Celebrant Steve looks back on 2021 and reflects on our freedom and the COVID restrictions, the loss of his father, and his pursuit of raising the bar in standards within the celebrant and funeral profession.
Some part of me wants to say good riddance to 2021 for all sorts of reasons. I expect a good many of you do too. However, another part of me feels somewhat nostalgic about it.
2021 has been another year of ups and downs and restrictions on our freedom. And on a personal note, it was the year I said goodbye to my dad.
On the other hand, it was the year my work as a funeral celebrant achieved significant recognition. I won global and regional awards, alongside having been featured in many industry-based articles and magazines. Consequently, I am in the very privileged position of choosing who I wish to work with professionally. However, I always keep in the forefront of my mind, that we are only ever as good as our last job.
I suppose it is easy to brush over the positive experiences of the year and focus instead on the undesirable aspects, but I cannot escape that this was for me, after all, the year I lost my father.
Earlier in the year, I also lost my mentor – a Franciscan monk who always gently had my back in good times and bad. He taught me a fundamental lesson: “challenging things happen in life, but they teach us how to appreciate the good things.”
As I embark upon a new year with very mixed emotions, I find these words quite liberating for three reasons:
Freedom And Restrictions
The restrictions on our freedom have been necessary, but they are restrictions, nonetheless. Wars have been fought for freedom. People have died for it. Our freedom is very important to us.
Because of COVID restrictions, our mental health as a nation is faltering. Feelings of grief, isolation, loss of income and our lack of right to roam are all being exasperated, and many people are facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety because of them. Even our freedom of speech and expression are coming under increased pressure.
And yet, despite this, such limitations have led to an increased appreciation of our liberty; what our forefathers fought for and why. We have come to realise how incredibly costly and precious our freedom actually is.
I face a new year, therefore, with an immense feeling of gratitude, and I value our freedom now more than ever.
Loss of My Father
No one or thing will ever prepare you for losing a parent. For me, it has been one of the most intense and debilitating experiences of my life, compounded by the nature of the work that I do. I have found myself making some tough choices, and in many cases having to put my grief on hold, which has just added to the heartache.
Writing this article has allowed me to evaluate what has happened and process the loss. And so, I end 2021 feeling so grateful for having been raised and supported by a great father and provider. I appreciate him now more than I ever have. My only regret is that as a new year begins, I now must leave dad in the past. He now belongs to the yesteryears and is no longer in the present. However, my deep sense of gratitude will always be the part of him that lives on in me. I take that with me into the future.
Raising the Bar in Standards
My work has developed a life of its own over the past year. A year that has been driven by my desire to raise the bar in standards. This will have undoubtedly riled and ruffled those who settle for mediocrity. Sadly, I’ve learned that many are quite happy to settle for less if it makes their life easier. I’m grateful that I’m not one of them! I have certainly met with some resistance and criticism, which has been exhausting at times, but I have also met some very good people who share the same ethos and who work very hard to put in the extra effort.
I fervently believe every life deserves to be honoured in the best way possible. Losing dad has strengthened this conviction because I now realise more than ever, how much is invested in getting it right. When we’re organising a funeral of a loved one, it’s the last thing we can do for them. It’s an act of love and appreciation.
I am very grateful and excited to be working with new and like-minded people too, who strive to give the best service possible, who take a great deal of care and pride in getting it right for these reasons. I have witnessed significant and sustained growth in those businesses, some of them, new ones. That will not be coincidental.
Happy New Year
And that’s just it, isn’t it? Gratitude. I leave 2021 behind me feeling incredibly thankful. I step into the New Year appreciating the importance of our freedom and the cost of it; feeling indebted to my dad for being the man and the father he was, and also feeling somewhat beholden to those I work with, who work hard to offer their best to grieving families.
Brother Raymond was right. Challenging things do happen in life, but it’s how we react to them, isn’t it? They can be a force for good, despite how difficult they are.
Moving forward and taking the lessons from the past with me, I embark on yet another new journey. Not knowing what’s in store, I step forward in the hope of a bright future and a fond farewell to the old.
Here’s to the things that are yet to come and to the memories we hold.
A happy New Year to all of you.