We recently spoke to Di Ingelse, a Funeral Celebrant from Western Australia, and asked her to respond to some of the common questions funeral celebrants are asked by family and friends when faced with organising a funeral.
Why do we need to have a funeral?
Funerals give people who knew the deceased (or their families) an opportunity to pay their respects and remember the person. The funeral can take the form of a formal service in a church, funeral home or crematorium, or can be more in the form of a ‘celebration of life’ in a park, at home, or somewhere else meaningful to the deceased and their family.
What are the different roles of a funeral director and a funeral celebrant?
The funeral director organises for a burial or cremation to take place, offers guidance and support to the family, helps them to organise the funeral or memorial service, and liaises with mortuary carers to arrange for care of the deceased. Funeral Directors can arrange for placement of obituary notices in newspapers and will ensure that all legal paperwork, including production of the death certificate, is completed in an organised and timely fashion. They must also be sure any other laws are followed precisely; for example, in certain circumstances the coroner must be notified of a death.
A professional funeral celebrant plays an important part in any funeral service and also provides guidance and support to families, then endeavours to fulfil your needs by crafting and delivering a personalised funeral or memorial service. You are not obliged to use the funeral celebrant offered by your funeral director. If you decide to choose your own, they will outline their services and fees, meet and work with the family and liaise with the funeral director, to ensure you receive a quality ceremony which will be appreciated by you, your family and friends. Some funeral celebrants are also happy to help you and/or your family to pre-plan the content of the funeral service, and deliver it when the time comes.
Should we plan a funeral in advance?
Facing the fact we will eventually meet our end is something that’s very confronting for most people, even those who have a terminal or life-limiting illness – let alone those who are younger, or in good health. However, if we do give thought to the inevitable when we are in a position to think about it dispassionately, we can be sure that not only will our farewell be something we’ve had a say in organising, but we’re also taking the burden away from our family our friends who will rightly be grieving and possibly in shock. Many times I’ve heard people, who have discussed with a dying relative what they would like at their funeral, say “I’d never have thought about that.”
Do you think funerals are expensive?
Yes, they can be expensive, but you can still keep the costs to a minimum and have a fitting farewell. There are fees that can’t be avoided (including death certificate, cemetery or crematorium fees) and these vary from state to state (fees in Western Australia are the highest in the country and it is obligatory for the body to be in a coffin prior to burial or cremation); the cost of coffins* vary greatly – even the same coffin from different funeral directors, so do make sure you get itemised quotes. Funeral directors’ costs vary widely and it’s wise to shop around. Costs can mount up very quickly, and this is another reason for careful pre-planning. Using Google to find a funeral director when someone passes is not to be recommended – I know, it happened to me! Using a funeral comparison website like that provided by eziFunerals is an excellent place to start. More and more funerals in Australia are being conducted by Funeral Celebrants – the Funeral Celebrants Association Australia has a directory of members on their website.
Why do we need a eulogy?
Many people freeze when they hear the word ‘eulogy’ but if you think of it simply as a tribute to the person who has died, it doesn’t need to instil foreboding. If the deceased had a wonderful sense of humour, they will want to be remembered for that – the eulogy can reflect different aspects of a person’s life. I recently attended the funeral of someone I’d met through a support group; none of those of us from that group knew anything about his life-long involvement with the Scouting movement, and yet it was honoured as part of the service. Another funeral I attended was that of a colleague’s mother, whom I had never met; however, by the end of the service I felt I knew so much about her that I had the feeling she and I could have been really good friends. On another occasion, the eulogy was presented by the deceased’s three best mates. It was a very emotional situation for them, and they did a wonderful job of supporting each other – each taking over the story as it became too difficult for the other.
Can we plan a funeral, in our own way?
Everyone is different – some people have strong religious faith, others none. The funeral or memorial service can be tailored to reflect all or any characteristics of the person who has died – culture, ethnicity, heritage, language are just a few which can be taken into consideration.
Pre-planning while a person is still alive certainly helps to ensure these aspects won’t be overlooked in the pressure-cooker atmosphere which inevitably exists after a death. If you’ve chosen your funeral director and celebrant in advance you can be sure they are people you feel comfortable working with, and who will provide the send-off you and your family/friends want. The form of the service or celebration is completely your choice. My own step-father (a great jazz fan) insisted his coffin leave the funeral home to the song When the Saints Go Marching In – that was considered quite shocking when he died in the late 80s! My husband died of brain cancer very soon after Carrie Bickmore pulled on a beanie at the Logies in tribute to her late husband (who had succumbed to the same disease) in order to raise awareness of the need for more funding for research in this area. Taking a leaf from her book, I asked our friends to do the same, and have wonderful photos showing our friends in their beanies celebrating his life. He had requested no formal service – he wanted people to drink champagne and have a party!
*Many people are now looking for coffins made from natural materials, or those made from recycled cardboard. I assisted at a funeral last year where towards the end of the service, family members came to the front and wrote Mum a final message. Talk to your funeral director about what’s available; you can get some ideas from Gift of Grace Funerals. “
About the Author
Di Ingelse is the Western Australian Co-ordinator of the Funeral Celebrants Australia Association, and FCAA national vice-president.
eziFunerals supports individuals and families cope with end of life decisions, death and funerals. We are an independent, Australian-owned and operated company, and are not a subsidiary of any other corporation. We do not conduct funerals and we are not part of any other funeral company.