Welcome to The Sweetest Goodbye. Because you are visiting, it’s likely that you are dealing with death in some way – either the death of someone close to you or your own impending death. It is my hope that you will find something here to help make your journey a little less bitter, a little sweeter.
I believe in the power of Ceremony to heal a wounded heart and soothe a troubled spirit, and will show you how it could work for you and your loved ones.
If you are contemplating hiring a Celebrant to assist you in honoring the life of someone close to you, or your own life, in the form of a funeral, memorial, or living funeral, you’re in the right place. I can help.
Some Thoughts on Death and Ceremony:
Everyone always asks why I became a Celebrant. I mean, who would choose to deal with death, dying and grief if they didn’t have to, right? In fact, when my Aunt Jane first heard about it, she worried that I might be depressed (she knows better now).
The thing is, being a Celebrant actually isn’t about death, dying and grief. It’s about LIFE.
It’s about honoring and remembering the magnificent, once-in-a-lifetime person we are saying goodbye to, and it’s about helping those who are left behind find solace and meaning.
That’s why I became a Celebrant. To help you celebrate the LIFE of your loved one and start you on the road to healing. I help you create the service you most need, the goodbye you so dearly want to say, the ceremony that gives you the greatest comfort.
A celebrant ceremony is a creative outpouring of LOVE.
With a celebrant ceremony, you say goodbye the way you want to say it. No constrictions, no following someone else’s stiff rules about how it “should be done.” You are free to claim this extraordinarily important Rite of Passage as your own.
You get to say goodbye in the most thoughtful, personal way possible. And you come away from it believing in your heart that your loved one knows how much they’re loved.
I feel so blessed to do this work. I hope that when the time comes, you will let me help you say the sweetest of goodbyes to your loved one.
My mother told me that when I was this age I would go from booth to booth at Howard Johnson’s and other restaurants saying Hello to strangers. I don’t remember doing it, but I’m still that way – I love meeting people.
When I wrote obituaries for The Dallas Morning News, I enjoyed learning about people from their families and friends, but I also found it frustrating. I’d missed meeting yet another cool human being! I always found myself wishing that I could’ve known the actual person, not just their stories. But I guess we can’t meet everyone.
Yet I believe we are all worth meeting, and that each of us has wonderful, fantastic stories to tell. We all come at life from different angles, so we all experience it uniquely. That’s why sharing our stories can teach us so much and help us reach new levels of understanding.
Story sharing is one of the things I love most about being a Celebrant. I get to discover someone’s life stories – their dreams, desires, intentions, joys, triumphs and challenges. And then I get to weave those fascinating stories into a beautiful ceremony that calls listeners to witness the power and meaning of that person’s life.
No matter how brief, how long, how smooth, or how turbulent a life may be, it is of unimaginable value. We can’t even begin to know how important we are to one another.
“A man tells his stories so many times that he becomes the stories. They live on after him. And in that way he becomes immortal.”
– Big Fish
What I so love about a celebrant ceremony is that it creates a sacred time and space for us to pause, remember and cherish another person. When we do that, we give them and ourselves a most precious gift: the gift of having been seen and heard.
I spent 25 years writing and producing for television, wrote obituaries for The Dallas Morning News, and before all that was a radio announcer. I have always loved searching for and finding the perfect words, the perfect tone, the perfect way to express feelings and thoughts. But something was missing for me in that work. I was really good at it, but I never felt that I was actually helping anybody.
Now, as a Celebrant, I can do all the things I do well plus have the satisfaction of being of service to people during a breathtakingly difficult time in their lives. This truly is healing work and I am blessed to do it.
When you need someone to care deeply about you and your loved one, someone to listen to your stories and craft a beautiful, healing ceremony for you, I hope you will think of me. It would be an honor for me to help you say the sweetest goodbye.
WHAT I OFFER YOU
– Licensed Non-Denominational Minister
– Community Hospice of Northeast Florida Volunteer
– Honoring Choices® Advance Care Planning Facilitator (Florida)
– Professional Obituary Writer
– TV Writer and Producer
– Television Presenter
– Radio Announcer
– Graduate of Florida State University
– B.S. Degree in Speech Communications
I think of death as a huge can opener: The can is our heart. Death rips it wide open, and it hurts.
It hurts because we know that nothing will be the same ever again. Death drops our life into warp drive and deposits us at the edge of some alien galaxy. It’s disorienting. It’s frightening. It makes us question everything we thought we knew to be true.
Death ends our hopes and changes our plans. It makes us stop whatever we were doing and forces us to feel more deeply than we may be comfortable feeling. Death challenges our sense of security and our sense of place in the world. Death calls us out on all our stuff.
Death barges into our life like a nosy neighbor, lifting all the carpets, opening all the closet doors, poking into every dark, dusty corner — to reveal family wounds, family mysteries, family treasures. It is indiscriminate, irresistible, unyielding. Yet in its wake old bonds may be released, old wounds may be healed, old friendships and love may be rekindled.
I believe that death doesn’t poison our life, it flavors it. It reminds us to grieve for life’s beauty and brevity even as we experience its pleasures and joys. It encourages us to revel in life as much as we can. It shows us that we can hold onto nothing except our love. And that our love is all that matters anyway.
No other event carries the transformative power that death does.
But how can we allow death to transform us without letting it kill our spirit? How can we begin our journey through grief? Grief experts say a good funeral ceremony is the most important first step.
A good funeral ceremony does several things:
– It allows us to find closure and begin our healing journey. The grief journey begins in reality, and the ceremony helps make it real for us.
– It lets us publicly acknowledge the absence of our loved one and what the loss means for us. Nothing hurts as badly as our loss being ignored, and the ceremony makes sure that it’s not.
– It gives us a chance to share treasured memories, and cry and laugh together instead of being alone in our grief. The ceremony gives us permission and a safe place to grieve.
If you’re like me, you’ve been to some bad funerals – cold, dull and impersonal. That’s why I was so glad to discover celebrant ceremonies. A celebrant ceremony is one of great healing power and grace. It’s warm and loving, interesting, and highly personal. I knew that being a Celebrant was perfect for me the moment I began my training to be an InSight Certified Celebrant. I feel blessed to be able to use all of my talents, skills, heart and spirit to do this healing work.
As a Celebrant, I am here to help you tell the story of your loved one’s life, the love you share, and what their life and death mean to you.
I am not afraid to be with you and your grief. I am not afraid to speak forthrightly about death and dying with you. I am willing to be with you — just as you are — as you move through this tender, aching transition. This is my calling, to be with you during this time. This is my calling, to offer you healing through ceremony. This is my calling.
“The mind has a dim sense of vast loss — that is all.
It will take mind and memory months and possibly years to gather the details and thus learn and know the whole extent of the loss.”
— Mark Twain
The InSight Celebrant Code of Ethics
As an InSight Celebrant I’ve agreed to:
– Maintain in all matters the highest standard of professional and personal conduct;
– Respect in all circumstances the confidentiality of the bereaved;
– Preserve the right of personal choice and decision making for the bereaved, and respect the cultural and spiritual beliefs of the departed;
– Provide accurate information concerning my services, fees for my services, and the functions and responsibilities accepted on behalf of my clients.
– Benjamin Franklin
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.”
– Emily Dickinson
And to die is different from
What anyone supposes
– Walt Whitman
The Sweetest Goodbye
In order for us to heal following the death of someone close to us, the significance of our loss must be acknowledged. Few things hurt as badly as grief unspoken or ignored.
A celebrant ceremony is a beautiful way to acknowledge the significance of your loss. If you are able to say goodbye in a way that deeply honors your loved one, you will have taken the first step on your grief-healing journey. This is what I mean by the “sweetest” goodbye.
The sweetest goodbye is a ceremony that helps you in these powerful ways:
– It reflects your loved one’s life and personality so that the incredible light they brought into your life is fully recognized;
– It gives you the sacred and safe space and witnessing you need to speak freely of your love, life, and loss;
– It formally acknowledges the powerful Rite of Passage we call Death in a way that makes it real and transforms it for you.
The sweetest goodbye also gives you the time you need to pause, remember, and tap into the healing power of love. During the ceremony there will be moments that make you cry, moments that elicit a laugh, and other moments that take you deep within.
And the sky’s the limit when it comes to creativity. Your ceremony can be as unique and special as your loved one. By creating a ceremony that fits their personality, you are letting the world know that they were seen, heard and loved during their lifetime.
The Sweetest Goodbye is really all about you. I will do everything I can to create the most loving and healing ceremony for you – the sweetest goodbye you could ever say.
Is it right for you?
If you don’t belong to a religious community, if you feel marginalized or hurt by religion, if you consider yourself spiritual but not religious, or if you are simply seeking something sacred and beautiful without religious overtones, a celebrant ceremony could be right for you.
I will meet you where you are, and I will honor your beliefs and work to meet your needs. I am open-minded and open-hearted, and can easily work with people from other cultures, religions, spiritual and secular traditions. It’s not my place to try to convert you or convince you of anything. I’m here to help you give your loved one the sweetest goodbye possible.
It’s a sad fact that the deaths that could use the most love and understanding – deaths through suicide, overdose, alcoholism, murder, and “suicide by cop” – are sometimes the ones that are most awkwardly handled by traditional authorities. Too often families are made to feel shame and guilt about the way their loved one died.
I believe that no matter how tragically a person’s life ended, or how troubled their life was, there are always – always – moments we can celebrate and be thankful for.
I know I must have left some traces…”
– Led Zeppelin, In My Time of Dying
(To) see what’s on the other side.”
– U2, In God’s Country
Our lives can be informed by our deaths, but they don’t have to be defined by them. Together we can find a way to honor your loved one graciously and honestly, no matter the circumstances surrounding their death.
A celebrant ceremony can also be a great complement to a traditional religious funeral service. It can give family and friends a more relaxed, comfortable way to share stories and memories of their loved one. You know how in some countries there’s a civil and a church wedding? You can do the same thing when it comes time to say goodbye – have a formal church service followed by a more relaxed and intimate celebrant ceremony.
You could also invite your pastor to take part in a celebrant ceremony if you’re not completely comfortable with them handling the entire service. You have the right to do anything you want, and I can help you figure out how to create the sweetest goodbye for you and your family.
The Sweetest Goodbye is all about your loved one and the life you shared. In order for me to craft a ceremony that reflects their life and personality, I will need to learn as much as possible about them. So the process begins with an intimate sharing session. You, other family members and close friends (you decide who will be there) will get to share your favorite memories, stories, and mementoes with me.
I will ask you lots and lots of questions, and listen carefully to what you’re sharing. I will also be sensitive to your wishes, offer you guidance, and answer your questions. I am happy to work with you via Skype or by phone if we can’t do the initial sharing session in person.
Following our sharing session, I will write the ceremony (this is behind the scenes, and the part that takes the longest – up to 10 hours). Then, at the appointed time and place, I will perform the ceremony for your loved one.
“Help me to help you to behold you.”
– Sinead O’Connor, Feel So Different
You may want to have a speaking role in the ceremony, or you may prefer that I write the ceremony for you and others to perform. It’s up to you. During our sharing session, we will determine who will speak and what they will say. We’ll also discuss your loved one’s favorite sayings, songs, quotations and poems, and talk about music for the ceremony.
It is very healing for family members and close friends to take part in the ceremony, even if they don’t wish to speak, so I will also be looking for comfortable, non-speaking roles for you.
We make all of these important decisions before I sit down to develop and write the ceremony. This ensures that it flows smoothly and isn’t repetitive or too long. Following the service, I will give you a bound copy of the ceremony as a keepsake.
You can contact me directly or ask your funeral director to call me in. If you’re working with a funeral home, your funeral director will handle the logistics and physical arrangements. I will work closely with them so that everyone knows what needs to happen when during the ceremony.
If it’s just us, with no funeral home involved, I will help you figure out and handle the logistics side of the ceremony, too. This could be the case with home funerals, wakes, ash scatterings, and memorials.
It’s never too soon to start thinking about how you would like to say goodbye to a loved one. If you can talk about what will happen after someone dies before they die, it will help you tremendously when you’re in full crisis mode. I know the conversation can be a hard one to begin, but I can tell you from personal experience that you want to at least try to have it.
“My! People come and go so quickly here!”
– Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz
Death is an incredibly important Rite of Passage, and the earlier you can start considering it, the more informed you can be, the better an experience you are likely to have. Saying goodbye will never be easy, but it doesn’t have to be quite so hard or bitter. Feel free to contact me if you need support starting “The Conversation” with a family member or friend. I’ve also provided links to groups that are working to bring death and dying “out of the closet” so we can approach this important time of life with less fear and worry.
Ceremonies and More
My work is entirely authentic, and I pour my heart and soul into everything I do for you. No two of my ceremonies will ever be alike, and you will know after our time together that you have been seen, heard and loved. I am also a professional writer, and have spent my working life meeting deadlines and over-delivering on quality.
Other Rites of Passage
Celebrant Ceremonies: If you hire me to craft, write and perform a ceremony, the process can take anywhere from 14-16 hours, not including travel time. Ceremonies for people start at $700. Shorter or simpler ceremonies could run less. I will be able to give you a quote once we talk and I understand the type of ceremony you desire. Ceremonies for pets start at $200. 10% of my proceeds from pet ceremonies go to Best Friends Animal Society (bestfriends.org).
I am willing to travel to perform a ceremony. If the location is more than 40 miles from downtown Jacksonville, reasonable travel fees will apply.
End-of-Life Concierge Services: If you wish to consult with me about other end-of-life concerns, my hourly rate is $80. I can help you with funeral, burial and cremation options, hold your hand as you actually make funeral arrangements, help you keep vigil for a dying loved one, help you “gift” treasured mementos to friends and family, and help you figure out what to do with your loved one’s possessions.
Speaking Engagements: I would love to speak to your group about end-of-life options. It’s fascinating subject matter, and so important to talk about. I can tailor my program to fit your group’s questions and concerns. I promise nobody will fall asleep or “lose their lunch” during my talk. But they might come away with an entirely new perspective on death and dying.
I am also certified as an Honoring Choices® Advance Care Planning Facilitator in Florida, so if you, a friend or a family member need help putting your Advance Care Directives in legal order, please contact me. I don’t charge for this service.
“I’ll see you again, when the stars fall from the sky
And the moon has turned red over One Tree Hill
We run like a river runs to the sea
We run like a river to the sea.”
– U2, One Tree Hill