Today I saw a heart break, literally, in front of me. I felt her pain and I felt her sorrow in her tired body. I felt the pain of the family around her, watching her go through this, as they dealt with their own grief as well.
How do you say goodbye after being together for over 70 years? How do you let go? I walked into the chapel, where the coffin lay, and there she was, sitting beside the open coffin, almost falling in. She was kissing him, touching him, talking to him and crying. It was the first sight I saw. It was true love at its very kindest. It was soft, gentle, beautiful, raw, vulnerable and sad. She was broken hearted at losing the love of her life.
I had met this family over two years ago. This husband and wife had suddenly lost their eldest daughter who was 60 years of age. I saw their hearts break that day too, for their daughter. There are some things you just never forget in this line of work. I have never forgotten this lady or her family. They were just beautiful. I never forgot the moment I commenced the service for the daughter, the mother let out a big “wail”. That’s the only way I can describe it. She was frail and tired and I could not fathom how such a loud noise could come out of such tiny lady. That is what a broken heart sounds like. The only thing I could do to continue on with service, whilst hear heart broke in front of me, was to repeatedly tell myself “I am being of service to this family”.
I had often thought of this family, and in particular this lady and how she was. So to be called this week and be told of the husband’s death, and that the family specifically asked for me to lead the service, I couldn’t help but feel sad yet privileged. Sad as I know what this lady and her family will be going through, privileged that they thought enough of me to lead the service in laying this fine man to rest.
This was a private service. He was a State Manager of a large company for many years where he touched so many people’s lives. He was an avid golfer, and a very good one at that. He was a fine gentleman who was held in high regard. There is no doubt there would have been many people wanting to say their last respects. To this family however, this needed to be private. His wife was heartbroken and she needed that space and time to say goodbye to him in the way in which she needed. They had also discussed the type of funeral he wanted and he wanted it private. So it was myself, the mother, their two children and their families – there was 12 of us in total. It was intimate, private, and beautiful. The tears for all could flow freely. The family sat around and shared stories and some incredible memories of this man.
This work for me is such an honour. To hold the space for a family in their time of need. My wish is they feel comfortable around me to cry, to share, to love, to laugh, to cry again. It is using my intuition and going with whatever path I feel right for the family. In this case there was no microphone, no standing at the podium. It was myself and them, sitting around in a group, where it was small and intimate. It was honouring this man who was a husband, a father, a grandfather and great-grandfather.
That is how it should be. We carried out the wishes for this man – small and intimate with only his family around him. He was prepared and his family knew his wishes. Do you know what you would want? Have you spoken to your loved ones and told them your wishes?
I form a very strong bond with the families I work with, some more than others. I had formed a bond with this family two years ago, and we reconnected and was even stronger now.
I really wasn’t sure how this lady would be during the service. She is almost mid 90s now, she is someone I just wanted to hold and hug, you can’t help it. She cried all the way during the service up until one point. It was the committal, or what I call “the final farewell”. They were words to honour him and to say goodbye. I write this based on what I feel when I meet with the families in the days prior. They are words I know they would want to say.
As I commenced the words of the final farewell, the most amazing thing happened. Peace swept over her. I literally witnessed peace and saw it sweep over her. It was as if the words gave her strength. She sat up, she looked me right in the eye, and took in every single word that I said. It was like each word spoken, gave her more and more strength to carry on. She listened intently until a smile broke across her face as she remembered and honoured the man that was her husband for more than 70 years. The words gave her great peace. Her grandson mentioned it to me after, he saw it too and he could only describe it as a “peace”. He couldn’t believe the change in her. None of us could. As she said her last goodbyes and placed a single long-stemmed red rose atop his now closed coffin, she walked out with courage. She knows she has a long journey ahead, but she is at peace.
The work I do is so much more than meeting with families, writing a service and delivering a service. So much more. It is about connecting with families, building trust, using intuition for what it is they are wanting. It is about holding the space, allowing their grief to pass through. It is about offering peace.
It is so much more than being a celebrant. I see me there as the carrier of peace and divine love to the family that are needing it. This day I saw peace and divine love being received by this lady at the time she needed it most. It was not me, it was something much higher, so that she was able to leave that chapel that day with strength and courage.
I have always said I am not in the funeral industry, or the death industry. I am in the industry of LOVE. I see true love at its finest. I did this day. I saw the love this woman had for her husband. I saw the love the children and grandchildren had for this man. I saw the love this family had for their mother and grandmother, grieving. I saw love oozing out of their every pore. I saw great peace. It is my greatest privilege.
May this family’s journey in the coming days, weeks and months be one of strength, courage and peace.
After the service I sat with this lady and had a cup of tea. She was so grateful for the work I had done. She said “Sharon I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing this for us.” She said when the time comes for her, she wants me to do hers. She told me her wishes on what she would like to happen. What a true honour. I will ensure I honour this for her, when the time comes.
There really is a beautiful side to death. I call it “The Love in Death”. I meet the most incredible families, and I see love at its finest.