Life is a Great Big Canvas

Life is a great big canvas, with the possibility of many colours, strokes and styles emerging from the unknown.

When a family contacts me to conduct a funeral ceremony the possibilities are endless as to what might happen.

The openness, creativity, friendliness and engagement of Jane in her funeral planning and the willingness of the family to listen and pay respect to her wishes made this ceremony full of colour and celebration, tears and laughter.

The family contacted me saying their sister, Jane*, had wanted a female celebrant and I had come highly recommended.

We met and instantly, they knew I would have loved their sister and she would have been happy with their choice. Jane was a woman of passion, strength, generosity and conviction.

Jane had been very specific that the ceremony was going to be just for family. She had many friends and she was clear, none were to come. Rather a memorial service would be held later in Sydney which she had regarded as her true home.

This intimate ceremony was an informal gathering as no more than a dozen people sat in a semi circle in front of the casket of their daughter, sister and aunty. Camellias and bromeliad flowers from the garden looked out over the edge of the basket ready for the ceremony.  Two of the nieces, with tears flowing, placed on the casket jewellery and souvenirs from Jane’s many travels – she loved all of her nieces and nephews and showered them with gifts.

Three friends, in true style of Jane and her friends, gatecrashed the funeral. It was wonderful to have them there and they were made welcome by the family, laughing that Jane would have actually approved of their stance.

I chose not to use the lectern and microphone rather joining in the small semi circle of seated guests and holding the space with a structure yet encouraging the informality by supporting them to talk after each tribute. Some stood and others remained seated as they shared their tributes and stories.

Towards the close of the ceremony, I was asked to read a poem and when I had finished the 95 year old mother said boldly, ‘I’d like to read it again, is that ok?’ The informal setting of the ceremony made this request flow easily from her and into life. The mother read the poem, that was written inside the order of service, with clarity, passion and tears – she read a few of the lines twice to give emphasis to her resonance. She followed the poem with her spontaneous pained expression of deep love for her daughter. There was not a dry eye in the group.

The words of remembrance and farewell followed and, to close I spoke:

“This quote by Danny Kaye, could easily have been written by Jane,

“Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can.”

I am sure that by now, Jane would be looking at the clock thinking it’s time for you to all leave and go have some food and a drink!” Everyone laughed knowing the truth of this.

“May Jane rest in peace knowing she was well loved. May Jane’s joyful spirit touch you often. May peace be with you.”


*To protect the privacy of the family, Jane is not the real name of the deceased.