, listening to the communication killer of a monotone voice, or one that is put on, sounds and feels inauthentic. I try to be natural, genuine and deliver words with pace and emotion. I think families appreciate that I do.
To find the right words to say at a funeral is not easy. It takes time. But combination of the most suitable words, delivered with passion, helps families these ways as these people in these ways.
Peter, I thank you for your words, empathy and diligence - and for capturing perfectly the kind, funny man that Tony was: enough to make us laugh and cry in equal measure. Lyn Avery
Peter is caring and thorough when planning and performing his services. Many people attending thought Peter was a family friend, as he really seemed to catch the essence of my husband's character. Margaret Mason
Peter is compassionate, respectful and professional, and described my wonderful Mum accurately and brilliantly. Mum had the best send off possible. Elizabeth Pulford
Family and friends continue to approach me commenting on how Peter captured the incredible man my husband was. Peter spoke with compassion and enthusiasm. There were tears and there was laughter, and there was the rock music that my husband loved so much. The service was respectful yet relaxed and intimate. Sue Mooney
I Am Grateful I Get To Make A Difference
It's hard to put this into words, without it sounding like I'm beauty contestant with a cheesy smile. (For sure, I'm not beauty contestant!) But as I have got older, I value significance in life over success. Sincerely, that's one of the most important reasons I am grateful to be a funeral celebrant. I get to help a family at the time that they need help the most. When grief it as its most raw. When the ritual of a funeral service is ahead. Families need someone to come alongside them in those sad and hurting days. I’m grateful to be a funeral celebrant because I can do that. I value sitting and chatting about the person they love. It helps me looking at photos and discovering the stories behind a life. I know that helps families in a time of grief so much. It is an honour and a privilege to be in that position. It doesn't take the hurt away. But it takes away the concerns of bringing together a service to celebrate a life.
With your care and compassion, you were able to put the whole family at ease when preparing for the funeral. Then, at the funeral, you spoke with such warmth, I found it so much easier to stand up and read the final part of the eulogy. Thank you for giving me the confidence to do this! Alison Aston
But for me, I have to extend a personal thank you to Peter, for without his encouragement and guidance I would never have had the confidence or courage to consider getting up to speak and it may have been something I would have regretted for the rest of my life. He truly has a gift for bringing a calming presence to such a devastating time and it was like sitting down chatting about Mum with a long time friend. Marilyn
Peter's kindness and understanding was very helpful in such a distressing time. He wrote a wonderful eulogy for my father and read it with great warmth and charm at the funeral. Every step of the way Peter was a calming and reassuring presence. The hard work he put into the ceremony was clear it see. At such a sad time he communicated clearly and provided much needed advice, giving the family confidence and peace of mind. Highest recommendation. Luke Skinner
So these are three of the many important reasons I why I am grateful to be a funeral celebrant. I could choose other paths. I could choose different roles. But, I can't think of anything else that I would instead invest my "one wild and precious life."
It's not a job.
It's not even a career.
I am grateful to be a funeral celebrant because it is my vocation. This is most important reason of all.
I hope that it is a long time in the future when you might need me to help your family. Unfortunately, that may not be the case and that is why you are visiting this page today. Please contact me either by phone on 07788404240 or email me firstname.lastname@example.org I will do my very best to bring together everything that you need to celebrate the life of a loved one.
Please click on the image below to download a Contact Card to keep in a safe place should you need Peter Billingham as a funeral celebrant. Either call Peter direct or give the card to your Funeral Director.