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
Although Drake popularized the term #YOLO (you only live once) in his song Motto that came out in 2011, Katherine Martin states that the term actually goes back to the 19th century. So then it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to learn that the flip slogan #YODO (you only die once), while also around awhile, started gaining popularity in 2014 and became the centerpiece of “Dying Matters Awareness Week” in the United Kingdom. At that time studies indicated that @83% of the people in Britain were uncomfortable speaking about death. But by something so simple as a hashtag, #YODO, awareness was raised to help people come to terms about dying and bereavement. Since then, #YODO has been utilized by funeral homes and bereavement counselors as a marketing tool to raise awareness of their brand and offerings.
Cremation Advocates by Putnam currently has two #YODO billboards located between Burnet and Bertram on Hwy 29 and on Hwy 71 heading into Spicewood. With the help of Tosh.0, it has started to go viral on Facebook. As the Premier Area Funeral Home and Crematory, our purpose is to generate buzz around an uncomfortable topic and to remind our community that since you only die once, then choose Putnam to ensure that your funeral or cremation is done well.
Come join us at Cremation Advocates by Putnam to celebrate our first birthday – Friday, February 2, 2018 from 10:30-1. We will have catered food, music, a ribbon cutting ceremony, door prizes, and same day discounts on our Thumbies Thumbprint jewelry and memory glass keepsakes (which can be made with soil from your favorite residence or travel destination). Come see how Putnam is changing the face of funeral homes in Marble Falls, Horseshoe Bay, Burnet and surrounding areas.
You walk into a funeral home and what do you find on the price list? You find that cremation is priced at pennies while burial is in the thousands of dollars and up. In fact, the gap in pricing continues to grow between cremation and burial as funeral homes use ever decreasing cremation prices as a loss leader to draw in customers and grow their brand recognition while at the same time raising burial rates to offset their financial losses.
Daniel Isard argues in the July 2017 issue of The American Funeral Director, “[funeral homes] should price cremation to cover overhead, just as we do for burial. We should not tax our burial customers to pay for the discounts given to our cremation consumers. You can’t tax the 49 percent to offer discounts to offer discounts to the 51 percent.”
While cremation customers might not mind that their cremation is being subsidized by burial customers, they would care if they realized that with upwards of 70% of families choosing cremation, that many funeral homes no longer have enough burial customers to subsidize their lower cremation rates and are having to find ways of cutting costs. Some funeral home owners and staff work full-time jobs outside of the industry and only open the doors of their funeral home when they are called. Others use cremation mills, leverage the emotional vulnerability of their client families to oversell products they do not really want or need, illegally solicit customers at or near death, or find other ways to make their lower cremation prices sustainable.
And burial customers, well they should care that they potentially subsidize the cost of someone else’s cremation. Burial customers are seen as the funeral home’s “cash cow” and funeral directors often leverage the emotional vulnerability of their client to oversell them products to increase the burial cost and bring in more revenue to offset their cremation losses.
At Putnam, cremation is priced as Mr. Isard suggests – fairly and in a way that makes us sustainable in a world of ever increasing rates of cremation. Our role as a funeral director and cremation advocate is our full-time job. We own the only crematory in the Highland Lakes area and only cremate for Putnam client families. At Cremation Advocates by Putnam in Marble Falls, Burnet county – our focus is on cremation and we are the area cremation experts. Turning to Putnam Funeral Home and Crematory in Kingsland, Llano county, in addition to being the area cremation experts, we are also able to offer a burial package that includes services in the option price at a lower cost than any other area funeral home – simply because we do not underprice cremation. No longer do you have to feel forced into cremation because of the price, you can choose it at either of our locations because you want it and you want our level of service. And no longer do you have to choose the minimum or “disposer” level to afford burial – with Putnam Funeral Home and Crematory, you will find that burial includes the Putnam service pledge and visitation and service options as an affordable choice. There is only one opportunity to do this right, so whether you choose burial or cremation, do so for the right reasons and do it with Putnam.
Preparing for death is not something most of us want to do. We know it is inevitable, but sometimes we hope that it won’t happen or we just choose not to think about it. The thing is though, that if we do not put some sort of order to our affairs before we die, then we are forcing those we love to put order to possible chaos at one of their most vulnerable and emotional moments, potentially creating an unnecessary hardship or worsening the grief they feel.
Some things to consider:
- Make a will and select an executor who is trustworthy and will use sound judgement in making decisions.
- Create a record of personal affairs that lists contacts and relevant account information for your attorney, CPA, financial advisor, realtor, executor, banks, insurance, retirement, credit cards, debt, property owned, safe deposit box, automobile registration, etc.
- Sign and notarize a written authorization stating whether you want to be cremated or buried and with which Funeral Home (if already selected). On another page, provide information (if applicable) on cemetery plot, disposition of ashes, service or celebration of life requested (church, synagogue, funeral home, or other), and what music, readings, photos, videos, etc. you might want utilized.
- Provide biographical information such as education, religious affiliation, employment history, fraternal, service, social, and/or union membership, boards served on, positions held, special recognition, family information (next of kin, children, etc) and/or your veteran’s service record, as this information will be needed for the death certificate, veteran’s benefits, and/or an obituary.
Whether you feel overwhelmed or are ready to act – call or email us at Putnam Funeral Home and Crematory in Kingsland, TX (325-388-0008, email@example.com) or Cremation Advocates by Putnam in Marble Falls (830-798-8413, firstname.lastname@example.org) – to schedule an appointment to discuss how you can help your loved ones tomorrow by being proactive today.
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