A Certified Life Cycle Celebrant©

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Create   Collaborate   Celebrate!

Portland Wedding & Memorial Officiant

Creating Heartcrafted Ceremonies

  Celebration of Life

Susie Cunningham

Blame it on the Obituaries...
I'm often asked what (the heck!) inspired me to become .... a Funeral Celebrant. I calmly answer: Oh, life experiences .....

and reading the Obituaries. 

As someone who lost both parents at a relatively young age, I understand the importance, and for me the necessity, of having a gathering, a wake, a memorial, a funeral, a party - big or small - for those left behind. A chance to honor the death and celebrate the life of the departed. MEMORIALS ARE FOR THE LIVING! An opportunity to acknowledge a life's imprint and share the grief, nourished by a community of family and friends. It's a symbolic ending, and beginning of the journey one walks following a death, and a stepping stone I've learned not to miss. 

But it was the Obituaries that pushed me over the edge. Oh how I loved reading all the life stories but soon discovered how many ended with the phrase, "no service planned." Some days it was half the obituaries. Really? No service planned? I wondered why. And what about those left behind? They need a service! Some closure! Like many in the Northwest, perhaps the person was religiously unaffiliated and having a religious service didn't reflect the deceased life's values? Maybe the person or the family didn't know they had other non-denominational options, who to call, or how to find alternatives? It was probably a combination of many things, and so families just skipped right over it. No service planned. It kind of broke my heart. Every life deserves to be recognized even in the simplest of ways. 

As a Funeral Celebrant I offer non-religious alternatives for a Memorial that's limited only by one's imagination. I work closely with the family and together we craft a ceremony that truly celebrates the life of their loved one.  A great deal of attention is given to authentically representing the person, their core values and beliefs. By considering the inclusion of selected readings, poems, music or song, storytelling, meaningful symbolism or a photo montage, a ceremony that truly reflects the life of the deceased emerges. 

A special part of every Memorial I officiate is reading the original Life Story I've carefully written about the honoree. I spend time with family and friends, gathering their memories, hearing their stories, and often looking through pictures in the family scrapbook. I love this part. From my meetings I craft a custom ceremony that contains only the elements that seem appropriate for the life being honored. It could include a Henry David Thoreau verse or a funny twisty passage from Dr. Seuss; soft music by a flutist or a boisterous marching drum corps; a candle lighting ritual or a ceremony with Military Honors at Willamette National Cemetery. 

A Celebration of Life ceremony should be as unique as the person. Let me be your guide.