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On this page (click on the link below to jump to section)  

Journeying Beyond
Celebration of Funerals and Memorials

see also Death Midwifery (Pan-death Services)

  Conventional Funeral and Memorial Services
  The Uniqueness of Funeral Celebrant Ceremonies
  Advantages of a Funeral Celebrant who is a Pan-death Guide
  What does Journeying Beyond offer?

Journeying Beyond offers our services as a Funeral Celebrant, whether or not people choose to use our full range of Practitioner of Death Midwifery services.   We regret that we can only provide this care for folk on Vancouver Island.   If you have any interest in what we offer, or if you merely wish to further discuss the possibilities, please phone Pashta MaryMoon at 250-383-4065, or email us.

Conventional Funeral and Memorial Services

Most of us have attended at least one funeral that didn't seem to relate to the deceased — perhaps in a church that the Death Journeyer didn't attend, and/or led by clergy who they didn't know (but who was known to other members of the family), or simply following a tradition that they didn't hold.   In our modern world, people more often opt for a personalized funeral or memorial service — although this might mean that the service is mostly a series of eulogies from family and friends, as we have not developed any particular cultural traditions for non-religious funeral/memorial ceremonies.

Most often, the body is sent to the funeral home immediately after death — from the hospital or hospice unit, or a residential facility, although sometimes from the deceased's home.   As a result, their family and friends may not have time with the body after death — time to say their final farewells, wash and dress the body as a final act of love and honour, or begin the deeper levels of processing grief that can happen when touching/caring for the reality of death.   Unfortunately, funeral homes have restrictions on what they are allowed to do (both in terms of caring for the body and ceremonies) by law and by their professional associations — although there is a move towards more personalization.

With the popularity of cremation, many people don't have a funeral service at all, but rather a memorial a few weeks or months after their death.   Burials are becoming less popular due to the cost being much higher than cremation — although there has been a recent shift back to them, due to the presence of a Green Burial ground in Victoria (the first in Canada — Royal Oak's Woodlands) and recognition of the heavy 'carbon footprint' of cremation (that is, although the cremation itself costs less to the family, it carries a heavy price ecologically).    

In conventional funerals (in more recent times), the coffin is usually closed; and it may only be the immediate family who follow it to the graveyard and observe the burial.   Even then, they are most likely to only place flowers on the coffin and witness it being lowered into the grave — but not participate in the filling in of the grave (although with a green burial, family/friends may be allowed to fill the grave themselves, and plant the foliage over it).

Cremation is considerably cheaper than burial — often 1/6 of the cost; and is usually done without any ceremony.   Many people aren't aware that they can be present at the cremation and push the button (if they choose), and that many crematoriums have a chapel that can be used for a service.

All of these conventions mean that we are separated from the reality of death, and that often leads to more difficulty in grieving — and sharing that grief, both immediately and over the years.

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The Uniqueness of Funeral Celebrant Ceremonies

A Funeral Celebrant works directly with the Death Journeyer and their family (which may include close friends as well) to develop a ceremony that is uniquely personalized to their loved one and/or the family.    The ceremony will take into account whatever choices they make re funeral home or at-home post-death care; burial or cremation; and/or what may be described in the Death Journeyer's written Expressed Wishes.   This allows the family to choose any kind of element for the ceremony (within the law) that would best signify the life of the Death Journeyer and their family/friends' deepest memories of them — honouring a specific religious tradition, the Death Journeyer's personal spirituality, or whatever is particularly significant to the Death Journeyer and their family/friends.

There are many traditions (both ancient, and newer or evolving) across the world based on the belief that some part of us continues after death.    For people who hold those beliefs, death is often considered the next stage in an on-going journey from this life/world to another.   Ideally, a Funeral Celebrant would honour those beliefs in the ceremony, as well as personalize them for the Death Journeyer — including both a celebration of the life that has passed, and preparation for the next stage of the journey.    On the other hand — for those who believe that there is no further stage after death — the Funeral Celebrant would focus the ceremony on honouring and celebrating 'the life that was', and reviving deep and meaningful memories of the Death Journeyer for their loved ones in the future.

Part of the purpose of a Funeral Celebrant is to help the family explore, in depth, what is particularly meaningful to them and their loved one: and then to integrate all of those elements into a unique and cohesive ceremony.   In fact, there may be more than one ceremony — for example, many people prefer to have a funeral ceremony with only the closest family and friends; and a memorial service later on, which is more public.   The ceremonies may take place in a funeral home or crematorium chapel, a church, a public building (rented to hold the ceremony in), the family home (if large enough), at the graveside, or by the ocean or in a park — wherever it is legal to do so and the Death Journeyer and/or family/friends choose.   The Funeral Celebrant is prepared to lead as much of the ceremonies as the family wants; but will also support and/or facilitate different family members and friends to do different parts of it, and as much or little as they wish.

Readers may wish to view Sandra Ollsin's "Between Worlds: Communication Perspectives of Female Funeral Celebrants in British Columbia — An interactive, multimedia presentation".

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Advantages of a Funeral Celebrant who is a Pan-death Guide
[Note: all CINDEA-recognized practitioners of death midwifery are required to be funeral celebrants as well.]

If the Death Journeyer has chosen to have a Pan-death Guide, the guide will have already built a relationship with the Death Journeyer and their family throughout the pre-death and active dying stages.   The Pan-death Guide will be aware of many of their specific or special needs and choices, what is meaningful to them, and any concerns (history, tension, etc.) within the group of family and friends.   The Pan-death Guide would also know the Death Journeyer's lifestyle and 'end of life' wishes, and be able to suggest elements that the family/friends might not have thought about.

In all likelihood, elements of a funeral and/or memorial ceremony have already been considered — with the Death Journeyer directly involved in developing them: and the Pan-death Guide will know which elements are most significant, when it comes time to streamline them into a cohesive ceremony.   Family and friends will already know the Pan-death Guide and be comfortable with her/him, and be aware of what particular skills or talents s/he has to add to the ceremony.

Most importantly, there is a direct continuum between pre- and post-death care — and therefore, no need to review information and concerns that have already been discussed before the death or during post-death care (as would be the case with a funeral director).   This makes finalizing the burial/cremation ceremonies much easier for the family/friends — both in terms of the actual planning for the ceremonies, as well as the grieving that will be happening throughout.   Also, a Funeral Celebrant can ensure that wishes are honoured, and grief is acknowledged and supported within the family's timeframe (i.e. not being bound by conventional work hours).

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What does Journeying Beyond offer?

Journeying Beyond 's Pan-death Guide and Funeral Celebrant is Pashta MaryMoon, who has 40 years of experience with developing and leading funeral/memorial ceremonies for a wide range of traditions and individuals.

Journeying Beyond 's Funeral Celebrant services are committed to fulfilling the specific wishes and needs of the Death Journeyer and their family/friends with compassion and creativity.   Pashta will facilitate the creation of a ceremony that is uniquely meaningful and focused on unifying family/friends — in both their grief at the loss of the Death Journeyer and appreciation for the 'life led' — during the ceremony itself and the future memory of the Death Journeyer.   Her intention is always to create ceremonies that integrate sorrow and celebration, remembering and honouring the totality of the Death Journey's life.

Journeying Beyond provides support to the Death Journeyer and their family/friends throughout:

  Exploring elements to be included in the ceremony, according to what is particularly meaningful to the Death Journeyer and their family/friends
  Developing one or more ceremonies — based on the above elements and practical considerations — for conventional burial, green burial or cremation.   A written copy of the planned ceremonies will be made available to the family and/or close friends.
  Exploring the choice between burial and cremation (if the decision has not already been made) — including consideration of the options of filling the grave or pushing the cremation fire button — while taking into account information on costs, local providers, etc.
  Making arrangements with providers (funeral homes, cemeteries, crematoriums, buildings for ceremonies, permits for use of parks or other public spaces, etc.)
  Coordinating extra support outside of the family/friends (choir/singers, other music, readings, etc. for the actual ceremony; or practical assistance such as setting out chairs and helping with food)
  Developing an obituary and/or an on-line memorial guestbook
  Liaisoning with any chosen clergy, spiritual leader, etc. to be included
  Developing a memorial pamphlet (a life-story with photos, to be given to those who attend the funeral or memorial ceremony)
  Arranging for the chosen coffin or shroud (we have created 6 designs/patterns for shrouds sewn and unsewn; and access to blueprints for coffins)
Making plans for photos or videos of the ceremony
  Leading the ceremony (unless a clergyperson/spiritual leader, a family member, or a friend chooses to do this) and/or coordinating the participations of others
  Dealing with any necessary last-minute changes or problems, to ensure a meaningful and cohesive ceremony for all participating
Initial plans for a future anniversary ceremony (potentially, if desired which might include planning vegetation on a green burial grave or spreading of ashes) — and final plans at that time (similar to Funeral Celebrant process)

A personalized funeral or memorial service not only honours the Death Journeyer, but all of their family and friends.    In a ritualized form, it articulates the love and struggles, and the joy and sorrow, that have been shared during the life that has passed on.    In doing so, it creates a pathway for the initial grieving of the loss of the Death Journeyer's presence, AND a healthy continued connection to all that they were and meant to their loved ones as they are grieved and remembered in the time to come.

If you are interested in considering Journeying Beyond  in your preparations for a funeral and/or memorial service (whether for full pan-death Death Midwifery services or just as a Funeral Celebrant), please contact Pashta MaryMoon at 250-383-4065 or email us.    Pashta's Funeral Celebrant services are only available on Vancouver Island.

Note: the first visit — the discussion on whether or not to use Journeying Beyond 's Funeral Celebrant services — is free of charge.   The first payment of fees for Funeral Celebrant services is due at the signing of the contract.

Please contact Pashta for information on fees and contracts for Funeral Celebrant services.

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