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For it was not into my ear that you whispered, but my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul………….. Judy Garland  (dedicated to my own angel)

I’m currently in the middle of making a slideshow for a funeral on Tuesday.   I’ve never met this gentleman but I do know his family and am honored to be trusted to make this tribute to their loved father, father in law and grandfather.  People often ask me if I get depressed making people’s funeral tributes but I honestly don’t.  In fact I love doing them.  I love getting a sneak peek into their lives.  I love looking closely at them and learning so much about their personality by looking at their photos.  You learn so much about a person by turning their photos into a moving tribute.

This particular gentleman was 87 years old, had two sons and four grandchildren.  He was obviously a devoted husband and father.  His photos tell me so much about who he was.  It’s amazing to think I have to condense his 87 years into a few minutes of music and photos.   What is more amazing is the way funeral parlours and churches nowadays EXPECT you to cut your loved ones lives down to as little a time as possible.

What is a funeral if not a celebration of life? It’s a time to remember, reflect, grieve, cry, laugh but most of all celebrate a life that was. The person who’s life we are celebrating is the reason for the whole service, so why are we constantly being pressured to cut down on the reminiscing to make way for the formalities?  While I know this gentleman’s family are very happy with the way the preparations for this service have been handled, they were still told to cut his slideshow down to 4 minutes.  FOUR MINUTES??? Really?? Let’s condense someone’s 87 years into 4 lousy minutes!  Why?  If there is a shortage of time, why do we have to chop into the memories of the person being celebrated? Surely the celebration of that person is the last thing to be cut, not the first.

I remember 14 years ago when my own gorgeous mum passed away, the local Catholic priest telling me it wasn’t a good idea for me to do the eulogy but if I really insisted on doing it, I should cut it down to no more than 5 minutes.  My mum had lived for 76 years, helped raise quite a few of her 8 younger siblings while her own mum worked, she raised 12 children of her own and had 30 something  grandchildren as well as a number of great grandchildren.   And someone who doesn’t know her thinks it’s not a good idea for ME to do my own Mum’s eulogy but if I do, cut it down to 5 minutes.

There is no way in the world I could have condensed her life into 5 minutes.  She was colorful and funny and interesting. She was much more than 5 minutes.  I could have spoken about her all day.  (I still do sometimes)  Her life is worth much more than 5 minutes.  I felt like saying, actually, if we’re running short of time, perhaps you could cut your sermon instead of me cutting my eulogy, but out of respect for mum, I didn’t do that. I smiled nicely, nodded appropriately, then went and wrote as long a eulogy as I wanted to.  What was he going to do? Ask me to shut up and sit down in the middle of it? If the service ran over time, BAD LUCK! I wasn’t cutting down what I had to say to fit his schedule.  If you’d like to have a read of it, you can find it here.

Are we always in such a rush that even death and grieving needs to be hurried?  Even a child who has lived for only a few minutes deserves more than 4 to 5 minutes celebration.  Life is too important not to be celebrated.  When someone you love dies, you want to mourn and scream and cry.  Most of all you want to remember.  You want to talk about them.  You want to celebrate them.  No one will tell me I can’t do that.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not knocking religion or churches.  Civil services are the same.  God forbid you might want to go a bit overtime as that might mean they have to not book as many services in in a day.

It was exactly 18 years ago today that my own daughter was killed.  On the day of her funeral I sat in the mourning car, ready to go and bury my own beautiful daughter and suddenly couldn’t breathe.  It was too much to take in.  The driver said to me, “it’s okay, we don’t go until you are ready.  They aren’t going to start without you there”.  What a kind, understanding man.  Aimee was buried from a church and they hadn’t booked services afterwards that meant I had to “hurry up” the process. I still have days where I can’t breathe for the pain.  The 27th of May is always one of those days.  Grieving a loved one is the hardest thing you will ever do.  No one has a right to hurry you up.  Not a celebrant, a priest, a minister or an undertaker.

I started doing slideshows because I love celebrating lives.  Whether they be for weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries or any other celebration, they tell a story.  I read a quote today that says ” Your story is the greatest legacy you leave to your friends.. It is the longest lasting legacy you will leave to your family”.  We all have a story.. we all deserve a decent telling of that story.  I know that when I do a slideshow for a funeral, I am helping their family tell their story with as much emotion as they want.  They say a picture paints a thousand words.  So 50 photos only just touches the tip of their lives.

Let’s stop rushing.  Life is too short as it is.  We need to stop wishing it away.  We need to stop and smell the roses and take time to laugh and love and celebrate.  Especially celebrate your loved ones  while they are still alive and can join in the celebration.  I secretly hope that I am allowed to leave Heaven to attend my own funeral.  I want to see the celebration for my life.  If I get prior warning, I’ll be throwing my own wake BEFORE I head to the other shore to ensure I get to share in the celebrations.  And if that’s the case, be prepared to party, coz I won’t be condensing it down to 5 minutes, let me tell you.

We even have the songs already picked out for my funeral.  Morbid you say?  I don’t think so. I love music so of course I want to choose my own.  Why should everyone else get to represent me with music when it’s a celebration of my life? I’ve chosen “My way”.  Yes I know it’s cliched but it’s so appropriate for my life.  (If anyone would like to offer me the use of a studio where I can record myself singing it, I’ll take you up on that.)  The hymn I’ve chosen is “Abide with me”.  It was played at both Aimee and Mum’s funeral.  Lachlan has chosen Peter Allan’s “Quiet please, there’s a lady on the stage” which represents my love of performing.  Stuart as a teenager, had a fight with me one day and told me that when I died he was going to play “Ding dong the witch is dead”.  I laughed so hard that we stopped fighting.  I expect he will still play it.  Some people might take offence.. Not me.. I know what’s behind it.

No stuffy, boring, impersonal funeral for me.  Three of my nieces promised me many years ago, over a cask of wine, that they would tell the chubby joke and the wide mouth frog joke at my funeral.  I intend to hold them to their promise.  I expect to live for many many years yet.  I’m not ready to leave and I ain’t going  nowhere!!!! But I want people to know what I want.  My party, my rules.

I hope the wonderful gentleman who’s DVD I have just finished has a wonderful celebration of his life tomorrow.  From what I can see from his pictures, he deserves it.  And if in the future, you are set the task of organising the celebration of a loved ones life, don’t be bullied by anyone to cut it short.  Make it the best send off they could have.  I’m sure they  will deserve it.  Until then, celebrate them now while they’re still here to enjoy.

Happy celebrating… Livvy 🙂

kissed my soul