Once my own father died, I completely changed the way I did things.
Previously – and in accordance with my tutor’s firm recommendation – I wrote the service and presented it in chapel on the day. The main mourners would be sitting on the front row, heads bowed, listening for the very first time, to my interpretation of what they had told me. Afterwards, I would print out the requisite number of copies, bind it, and a few days on, would hand deliver them.
That was often a good chance to hear some very positive feedback, and so a nice thing to do – but once I was both main mourner and celebrant, I knew I wanted changes.
My modus operandi now is to construct the service just as before, but to e-mail it to the main mourners two days before the ceremony. That gives people a chance, on the most basic level, to spot and correct bloopers (happily rare!) but more importantly to take on board the tone and substance of the text and to make sure they are happy with it. As the saying goes, funerals are for the living – not the dead!
Having been given the chance to absorb the content privately, the family can feel more confident of taking their place in front of the wider congregation. They will have sobbed together over certain sections and (helpfully for the celebrant) know when the jokes are coming too.
As they leave chapel, the family needs to experience catharsis. The funeral marks the boundary between knowing someone and remembering someone. They should feel assured that the life of the person who has died has been thoughtfully, accurately and fondly celebrated.