As a bit of a History buff I have acquired a library of documentaries, all History related of course. On this occasion I was watching footage of the funeral of President Brezhnev of what used to be the old Soviet Union…the military were marching to a slow version of Chopin`s funeral march…if it were any slower these jackbooted dragoons would have lost their balance whilst the grieving family brought up the rear.
Eventually the column reached the wall were the coffin would be inserted and slid in position rather like my old filing cabinet, a photograph of the loved one is then placed on the outside…I`ve seen much of this in Eastern Europe. The Brezhnev family were weeping and it looked as if they did not want the soldiers, whose job it was it to lift and slid the coffin into the vacant square to complete their task. When they had finished they did a smart about turn…only this time the band struck up with something more lively and cheerful…off went the column almost to a happy goose step, with the exception of the family…obviously different cultures etc have different ways of dealing with the final journey…so with all this military pomp no need of a celebrant here.
When my soul mate Liliane (Mitchell – Starr) passed Lois and I were presented with a list of celebrants…however on perusing the list we could not find a suitable celebrant. On the top end were the usual Church of England, Roman Catholic and Non-Conformist, hardly acceptable to any practising Spiritualist…to begin with we don’t subscribe to the low level concept of Christ dying for our sins, so that cancelled out the top three, at the other end of the scale there was a Humanist…who thinks `that’s that`…`when you’re dead, you’re your dead`, this too is hardly compatible with Spiritualist philosophy of the continuation of life, so that really was that. After a little research it appears to be much the same across the country, however step forward John Rogers, a dear friend and healer at Wallasey and Birkenhead churches both situated on the Wirral. Before I continue I must relate a rather amusing incident that took place at Wallasey church, on this particular evening John and a colleague were acting stewards during the evening service…outside it was beginning to go dark, there were rows of parked cars and all was quiet except for three teenagers standing under a lamppost directly opposite the church entrance, these three had been up to mischief and John wanted to defuse the situation without making an issue…one of them (I think John said there were two boys and a girl) shouted across the road, `Hey Mister, do you talk to ghosts in there ? John replied, ‘Yes we do’. John thought, ‘If only I could remove them`. OK, prove it? another one called out…at that very moment the street lamp of which the three were standing under went out, one of them yelled, then all three took to their heels, never to be seen again…John chuckled to himself and to this day he doesn`t know if at that precise moment the light bulb failed or it was spirit intervention…either way it worked a treat.
Today the emphasis is on celebrating the life of the departed loved one…gone is the image of black…mourning…sackcloth and ashes…as it used to be, contrast this with, for example Mexico, instead of going along to the cemetery, as people do in this country and laying flowers on the grave and in some cases I`ve seen people standing at the foot of the grave talking, albeit a one way conversation with the deceased. In Mexico during the feast of all saints, the family and friends of the loved one take off for the cemetery loaded with food and drink even sweets sugared skeletons appear to be very popular it all resembles something out of Saint-Saens `Danes Macabre`…this is a native pagan ritual combined with Roman Catholicism…Mexico being a catholic country and the priest can do little about it, which in my opinion is a good thing…people should celebrate the way they want to. So all in all they have a jolly good time especially in Mexico.
Various Spiritualist friends up and down the country have contacted me and have said regarding celebrants…they were not happy taking second best i.e. a C of E vicar, however well intentioned or even worse, assuming he excepts, a Humanist celebrant, now that would be hypocritical. Incidentally, it is also interesting to consider something that was said by one of Liliane`s Guides, White Feather, he stated that the vast majority of those in the body are not aware of two of the following four situations between spirit world and the material world, first there is much sadness in Spirit world when a soul leaves and enters the material world…second there is usually great joy at the birth of a child…third at the end of that incarnation they return to spirit and there is much sadness (many in the body think they will never see them again) among the loved ones left behind…fourth and finally there is great rejoicing at the return of the loved one to its true home in spirit.
Meanwhile I spoke to the SNU to ascertain the present situation and they replied that there is not a list of celebrants as such but they could put me in touch with someone who would act as celebrant. True you can ask a friend but some are unable or unwilling for different reasons, again others have no one to turn to. I rang the number which was Warrington, this is about an hour’s drive from South Liverpool, the woman I spoke to was a medium and very sympathetic…she had also done this before…I learned from her there are guide lines for those that do this line of work also the letter S is used after their names which indicates they are qualified in public speaking. There was also another number in Manchester thirty miles to the east of the city which could yield another possibility but all in all it was a bit of a hit and miss situation plus the fact that most people I spoke to are simply not aware of it (also many senior and elderly spiritualists are not on line) Some people informed me that the speakers …celebrants they ended up with…their eulogy bore no resemblance to their loved ones, it also appears that some areas are well catered for while others are not.
What we need is an SNU nationwide register broken down region by region and the celebrants to be trained producing a good and `recognised eulogy` of the loved one…also a fee could be introduced (according to a funeral director the celebrants on the list they provided were paid a fee of £I5O, he did not say if that included travel expenses, after all they have to pay their overheads, just like the rest of us. Spiritualists would then be satisfied at least…and not having to put up with second best, because we do deserve better than the present set up. Finally to return to our dear friend John Rogers…during Liliane`s `send off`…musically we had `Where corals lie`, sung by the great mezzo soprano Janet Baker, one of her favourites (on tape of course )…John then delivered a wonderful eulogy of Liliane`s life with many humorous pieces followed by reciting two of her poems…one about Sam the blue Persian cat from Russia, this is rather funny and instead of weeping the handkerchief stayed in my pocket in fact we were all laughing…Liliane with her sense of humour would very much have approved…the concluding music was Schubert, the `Trout` another of her classical favourite`s, so all in all a sad event was turned into a happy occasion…thank you John.
Footnote: Just to clarify the situation I made these enquiries roughly a month after we celebrated Liliane`s passing to the Higher life.