Funeral Celebrant

PART FOUR - Music and mementos



"A thing of beauty is a joy forever."


Beauty comes in all forms, shapes and sizes. There is human beauty, natural beauty, artistic beauty. Beauty in words, music and objects. Beauty in gestures and actions. Beauty is everywhere, every day. Sometimes we just need to look a little harder for it. And alongside the beautiful, is the precious – the things that hold great meaning for us that we couldn’t bear to part with.

You may have thought about, or been asked, the question “If there was a fire in your home, and your loved ones and pets were out safely, what would you try to save?” It’s a tough one – do you think about what you might need on a practical level in the coming days? Do you try to grab the most expensive items? Or do you go for the items that hold the most meaning for you on a sentimental level? The things that may not be practical or valuable but are utterly priceless and irreplaceable to you.

In the section, we’re going to look at three precious ‘collections’ that you may well decide to make a bee-line for in the event of such a catastrophe – music, photographs, and mementos. We’ll look at how they fit into the story of your life, what they mean to you, where you keep them and who you share them with. Your answers will vary, of course, depending on your age. Your music collection, for example, may be vinyl, cassette, digital, or a combination of all of these. You may have original polaroid photographs from the 1970’s or create polaroid-style images with a 21st century app on your smart phone. Perhaps you have bundles of hand-written letters or an answerphone message you’ll never delete?

Previous sections will, again be useful, especially Section Three where we looked at significant and memorable moments. So enjoy another trip down memory lane…




Music is the emotional life of most people.
— Leonard Cohen

People often ask me, “is it difficult to keep your own emotions under control when you’re doing a funeral ceremony?” My answer – it usually depends what music has been chosen. Music is highly powerful and emotive, and once we’ve attached a song to a particular event in our lives or to someone special, it’s virtually impossible to disconnect them. So if a family chooses a song that has emotional connections for me, I have to do all I can to distract my mind away from it. I’ll form a detailed, mental shopping list, or think about what I’m cooking for tea, that sort of thing. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the family or deceased in question. But it’s the only way to contain myself and keep it together. Of course, not all these songs are sad songs. Quite often there will be an up-beat piece of music that I find impossible to sit still to. But a dancing celebrant would be just as bad as a crying one, so again, gentle foot taps are the order of the day…

So what music is special to you?

What have been the tracks of your years?
Are there songs that remind you of meaningful times in your life, places, people, special events, good times?
Are there songs that helped you to face difficult moments, challenging events, break ups or break downs?
Are their songs that have no particular association but they just make you feel really good?
Have you ‘inherited’ songs from loved ones and are there songs you’d like to dedicate or hand-down to family and friends?

Add these songs in to your life story, relationships, and special moments sections, and perhaps then make a playlist of your favourites.  And even if you wouldn’t describe yourself as a music fan, music will still have played a significant part in your life. You may not have been buying records or listening to the radio, but music still played its part in defining each decade you’ve lived through – whether that was the Big Band 40’s, Swinging 60’s or Electro 80’s. So perhaps look at what you identified as your happiest times and see what music was hitting the airwaves.

This is your chance to take part in your very own Desert Island Discs, except you can choose as many songs as you like and I’ll let you take them all with you!



A photograph can be an instant of life captured for eternity that will never cease looking back at you.
— Brigitte Bardot

Everywhere you look these days, people are ‘capturing the moment’. Phones held aloft at music gigs and on the end of selfie sticks at tourist attractions. Wedding guests zooming in on the first (choreographed) dance while holiday makers immortalise (and edit) the last sunset. Parents savouring baby’s first step, and pet owners capturing the four-legged funny bits. Everyone is clicking away and sharing in an instant.

I’m from a generation who takes pictures and videos on my phone but also remembers going on holiday with six rolls of film in her suitcase, returning home a week later to wait excitedly in Boots for the film to be developed. Oh the agony and the ecstasy of flicking through the prints to see what was in focus. Growing up in the 70’s there are childhood polaroids of me in photo albums which my parents carefully tucked into plastic sleeves or stuck down with little gold-embossed corners. And very precious black and white photographs of my grandparents, equally treasured on the pages of albums or in frames on the wall.

Capturing the moment may seem to have become more important than the moment itself these days, but there is no denying the joy of a photograph and the memories that are encapsulated within its frame. Whether those images are on a flat screen or curling at the corners, they are precious to us, reminders of where we’ve been, who we’ve known, what we’ve seen, and, importantly, who we were in that moment.           

So what photographs do you have that hold meaning for you?

Which ones reflect the journey of your life, the person you’ve been, the people you’ve known and loved, the adventures you’ve had, the proud moments you’ve been part of?

Where are these photographs kept? Are any on display? Have you shared them with family and friends?

And what photographs do you think really reflect the real you, as you see yourself? If you had to choose an image for the front of your funeral order of service, which would it be?   

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Precious things are for those that can prize them.
— Aesop’s Fables

If asked what is the most valuable thing in life, I would say ‘time’, followed closely by ‘health’, as both are equally priceless and you don’t really want one without the other. But I also appreciate this sense of priceless value can be applied to objects – the things we cherish for sentimental reasons that we can never bring ourselves to part with, no matter how many times we de-clutter, move house, or need to make room for newer, more practical things.  These sentimental items could be letters, cards, newspaper cuttings, drawings, photographs, event tickets, cassette tapes, holiday souvenirs, video clips, clothing, autographs, jewellery, medals, menu’s… whatever we attach meaning to because they remind us of a person, a place, or a significant, memorable event in our lives.

These objects might be stored in a box under the bed or on display in your home.  You might wear them every day, or appreciate their significance on anniversaries or special days of the year.  However they are stored or used, they say something about what matters to you, why you wouldn’t be without them, and why that fireman had to restrain you from running back into your burning home to retrieve them.

So what items do you treasure?
What’s the story behind them?
How long have you had them?
Where are they kept?
Who else sees them?
What will happen to them when you are no longer here to appreciate their value?



Now you’ve become reacquainted with your favourite music, photographs and hidden treasures, don’t hide them away again. Here are some ideas for putting them on display…