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Putnam Offers Certified Celebrant Services

Written by Brittany Carrington, our newly certified Funeral Celebrant.

Many have asked me, “What is a Funeral Celebrant?”

A celebrant is a person – male or female, clergy or layperson – who seeks to meet the needs of families during their time of loss by providing a funeral service that is personalized to reflect the personality and life-style of the deceased.

Having been in the funeral industry since 2008, I have seen my fair share of cookie-cutter funerals. You all know the type! The officiant, having had no contact with the family, comes to the funeral with a pre-formatted order of service, chats with the family for 10 minutes on what songs they will be playing, and walks up to the podium. After introducing himself, he says, “I didn’t know Mrs. Smith, but…” and then continues with an opening prayer, a few songs, reading of the obituary, message, and closing prayer.

I state this example – not out of disrespect for those who officiate services, as in some case the minister was called at the last minute and had no choice – but to emphasize the importance of the role of a Certified Funeral Celebrant.

I recently attended Funeral Celebrant Training in Las Vegas, Nevada. During the training, I sat in a room full of clergy members, funeral directors, chaplains, and other attendees from various professions. We were subjected to the good, the bad and the ugly in funeral service. We discussed some instances where funeral services caused more harm than good and other instances where they were a healing balm to a hurting soul. Obviously, it was our goal to learn how to provide the latter. By the end of the training, we had been educated on the necessary elements of a meaningful funeral service, equipped with tools from other skilled and experienced celebrants and, finally, given the opportunity to practice our newly acquired skills.

This was the frightening part.

We were split into groups of two and assigned a death scenario, such as natural causes, SIDS, cancer, accident, homicide, suicide and overdose, etc. We were to fabricate the name of the decedent, their history, family and other details. Next, we were to create a personalized and meaningful funeral and present it to the class. My partner and I were assigned one of the most difficult death scenarios…suicide.

As we began to fabricate a story about our suicide victim, my partner burst into tears and said his close cousin had committed suicide some years back and it would mean so much if we could create our celebrant service in his honor. At that moment, it became very real for both of us. We were no longer fabricating a funeral, we were honoring a life.

As the details began to unfold, we were planning a service for a 45-year-old Vietnam veteran who had experienced a life-changing event when, one day after he was transferred to a new platoon, his old platoon was wiped out. For the remainder of his life, he struggled with PTSD, guilt, depression and an obsession with danger that landed him in the hospital on several occasions and, once, an extended coma. His injuries led to an opioid addiction that controlled his life and resulted in him losing his family.

It was an extremely difficult task, but my partner and I created a service that honored a life without hiding or brushing over the truth. Instead, we created a safe place for people to feel…to express emotions when words weren’t sufficient…a place to heal.  We acknowledged the pain of those left behind with poems and words of comfort and established the significance of the beloved decedent with a video tribute (all pretend, of course).

According to Doug Manning, the founder of our celebrant training program, “When words fail, ceremony takes over.” Our hypothetical funeral included elements of ceremony with meaningful songs and military honors. All the hypothetical attendees took home a little American Flag in tribute of the deceased that they could either keep in his memory or place on his grave at a later date to show evidence of their visit.

The core message of our service was that…he mattered.

In planning this hypothetical service, my partner and I took the core elements we learned in training and applied them in a way that highlighted the significance of a life and encouraged a healing and safe atmosphere in which the family could cherish memories, express emotions and share in their grief.

My passion is to serve families on a more personal level and offer a service that will lay a solid foundation for their grief journey. It is a common misconception that a viewing and funeral bring “closure.” However, as wisely stated by Doug Manning, the grief process will consist of many “closings,” events that promote healing. There is no magical moment when closure comes and grief is gone. Grief is a process that must be walked through. Many who have been through the grief process can testify to the waves of grief. One minute you are fine and the next minute, you are crying your eyes out. This is normal and contributes to healing.

As a licensed Funeral Director and Certified Funeral Celebrant, I not only orchestrate the business side of the funeral planning process, but I also help the family create a meaningful funeral service that provides a safe atmosphere where people feel permission to grieve and express emotion through song, ceremony and participation. One that ultimately celebrates the significance of a life and honors the reality of a death.

Just like a small droplet in a large body of water will result in far-reaching ripples, each life is significant and deserves to be celebrated for its uniqueness and lasting impact.

©2018 Putnam Funeral Home and Crematory, LLC

The Wind Has a Cousin  

As I sit listening to the wind rattle my office windows, I wonder at its power and effect on other objects. How could such an invisible force cause such a ruckus? We are all very familiar with the damage the wind can cause. Most of the time wind recalls a bad hair day or a destructive storm. However, wind is much more nuanced than that.

Wind is Soundless

Have you considered the sound of the wind? The noise we hear when the wind blows is not the wind itself, but the friction of air with objects in its path. Think of the “whoosh” heard when you drive with the windows down. In a slight breeze, you will hear leaves and grass shifting and rubbing together in gentle movement. The sound you hear is not the wind, but a mere reaction of the objects it touches.

Wind is Faceless

What does the wind look like? It doesn’t have a face. The wind is visibly indiscernible until it touches an object making it move, like when it blows your outdoor furniture off the porch. Sometimes we get a close-up look at objects moved by the wind…ever had sand blown in your eye? Yeah, not cool. You can’t see the wind, only its effects on other objects.

Wind is a Modifier

The wind is an invisible energy that changes things in its path. Living in Texas, we see examples of this all the time, especially in the Panhandle. Trees are so battered by the wind that they grow at a slant rather that straight up and down. Wind smooths and shapes rock formations in the New Mexico and Arizona deserts. It causes flags to fly and whip about until they gradually wear out. The wind is a force that wears on objects making permanent alterations to their shape and structure.

Wind is a Mode of Transportation

The wind is often credited with transporting seeds, especially of the dandelion, to new locations and therefore promoting new growth. Also, the wind transports birds, hot air balloons, and hang-gliders effortlessly through the sky. It propels objects to new places with its natural, boundless energy.

Wind has a Cousin…Grief

Wind can be analogous to grief. Remember that grief is not only a result of death, but is also a result of other losses – divorce, disappointments, job transitions, etc.

Grief is Soundless

Like wind, grief is soundless, an internal force that often prompts external reactions. Crying, sighing, angry outbursts, and verbal cues such as “Why???” and “I think I’m going crazy!” are sounds, like wind friction, that result from grief.

Grief is Faceless

What does grief look like? Like the wind, grief has no face, but becomes visible through its effects on an individual. Forgetfulness, distractedness, sleep disturbance, change in eating habits, actions contrary to normal behavior, stomach problems, trembling and fatigue are a few of many signs that may indicate grief. You may not be able to see grief, but it becomes visible through many emotional, physical, mental and behavioral responses.

Grief is a Modifier

Grief changes people. As wind modifies the shape and structure of objects, grief transform its subjects. Following a huge loss in my life, I was tossed into a windstorm of grief that took me down a path I never would have imagined. First, all I could feel was numbness, then a dull, physical ache in my body. As my world rocked and twirled out of control, a different person began emerging. One who was stronger, tenaciously focused, and deeply passionate about helping others when their lives took a turn for the worst. Along this journey of grief, I was transformed into a more empathetic, resilient, passionate person.

Grief is a Mode of Transportation

Grief serves as a propeller for the next stage in life. After hitting rock-bottom, I had nowhere to go but up!  I took a significant risk, gave up what little I had, and pursued a dream. My grief motivated and inspired me to reach for more in life. It transitioned me to a new chapter where I took risks and enjoyed life more than ever before.

Grief. . .Wind

Like the wind, grief is a force of nature that will rattle our windows from time to time. It may affect us in “bad hair day” proportions or it may feel like a storm of massive destruction. Either way, we must remember that grief is a natural and necessary process. If we allow the natural progression to take place…meaning allow ourselves to hurt, cry and fall apart…we will come out stronger and better. Let grief propel you to your next chapter…one where you will appreciate life more, love deeper and see things in a new light.

Written by Brittany Carrington

©2018 Putnam Funeral Home and Crematory, LLC

Don’t Destroy the Brush: Life Perspective from a Vacuum Cleaner

After wrestling around with the vacuum cleaner for…well, TOO LONG, trying to reattach a random accessory that had fallen off, I resigned myself to the fact that the vacuum cleaner manufacturers hated me and wanted to make my life more complicated than necessary. Seriously, how difficult could it be to reattach a little vacuum brush?!?

Let me back up a few weeks and explain. We bought a new vacuum cleaner for our office that was beautifully equipped with every accessory a person could need: brushes, hose-extenders, fancy vacuum heads, etc. One of the first times I used it, I was interrupted and had hastily put it away. In doing so, I knocked off one of the attached accessories, and because I was in a hurry, I tossed it in the closet next to the vacuum and went on my merry way.

The next time I pulled out the vacuum, I spotted the little brush next to it. I studied the vacuum again, a little more closely this time, and still couldn’t find where the brush was supposed to go. Frustrated, I gave up, tossed the brush in the closet, and resumed vacuuming.

The little brush and I had a little game going at this point…each time I would spy it in the closet, I would glare at it and subconsciously curse it for complicating my life. I felt like a total blonde. This little brush was eating my lunch. Every time I opened the closet door, it just sat there on the shelf and mocked me. I felt like a super idiot for not being able to solve this seemingly simple issue.

Until now…I had had ENOUGH. I pulled the vacuum out of the closet, snatched the brush off the shelf and determined to figure out where it was supposed to fit. I knew the general area where I had initially seen it attached, but, honest-to-goodness, I could not find the secret anchor point! I tried to stick it on the arm where the cord wraps around…I tried the force it on the end of the hose-extender mounted on the side…I tried to balance it on top of the attachments on the front…I felt around for some sort of knob where I could mount this silly brush. It was starting to get the best of me!

After sighing with exasperation, I sunk to the floor to contemplate how I was going to destroy the brush and pretend it never existed.

…then I saw it!

Right beneath the hose and just above the wrapped cord on the back of the vacuum was a small circular indentation. One that closely matched the end of the brush. It was like finding the missing puzzle piece!! I plugged the end of the brush into the hole and was delighted when it fit perfectly!

As I sat there gloating in my victory…a thought came to mind. It was all about looking at the issue from a different angle. I had been hacking at the problem from one angle and everything I tried was failing. The solution was not discovered until I gave up trying to force things to happen my way and approached the issue from another angle.

This is a great life lesson. Simply finding a new perspective will result in a completely different outcome. It reminds me of the wise reasoning of Louis L’amour, a writer of fictional western stories. When a cowboy was in trouble, he would always “sit and contemplate.” In the story, the cowboy may be in a seemingly impossible situation, but he always took a moment to “contemplate” the problem and look at it from different angles to find the best solution.

Next time you are in a predicament, don’t destroy the brush! Stop. Take a moment, open your mind and look at the problem from a different position. New discoveries can be made by simply changing your perspective.

Written by Brittany Carrington

©2018 Putnam Funeral Home and Crematory, LLC