Let’s Celebrate more often in the year ahead

The past twelve months have not brought many reasons for Planet Earth, or it’s inhabitants, to celebrate.  From election results that made me wonder if I had been transported to an alternate reality, to revelations about behaviour that made me feel angry and powerless.  Each day of 2017 seemed to increase my levels of astonishment, fury, despair and absolute astonishment.  And rage.

As we draw to an end of this dreadful year, I ask myself what I can celebrate; I always reflect on my successes at the end of each day, month and year.  It’s a positive, reflective opportunity to acknowledge my achievements and since my change of pace (from a too hectic “doing” life to a more present “being” one) one that helps me notice the little things that make a big difference to my wellness, my friendships and the lives of those I love.

There have been plenty of things to celebrate in my world during the last year, and when I stop looking at the overwhelming world-picture, one I can have very little impact on, and focus instead on my tiny, and rather beautiful, corner of Carmarthenshire, I see far more to be positive about than I imagined.  Each morning here, we sit in awe of the view from our window and watch the birds.  We start each day with a celebration of the decision we made to move here, thanking each other for the brave and bold move me made.

It can be so easy to focus on the negative news, the social media sensational stories that beg us to share the misinformation, stirring up hatred and ignorance.  All too easy.  It takes a bit more effort to focus our energy instead, on the positive stories, the daily heroes who interact with others and change lives, the things happening in our communities that we can be proud of.  Stories of hope and change.  Stories to celebrate.

They are there if we look for them; and when we choose to put our effort into finding, sharing and liking the good and the positive, when we spend time looking for things worth celebrating, guess what happens?  We find them!  We find them and enjoy them, and gain strength and hope from them, and when we share them with our friends and family, they smile and enjoy the thought that “there are things to celebrate in the world”.

I’m setting myself a challenge for 2018 and I’d love you to join me.  I’m going to find more to celebrate.  I’m going to go out of my way to share things I believe will encourage other people to celebrate the positives in their lives too.  And let me be clear, I’m not hiding my head in the sand or pretending that everything will get better for Planet Earth whilst I’m focussing on the positive.  I am not going to be silent, I am not going to sit back and let the world continue on it’s self-destructive path without speaking and peacefully protesting in any way I can.  And I will do that in a positive way, celebrating my ability to express my opinions in a (relatively) free country.

Who’s with me? I’d love to know how you’re going to celebrate more in the year ahead, and what you’re celebrating about 2017 that gives you hope.

Dinah

Let’s talk about death, darling

Talking about our inevitable death and our wishes after the event, is not usually included in recommended light conversation for date night.  Even amongst those who work in roles where you’d expect talking about dying to be something they’re trained in, and despite us all knowing that we will, at some point, die, many of us never let our family or close friends know if we have any special requests for our own life celebration service.

As a Celebrant, I often have detailed conversations with family members to ensure every detail of the service we put together is exactly in line with the wishes of the departed loved-one.  An integral part of writing the ceremony, is often including particular words or music that meant a great deal to everyone present.

Despite this being such an important part of creating ceremonies that help the family move forward, I realised last weekend, that I had never spoken in any real detail with my husband, John, about what I would like for my life celebration.  Even with my experience and training, I found it slightly difficult to pick the right moment to suggest we ought to make it clear for those left with the task of arranging our funerals, if there was anything particularly important to us that we’d like them to include or consider.

I am pleased to say, that once I got over the initial “this isn’t the most positive thing to talk about over pudding, but I’d like to talk about death, darling” John and I had a constructive, positive and at times even funny conversation.

We talked about where and how we wanted to have our bodily remains left, and both agreed we liked the idea of being cremated.  John has always said he’d like a Viking send-off, but after giggling about sending him down the garden stream in a log boat, set alight with his charcoal, we got a bit more practical and agreed a Life Celebration where we were by water would be more manageable.

We talked about who we’d love to have there, and why.  We shared ideas on who we’d want to speak and what stories they might share.  I was reminded of my first experience speaking at a funeral, when John’s dad died and I was asked by his mum to write and deliver the service, with just two days to prepare.  Before long we were remembering holidays we’d shared before his dad became ill, and it was one of the most positive conversations we’ve had about him since his death seven years ago.

One of the big things we acknowledged, was that the service is really for the people we leave behind, not for ourself.  We wanted to be sure the ceremony would be positive and uplifting for our daughter and friends, we hoped the people we’d ask to read would share joyful and happy memories and be there to offer a hug and support to our family.  By preparing as much as we could in advance, we were removing some of the burden for those that had to plan and make arrangements during a challenging time.

I made him promise that, if he is around to help plan my service, nobody would read “Stop all the clocks” by W.H. Auden; it would have our daughter in pieces.  By the same token, “The life that I have” is far too much like him for her to cope with it at his service, so we’re planning on short, simple and possibly even comedic poetry, with a leaning towards Pam Ayres.

And all the time that we talked about these plans, we held each other’s gaze; we smiled and listened intently.  We cried a little too; the thought of being here without each other brings no joy and after over 30 years together, I don’t spend time imagining a life after John. Yet this evening’s conversation, heart-wrenching, laughter-creating and above all, surprising, had proved to be soothing and calming, leaving me with a sense that, despite the fear, we can talk about death; even with those we fear leaving the most.

Dinah

 

 

Why I became an Independent Celebrant

This summer, I was ready.  Ready to decide where my new life in Myddfai, Carmarthenshire, was going to head in the next chapter.  When you’ve been lucky enough to live a life that has been full and varied (not just because of opportunities but also challenges) then finding the next thing you want to focus on can be a challenge.

“I need to make a difference, I know that” I told John, my husband and partner for over 30 years now (we will celebrate 30 years of marriage next spring) as we sat by our woodland pond celebrating being discharged from my Cardiologist.  I’d been given a less than rosy picture for the next ten years, and thanks to Myddfai air, plenty of exercise in the garden and sheer determination as a couple, we’ve re-written our next chapter and I am well enough to work, part-time again.

As a business speaker and mentor, I was doing something I loved, with people who were taking control of their future, determined to make positive change and life-time goals come true.  It seems there is already common ground when I take on the role of Celebrant for couples who want to make a life together.

As an adopted child, I was officially given the name of my new family on my brother’s second birthday.  Becoming part of a family as an adopted child gives you a new sense of belonging, of being part of a tribe.  Working with families to welcome new children into their world, perhaps after a second marriage that means step-kids will be becoming a larger family unit, fills me with excitement.

As a daughter-in-law, who wrote and held the service for her father-in-law, who deserved to be remembered by those who loved and cared about him, who knew his humour and his dreams, I want to support others in saying their good-bye in authentic words, with meaning and love.

Becoming a Celebrant has been my new chapter, and I hope it will allow me to be part of the next chapter in the lives of many families.

Dinah