Dying to be different

There is currently a lot of discussion about death and dying and, more specifically, about how to do it as YOU want, not how others think you should. As assisted dying begins to be legislated, we are being drawn to consider not just when, but also how, we want to move on.

The funeral industry is changing as more people question their options and reject the ‘standard’ coffin/cremation/burial. Now your coffin can be made of cardboard, woven grass or felted wool; you don’t necessarily need a coffin - your ashes can be put into a pod, along with the seed of a favourite tree that you will nourish in the years to come; you can be interred in a natural burial ground or a living forest; you can be farewelled in true Viking fashion, set out to sea in a burning boat; your ashes can be scattered by a drone or loaded into a firework and shot into the atmosphere. The choices seem endless.

There are many resources to help you plan your future - not just the funeral part, but also the dying bit. And the most important thing is that you tell someone/s about your plans and your wishes. Jolene Hill, who established www.yourlifetalks.com and www.yourlifeassist.com.au, firmly believes that the emergency room is no place to have these conversations. And so she developed a set of conversation cards that encourage people to tell their stories, with the opportunity for families to record them.

This is not just for those of us now known euphemistically as ‘seniors’, but really it’s for everyone, as we don’t always know when we are to depart our mortal coil.

I thus entreat you to check out the above websites and contact me if you would like further information. In a voluntary capacity, I will happily run sessions using the cards with individuals or groups.

It’s never too soon, but it could be too late.


Perth Wedding celebrant

There are over 3000 celebrants in WA, so how do you choose the right one for you and your ceremony? Do you go on first impressions? Is price the best indicator? Does more expensive = better service? How important is experience?

Some articles you read on this topic tell you to find out if the celebrant

·         is properly qualified – to perform a marriage in Australia, celebrants are required to have at least a Certificate IV in Celebrancy and be approved by the Attorney General for registration – check here if you are not sure. Other non-legal ceremonies, including funerals, can be performed by anyone.

·         has lots of experience – as a newly-appointed celebrant, I can guarantee that my first ceremonies will be prepared to within an inch of their lives, with not a shred of complacency or ho-hum-edness!

·         belongs to a professional association – I’m not convinced that this is a measure of competency in performing ceremonies.

So what are the important considerations?

·         Do you feel some affinity with the celebrant? Is s/he the type of person you like and would want officiating at your ceremony?

·         Does the celebrant offer you a blank canvas on which you all design your service? I would be wary of a “here’s one I made earlier” and you just fill in the names.

·         Is the celebrant flexible enough to really listen to what you want and work with you to create it?

·         Is it clear exactly what the celebrant offers and the associated costs? This may include the number of meetings, a rehearsal, travel and accommodation, equipment use/hire and the amount of time allocated to you on the day of your ceremony.

Take the time to meet with prospective celebrants and put them through the 2L2F check

·         Likeable

·         Listener

·         Flexible

·         Fair 

Personalised coffins - popcorn and beyond

Personalised coffin

As much as we don’t want to ponder our own mortality, or that of our loved ones, there are some advantages to pre-planning our final farewell. One of those is the humble coffin.

Death is sad, and all too often, tragic. And so funerals are sad, but they also serve as an opportunity to celebrate a life and a person. They give us the opportunity to reflect on the significance of that person in our lives, and the memories we are left with.

The first sight of a coffin that you know contains a person who you love and care about is never easy. I have been to two funerals where that first view brought a smile with the tears. The first one was a coffin that had been hand-painted by the immediate family – it was bright, colourful and featured my friend’s favourite flower. I knew she would have loved it.

The second was my uncle’s, a man who had spent his life working the land in outback South Australia. His coffin was covered in a picture of a healthy wheat paddock with an impressive combine harvester in the middle of it. On top of the coffin, was a sheaf of wheat and his trademark Akubra hat.

Neither coffin was sombre, and both added significance to the ceremony by reminding us of the people and creating another happy memory.

I don’t do dark brown so I was close to ecstatic when I discovered that I could have a hot pink coffin. And that it could have photos all over it. Or it could be hand-painted, with or without a glass of wine in the other hand.

What this means is that we have options, and they are worth, at the very least, some consideration. Funeral directors usually have a range of these products, or, as we have come to expect, they are available online.

Have a look at three sites that I have discovered:

1.     LifeArt Coffins offer personalised and environmentally-friendly coffins.

2.     Serendipity Coffins offer environmentally-friendly coffins made of biodegradable materials.

3.     The Handwoven Caskets Co offer hand-woven willow coffins.

On the other hand, as Steven Wright said, “I intend to live forever. So far, so good.”


Writing your own wedding vows – reflect, write and rehearse.

Wedding vows

Vows are about you and your partner and only need to reflect you and your relationship. They should have some structure so that you end up saying what you want, in the way that you want.

Use the steps below to help you compose your own meaningful vows.

Decide if

  • you both want to write your own vows
  • your vows are going to be the same or different.  

 Agree on

  • the length of the vows. They are usually 150 – 300 words but also consider how long it takes you to say them (usually 1 – 2 minutes).
  •  the format – rhyming, telling a story, statements.
  • the sentiment – serious, humorous, mushy or a healthy mix of all three.

Brainstorm – on your own, write down all the words that come to mind in response to

  • why you love him/her
  • what are her/his quirks and qualities
  • what your strengths are as a couple
  • how you have fun
  • how you feel when you’re together
  • your vision of the marriage
  • how you see life together
  • what marriage means to you
  • what you are promising
  • why you are doing it

Put these words into categories, like

  •   past, present and future; or
  •   partner’s best qualities, your relationship, vision for your marriage.

Start telling the story with

  • a beginning – how/why you fell in love
  •  a middle – your relationship and what you most value in it
  • an end – your vision of the future relationship and your promises/vows.

How to deal with the nerves/panic/heart palpitations brought on by public speaking

  • The ’public’ is made up of people who know and love you.
  • Most of them are also terrified of speaking in front of a group, so they will be immediately sympathetic and/or empathetic.
  • Practise lots – in front of a mirror, the dog, a row of teddy bears or anything else that gives the impression of an audience.
  • Give a copy of what you have written to the celebrant, so that s/he can prompt you if needed.
  • Take your time – speak slower than you normally would. That way, your mouth can keep up with your brain and vice versa.
  • Don’t forget to breathe.

 And if all else fails, here are some ready-made ones that might inspire you 

I, Matthew, take you, Emily, to be my awful wedded wife, to have and to scold, from this day fast forwarded for better but not worse, for richer, and poorer, forget sickness only in health, to loathe and to cherish, till suspicious death do we part. 

I promise to love you even when you refuse to let me watch the football, to cherish you even when you blow one week’s salary on yet another handbag, and to understand you even when you are mad at me because of something that happened in a dream. 

I promise to love and cherish you as much as I do our dog, Spot. From this day forward, I will lint-roll the chairs whenever your parents visit. I will love you in sickness and in health, as long as you take care of the vet visits. I promise to cuddle with you as much as I do Spot and pick you up treats whenever he gets some, too. 

Vows taken from http://www.inspiredbride.net/2013/01/03/hilarious-wedding-vows/