No one really wants to organise a funeral celebration. No one wants to go to one. And of course, none of us are ready for it to be our own.
But when it IS my turn, I’m having a Humanist one, which is what I created for Mum’s send off last month.
She wasn’t religious, and the rest of the family certainly isn’t; a church service would be an uncomfortable nightmare for everyone… so I decided a quiet beach in Wales would be perfect.
But I’m in Australia, my brother and children in Norway, various family friends around the UK, Canada, and USA: thank goodness for Zoom!
By luck (or divine intervention?), the first celebrant I emailed to ask if she was free in 3 weeks to conduct an international online ashes scattering ceremony said yes.
As I sat with the reality of needing to organise this farewell, despite my tiredness and grief, I gave thanks for being exposed to ‘unusual’ send offs and life celebrations where I live in Northern NSW, such as same sex marriages before they were legal, living wakes for those not yet dead, and naming ceremonies or baby blessings, which can involve red string, Plaster of Paris, rocks, flowers, rope, fire and water.
I knew I had to choose whatever elements felt ‘right’ to me and the family, and being by the ocean meant we could all feel connected through the water. I was also lent this amazing book, full of ritual ideas for all kinds of life events, including the loss of a pet or announcement of a divorce, so I collated two of its ash-scattering ceremonies into Mum’s. The celebrant I hired was 100% supportive of my choices, which also felt great.
I added a poem and two songs, as well as allocating eulogies and memory-readings between all the participants who would be there in person- I admit my inner theatre director stood up tall and worked hard.
With every day that passed since she died July 9th, I felt more determined to give Mum a great send-off, even though it would be via Zoom. My family in England and Wales really stepped up to the celebration, and travelled from all over to be together. We wore her favourite rich bright colours, and here in Oz I cooked a nourishing soup to keep us going for the day (it was held at 9am in Wales, 8am in Norway, 6pm here, 4am in Canada).
She’d been cremated on my birthday (we had no say in the date they chose, and although I did at first plead to change it, in the end it felt quite synchronistically perfect), and my son, my love and I had gone to the beach for that event, making a small altar with a candle, incense, and the scarf I’d knitted for her two decades ago. It was private and intense; now a month later it was time for public mourning…
The ceremony went so well! Luckily I am confident with Zoom, so I MC’d all the little boxes and their occupants- I made sure we introduced ourselves, and how we knew Mum. In Wales, a laptop set on a newly-purchased tripod with external USB microphone worked perfectly, and 10 people huddled round the screen with as much colourful dignity as possible.
We finished by throwing flowers into the sea after some of her ashes, and it was stunning to feel part of such a meaningful experience- thank goodness my cousin took a photo of it for me:
Then of course the family all went to a posh cafe for morning tea and cake, followed by pub lunch with rosé toasts, Mum’s fav tipple.
It was surreal, sad, funny, emotional, and liberating all at the same time. I’d worked hard, feeling mounting pressure as the time approached, and it was a massive relief that it all went smoothly (not least of all the Wifi coverage on a remote beach)- thank you Universe.
I was exhausted but stayed up till 2.30, crying, looking at old photos, listening to reggae, and SO WISHING I could be with my family at the pub.
That was hard, feeling isolated.
But we did it together. We gave Mum an ultra-modern, COVID-friendly, heart-centred send off, and in the future I will bring more of her ashes here to plant beneath a bright red flowering, bird-attracting native tree.
Be free now Mum: transform and evolve, as we must too without you.
In gratitude for family love, technology, and rituals, G xO