My name is Linda Stuart, and I’m a Life-Cycle Celebrant. I’m a writer. I’m a speaker. I’m located in Toronto. I work with families, individuals, and couples to create one-of-a-kind ceremonies to mark life’s big and small moments, and I am particularly fond of creating meaningful funeral ceremonies. And, I know that’s a strange thing to be fond of, but compared to other ceremonies, there’s just something very special and sacred about being in that space that allows you to learn about someone’s life and hear their stories and be able to transform those stories into a meaningful ceremony for their family.
I became a celebrant after a conversation I had with a funeral director back in 2006. And, we were chatting about current trends in funerals. And, he told me about one of his most concerning trends. And, that was the trend that people don’t have a funeral at all. And, I was really bothered by this notion that there were people that didn’t feel that they fit into the boxes that we had created. And, being one of those people myself, I wanted to ensure that every family, every person could have a meaningful ceremony to remember and honor a life. Because I truly believe that ceremonies are powerful and that done well, they can be transformative in a person’s ability to heal and move through their stages of grief.
I’ve heard from a lot of people that they don’t want to have a funeral when they die, and they’ve made that request to their families. And, my response to that is often to just really think about where that’s coming from. And, also keep in mind that your funeral is not an extravagant gift that you’re giving yourself, it’s a gift that you’re giving the people who love you. And, it’s not always about what we want, it’s more in this case, about what the people that we love need when we’re gone.
What my message is, what I’m really trying to help funeral directors with is just helping them to think like a celebrant. And maybe, helping each family add a really personal, meaningful ritual element to a ceremony that might otherwise be quite ordinary. And, really just that one additional piece can really turn it into something extraordinary that people will always remember.
Oftentimes, when people hear the word ritual within the context of a funeral ceremony, they think of a religious ritual or a cultural ritual. And, I have to say that some of the most meaningful and memorable rituals that I’ve been involved in are the ones that are created for an individual and what they loved in life or what their life really meant.
For instance, my mother loves to dance, she loves music, but her favorite sound is the pop of a champagne bottle being uncorked. She loves her champagne. So, at her funeral, we will be incorporating a champagne-popping ritual. So, just to give you an example. If you can imagine, her casket will be opened and beside her casket, we’ll have a couple of bottles of champagne on a tray and a couple of glasses and a pen. Donna Summers singing Last Dance will be playing in the background. And, my brother and I will approach the tray, and we’ll each pour, we’ll open the bottles first and make the sound that she loves so much. And then, we’ll pour each other a drink of champagne, we’ll toast to her life, well lived, well loved. And when we’re finished, we will each write our names on the cork, on our corks, on our individual corks and we’ll place them in the casket beside her before we close it and say goodbye.
So, just an example of a really meaningful memorable ritual that I think will be important for my brother and I, that really honors my mother and her love of music, her love of dancing, her love of champagne. So, it doesn’t have to be overly complicated, it can be really simple but really beautiful.
If you’d like to learn more about my journey as a Life-Cycle Celebrant and explore some of the resources that I’ve created to help families, please visit my website at linda-stuart.ca, and if you’d like to learn more about Frazer Consultants, please visit their website at frazerconsultants.com.