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.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Country Celebrant: Naming Ceremonies

The Country Celebrant: Naming Ceremonies: What is in a Name? It has been a marvellous summer in Hampshire.  We have had beautiful, balmy days and there have been some glorious Nami...

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The Country Celebrant | In memory of my Father

The Country Celebrant: Bespoke Ceremonies for All Your Celebrations

Death is the one certainty in life and for those of you who don't know me well, the death of my Father in 2009 had a profound effect on me.

Father had fallen out of love with the Church but he was still a spiritual man ... he was a farmer and farmers are intrinsically linked with the earth; they are long term planners and the true husbands of nature.  By that I mean that they care deeply for the land that they work, everything that they do is for the future, next year's crop; the next generation and so forth.

Father wanted to be buried on our farm and we were able to do that for him.  His grave is in woodland, unmarked and unremarkable but a place of peace and somewhere that all of us go to for a chat once in a while.

I know that I am privileged to have been able to do that final service for him and I know that it is not something that many people are able to enjoy; but there are the most wonderful green burial sites all around the country and there are an increasing number of people who are there to help you plan a resting place as peaceful and true as the one I describe.

Yesterday marked the seventh anniversary of my Father's death and I have written a poem for him that I would like to share with you.  Writing poetry and writing funeral celebrations brings me the most enormous amount of pleasure ... please forgive me this indulgence.


When I think of you I see strong hands, nails cut short and square, 
wide hands that hold firmly and are warm and dry.

When I think of you, I see the muscle in your cheek, just below the tiny patch of hair,
the muscle that jumps and quivers and shows the emotion that the rest of your expression belies.

When I think of you, I smell a spicy mix of pipe tobacco, whisky and lime flowered after shave.  
It is the smell that holds my youth, it is there in the rough warmth of your jersey against my cheek.

I hear your voice and recall your words, expressions that are familiar to us, your family;
but words that others do not know, strange words gleaned from around the world.

I see your fingers do that queer sideways wave as though you were playing a piano in the air;
I see your eye close as you proffer your cheek for a kiss and tilt your face to one side.

I feel the strength of your love in the way you treasure the young; be they animal or no,
it is all the same to you; tough love, fierce protective love and love that brooks no failure.

You protest against the modern way, you are a traditional man; 
you hold decency and honesty in high esteem.  You are loyal to and fierce with your own above all else.

I learned my love of people from you.  You were always there at the end, playing your part in the pageant of life; not the star but the pivot around which the actors mill, constant and strong.

When I think of you, we are out of the yard in the early morning off to the hounds, breath forming smoke in the air, bread and butter and scalding tea still coat my tongue and sleep still fogs my brain.

You mix in me the fear of doing it wrong and the joy of knowing that I am on your team and have your protective arm about me, always.

I see you sitting at the end of the table, full of preposterous stories and with a dog perched on your lap; feet bare. glass to hand and glasses pushed up on your forehead like a befuddled watch mender.

There are things I wish I had asked, things I thought I had time to hear.  There are dogs that you never met; walks that we never took to places that I wish I was able to share with you.

Navigating by pubs and the recollection of rides and drives and trips that we took side by side,
talking earnestly about the nonsense of life, stories and tales embellished with time.

When I meet with you again, what fun we will have - we'll walk the fields with a pack at our feet
and stop and stare at all that is good, we'll see each other, smile and wave.  

I hope that when the time comes for you to plan your own departure or for someone that you love, that you will seek the advice of someone who understands the need for peace and calm and that you are not pushed onto the treadmill of modern, urban death.  There is a serene way to be buried and the end result is so much more honest and personal.