As a funeral celebrant, there’s a whole absence of self. It is never about me.
The preparations, as well as the service, are always about sensitive listening, respectful giving, compassionate holding of a space for those left behind in grief. Truth be told, I have less to do with death and dying and much more to do with the living, grieving, breathing bereaved; bringing respect, kindness, empathy and hopefully, some dignity to a situation that I can never change or reverse. It is always about them.
I am forever moved by the stories I hear and feel somehow connected, not only to the family and mourners but often, to the deceased. There are many tiny synchronicities that make me feel close and that help me to understand better the different ways that people deal with their loss; the myriad beliefs that people turn to, to cope with debilitating grief; the sounds or the silences of suffering.
When I walk away from a service, I never forget…
But some return to me more often than others…in thoughts, in dreams, often in daily life. And today, I am going to share with you the story of a girl who I never met but who I know so well – a girl who’s story is so close to mine. Six months ago, she took the decision to end her own life.
The circumstances of Danielle’s death are…I cannot find the right word…Unbelievable? Lamentable… Tragic! Her family shared with me her brilliance, her beauty, her eloquence, her despair and the battle she went through to access the help that was vital.
The help that was ultimately not forthcoming.
In the litany of emails and messages that they shared, it’s clear that ultimately, Danielle could not reach the expert medical attention that would have saved her life. Perhaps the words which describe that are cruel, utterly avoidable, unforgivable! And yet forgiving is absolutely what Danielle’s family have to do in order to wade through their grief and to find some stable ground once more, as Danielle hoped they would. Having seen her desperate, yet so eloquent cries for help, having read the letter that Danielle wrote, having wept at the line which said, ‘we tell people to reach out when they need help, but when they do, they are gaslighted into thinking they don’t need it,’ it would be quite understandable if Danielle’s family exerted every ounce of energy in calling out those who rejected their accountability, those who’s negligence is unquestionably responsible for their grief, those who’s job it was to help. Instead, they are taking positive and life-giving action.
Danielle’s letter explained that The Samaritans were the only organisation that she found consistently amazing and non-judgmental. And so, this coming Saturday, 18th March, her whole family will be engaged in fund-raising in Danielle’s name. I will be there too, in my small capacity, to let them know that we can keep fighting, we can honour Danielle’s resounding plea for humane, kind, compassionate resources to be always readily available for those who need their lives saving.
Funerals are never about me.
But in terms of Danielle and The Cornish family, there, but for the grace of god, went I. Or perhaps, more relevant to say, there but for the grace of The Samaritans…
If you are able, please donate generously in Danielle’s name.