One of the hardest ceremonies to write is that for a young child. This little girl died from unknown causes and, as you can imagine, caused a tidal wave of shock and grief in this young couple’s life. Here are some excerpts I wrote for the ceremony. I have changed the names and some parts of the ceremony for publication.
On behalf of Jane and Chris, I thank you for your love and support today as we gather to celebrate the life of their beautiful daughter, Suzanna* and to mourn the loss and heartache of this tragedy of her sudden and unexpected death.
My name is Wendy Haynes and I am their celebrant and will guide this service where we will share stories, music and tributes that will honour Suzanna’s bright light and her amazing capacity to love.
Jane and Chris have nurtured Suzanna throughout her life with care and devotion. They have jumped big hurdles together from the day she was born with (a story was included here about the first few months of Suzanna’s life).
They have found their way being a young family; and have stood by each other’s side and loved Suzanna’s quirky ways and laughed at their daughter’s many antics and sassy ways and now, this funeral is the last and hardest physical act they have as her parents, of saying goodbye. This has been a time of shock, anger, numbness and confusion—it is almost too hard for them to take in what has happened. It has also been a time of reliving the many beautiful moments as they reflect back over their two short and very precious years with her.
Suzanna was adored by Jane and Chris…. and Suzanna adored her mummy and daddy. She’d hear Jane’s voice and do handstands and reach out; she’d see Chris and want him to dance. Suzanna was also greatly loved by her siblings, ………………….. . Suzanna was a treasure to her grandparents, ………….. And, Suzanna’s puppy, Daisy also adored her.
Suzanna was a source of joy—she was happy, bubbly, smiley, goofy and had a bright spark that touched everyone she met. Jane and Chris said, you could be having the worst day… and the smile on Suzanna’s face would brighten up their whole world.
I’d like to invite Jane to come forward to share a few stories. We can all imagine how hard this is; and yet, Jane wishes to give voice to some of her treasured memories. We know Jane will cry and the invitation is to be with her as she is, in her pain, and lend her our presence and strength as she speaks.
Jane and a few other nominated speakers speak.
Invitation for other speakers: There is time now for anyone else who could come forward to share a story or a memory you have of Suzanna. It may be hard to speak, you may feel your heart race, but it would mean the world to Jane and Chris to hear your memories of their beautiful daughter.
There was a moments silence, as there usually is. It was a relatively small ceremony gathering so I stepped down from the lectern and invited people to speak from their chairs if it was too hard to stand. This gave permission for a few more people to share their stories with more ease. Interestingly, the first guy started speaking from his chair and then came to the front so everyone could hear. After he spoke everyone else followed suit by coming up to the front to say their tributes.
After the photo reflection and before the laying of petals on the casket, I spoke:
As you meet with Jane and Chris, you might feel you need to find the right words and yet, know that there really is no perfect thing to say. Little can be said that can diminish a bereaved parent’s pain or agony.
Rather, continue to support them in whatever ways they may need and stand by their side as they grieve, and as you also grieve. Ultimately, it’s about listening when they need to talk about their anger and pain…for the many years ahead as they feel keenly Susie’s presence and her absence.
Speaker, John Edwards, wrote after the death of his child, “If you know someone who has lost a child or lost anybody who’s important to them, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died…they didn’t forget they died. You’re not reminding them. What you’re reminding them of is that you remember that they lived, and that’s a great, great gift.”
Jane said, Susie, was here for a short time to help us, show us and inspire us—to make us all better people. This is her legacy.
Many people who have had to meet an overwhelming loss often say, ‘You don’t get over the pain, but you will learn to live with it’. There’ll be days where you feel you can’t do this hard task of grieving and may you reach out for the support you need; and not be alone in your suffering. You are loved by your family and friends.
Words of Remembrance
Revealed unbounded love and joy
From the moment she was born
Her body gave her life to breath;
And ears to hear the heart’s bold rhythm.
A voice that called to you in her unique way
And sight to see the butterfly
Fingers that pointed to every direction
To golden treasures that she spied.
Arms to hold, and push and hug.
A cheeky smile and gutsy scream—
Her every wish to be fulfilled.
A smile that set the world on fire
A light that was…pure love inspired
Suzanna will be forever your little Susie girl.
We then had the time for laying of petals on the casket and offering silent prayers and blessings before I closed the ceremony. They chose one of Susie’s favourite movie songs for the end which made everyone smile… and cry—both at the same time.
*Name change for privacy
©Wendy Haynes 2022