Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Children and Animals - what can I say?

It has oft been said, to work with children and animals is a recipe for mishap.  Not so in my experience this year.

I was taught not to tie the actual rings to the bird tasked with delivering them ... in the past I have had one owl who had other things on her mind and disappeared into the rafters of a barn; any amount of enticement resulting is a disdainful turning to face the wall.

This year a barn owl called Ellen did the honours, she was exemplary, flew in on cue straight as a die and delivered the dummy rings to me as though it was second nature.

Stock image by Pixabay

She made the day extra special, particularly for the youngest page boy, an avid fan of Hedwig.  I think Ellen became Hedwig for the day.

Other rings have been delivered by a charming beagle called Fern; on a beach which was slightly nerve wracking - can you imagine losing valuable rings amongst the lapping waves and pebbles on a beach?  Luckily Fern was on form and played her part beautifully as did her partner in crime, the youngest best man of my acquaintance, Toby.  Toby escorted his Mother to the beach, helped me to tie the cords in the hand-fasting and made a speech, I am in awe of his presence and style - but then his Mother did a rap as well, so I guess they have form!

I was lucky enough to have a horse drawn hearse at a funeral at the new Charlton Park Crematorium in Andover.  It was a beautiful sunny day and the mourners gathered in festival attire to celebrate a life cut short.  The horses, Nico and Paco had multi-coloured plumes and there were flags and music and photos of all her treasured pets, as well as her two dogs in attendance.  No chance of anything going wrong as the horses were a beautifully matched pair of greys, as familiar with their job as their coachman.

Charlton Park Crematorium

Life is to be celebrated and it is good to work with children and animals, they bring a freshness and an unpredictability to events of every sort.

The work of a Celebrant is exactly that; to celebrate life and love and death and all the foibles of humanity and animal kind alike.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Grief and Regret

Tomorrow is Father's Day in England.  I know that it is a modern concept, born of the marketing whizz kids keen to make a bit of money; but for those of us who have lost our Father's it is a bittersweet day.  It is hard to lose anyone important in your life. 

Speaking as a daughter, the loss of my Father is really tough.  My Father was a huge character; he was complex and for those of you who have read Love in a Cold Climate, he was a lot like Fa.  He loved with a passion and hated in equal measure.  If you were one of his tribe, you felt cherished and secure.  He was preposterous in many ways but he was real; he had fierce opinions, some of them a little dicey; he did not suffer fools at all and he had a deep rooted and practical love of the countryside, animals and his family.

I regret that in the 10 years since he died, he has missed so many good things in my family.  He has missed his grandchildren growing from children to adults and making such a success of their lives.  He has missed my brother turning things around and making the farm what it is today.  He has missed Mum surviving widowhood; he was really worried about her and she has cracked on with it, she is game for anything and she wears her grief with great grace.

I am really proud of the journey that I have made from those stumbling beginnings at his graveside, knowing what I wanted to do for him and now being able to do it for others.  I love my work as a Doula,

I appreciate seeing the relief on the faces of those who are caught up in the minutiae of death when I arrive and they can go for a bath, walk, sleep, whatever knowing that I will hold the space and keep the home fires burning until they return a little refreshed.

There is nothing we can do to stop those we love from dying, we can make their death a little less agonising by listening to what they want and acting accordingly.  People worry about things, that to you and I when we are young (ish) and well, may seem trivial - they become all encompassing and it is right that we hear this and offer support in resolving them.

It seems to me that the mind has a way of contracting so that the man who was once a captain of industry, a big player ceases to perceive the enormity of the world and is focussed on his own slice of reality.  He takes pleasure in sorting the small stuff and seems to forget that once these little goals would have been but nothing in his busy life.  It is for us to bolster his sense of pride and achievement and to back up his efforts not take over and diminish him still further.

Tomorrow I will walk my dog, a dog Father never knew, on the farm that he loved.  I will walk up to the wood where he is buried and I will sit a while and tell him our news.  I wish that I could do this face to face but there it is.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

To tie the knot | Wedding Celebrant | Meaningful ceremonies

I promised you photos and thoughts on the wedding of my son Jack and his beautiful bride Megan.

They were married in the garden of Megan's family home outside Saskatoon in Canada in August this year.
Celebrant getting in a knot!!
From the outset the wedding was going to be understated, a proper family event with all the elements from the dress to the ceremony provided by us - their family.

Megan looked stunning in a dress made for her by her mother - it was a real labour of love; but that is what the ceremony was about from start to finish - attention to the smallest details and done to make the day really special.

Such a beautiful dress
The ceremony was my contribution - I interviewed Jack and Megan when I was with them last summer and wrote the ceremony back in England - they chose the elements that they wanted to make the day memorable - a hand-fasting, a sand ceremony and a wedding tree.

The hand-fasting was fun, none of them had ever seen one before and it was a chance for Megan's sisters and her parents and my mum to say things privately to them that meant so much.  We tied the knot with a cord that I made - eight strands to represent each member of Jack's living family in England.

The sand ceremony utilised a maple syrup bottle that we up-cycled and the sand was from England, Canada, Australia - where they met and Iceland - where they fell in love.

My daughter made the wedding tree, she used photographs from both sides of the family, printed in sepia and decoupaged onto a canvas in the shape of a stylised tree - the guests were encouraged to use their finger prints to make the leaves and to sign their names in the grass ... the tree is back in England now for the second half of the ceremony early next year.

The family cooked and chopped and mixed and stirred with a will to create a cosmopolitan feast - so much food and so much washing up!

The marquee went up, the dance floor went down - the decorations went in; at one moment there was catastrophe when a string of lights disconnected and crashed down showering the dance floor and grass with tiny slivers of bulb - the indomitable Krone family had the solution, an industrial hoover ... who could imagine hoovering a lawn, it had to be done.

I trained as a Celebrant because I wanted to be immersed in real family events - this was one of those, such joy and love it was palpable and I am thrilled to share it with you.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

The Country Carer | Doula Work | Community

Doula Work

I have had the immense privilege in the last few months to support three people at the end of their lives.

I would like to emphasise that this is not medical support; we are lucky enough in Hampshire to have the wonderful Rosemary Foundation; a team of professional, dedicated people who provide a hospice at home for so many.

The Doula work that I do is to work with a family in coming to terms with the impending death of someone that they love.

In the last few cases this has been sad but not tragic.  The death has been timely and expected.  I have had the chance to sit and listen to memories being shared, we have gone through photographs and I have written postcards to old friends on their behalf; the words that are used are their words and they have been key in writing the eulogies too.

I have learned that although the death is timely and often desired it is still a tough call.  There is an empty, hollow feeling that one is left with. 

The space that that person occupied is blank and once the body has been laid to rest and the ephemera disposed of all there is is an echo. 

I see a similarity in a stranger in the street and it brings me up short.  A sound, a smell, a mannerism takes me straight back to them and I find these things a bittersweet comfort.

I cannot express enough how wonderful it is to be allowed to work with someone at the end of their life; there are no holes barred and the honesty with which my clients have faced their demise, their dignity and courage is awe inspiring.

I am impressed too by the courage and kindness shown by family members.  It is as though once you have given them permission to be hands on and involved that they grow into a role of advocate. 

Most unexpectedly, recently, I had the joy of working with a grandson ... he was so receptive and frank about what was happening to his Grandpa; his compassion and humour stood out and when the time came to speak out at the funeral, he needed no notes - he spoke from his heart and it was beautiful.

I wanted to pay tribute here to my training.  I was trained by Chele Lawrence of the UK Society of Celebrants and she and my Doula family continue to walk beside me through this work.  It is a hard path that we have chosen and we would not be able to do it without each other.

The business of naming | Celebrant work | Nurture

We all have a name, chosen for us by our parents ... it may be a reference to someone special in their lives, it may be a name that they have heard and liked or it might be a reference to a character in a book or film.

As we grow up, the name that was chosen for us becomes our name and is subject to our alteration.  Some people have a pet or nickname that refers to a characteristic or event.

Our friends adapt our name and sometimes it sticks - for most of my school life I was Sid, it came about as a malapropism and there are a few people who still call me by it.  I am ambivalent - school days were not the happiest period of my life and I was delighted to leave Sid behind.

My Father called me Lulu or Cinders - those names cut me in half, I loved my Father deeply and I miss him to this day, the people that call me Lulu are part of that inner circle of love and trust.

A naming ceremony is a joyous event, the child is central to the day; a focus for the aspirations of those who love them.  They say that it takes a community to raise a child.  I understand that to mean that it is the collective responsibility of a community to look out for the child and their parents, to see that they are supported.

The children that I name will be loved and supported by their immediate family but also by their wider community.  By having a celebration that encompassed all of the village and which was redolent with love and happiness and humour - they are assured of their place in that community.

What's in a Name ~ Cindy Groves
My Grandfather ~ Edward Nigel

I will look at you and our eyes will meet,
recognition will spark and fizz between us.
You are as precious to me as the tiniest grain of gold,
I see our paths twisting together like strands of silk.
How do I name that depth of love?

What can I say that will show the world what you mean to me?
Can I name you for someone who has gone before;
that was their name and their place in my heart.
The tenderness I feel for you is new;
freshly minted and unique.

Should your name be grand?
Will your name be used by all who know you?
or will you be chosen for a special name, a pet name,
a name that is only yours; that marks you out -
you are unknown to us yet.

Will you be brave and strong or quiet and homely?
Will you rage against the world or skip sweetly through?
Should your name mark a place, a time, a moment?
Should you wear the badge of history or a well loved tale?

For now I will call you by a private name
a name that is ours in the dark of the night.
A name that thumps and bumps as you do in my womb
I will whisper your name as I sing to you
I will murmur your name as I stroke you, safe inside.

Your name is still unknown to me,
it will come in a rush, as you will.
A name that will mark you out as who you are.
A name that fits you like the softest shawl,
tucked around you, your name and your's alone.

I wrote this poem a while ago for a friend in advance of the birth of her daughter.  I wrote it in remembrance of the birth of my own children and the certainty that I felt for their names.

I love naming days, I love the rituals and symbolism and the coming together of family and friends.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The Country Celebrant: Memorials

I have been asked to write a memorial for a wonderful chap, married to his wife for nearly seventy years.  They lived in the same village for all of their married lives, in a house that belonged to her parents.  Sadly, they never had any children and they were the world to each other - country people who shared a love of their garden and of nature.

I walked today, thinking of them both and wondering what I will need to say to bring her comfort; these memories are the ones that she has shared with me put into a little poem, I collected some hips and haws that I am pressing in my flower press and I will frame the poem with them for her.

Ode to a Gentleman

You were the earth to me, 
each walk we took together,
the times we stood and stared
over the fields to a distant spot.

Looking at a deer, head raised -
rooted to the ground
an unbroken look between us
Neither wishing to blink nor stop.

You were the world to me,
gruff and gentle, weather beaten.
Your hands mapped with life;
your face as cherished as a child.

Watching a fox break cover,
tail and nose low to the ground
slinking along a hedge line
in the Autumn morning, wild.

You were my everything,
my compass and my map.
You are my everything,
my coat, my gloves, my hat.

It is an honour to listen to someone talk of the person that they have spent most of their life with; it may sound a little cliched but I truly believe that sharing memories with a relative stranger brings a crumb of comfort.  There is the chance to complete the circle, to say some of things that may have been left unsaid and to close a chapter.