What is a “complete” farewell ceremony?
/ Eve Chan Pui Guan, NV Care master of funeral ceremonies
There are many people in this world with their own unique life experiences. However, in the face of “death”, everyone is equal and everyone will eventually arrive at the inevitable end.
We can’t choose how we come into this world, but have you ever wondered what form the “farewell ceremony” – the last celebration of your life – will take?
In recent years, society has begun to promote “life education”. Death is no longer a taboo like it used to be. After working as a master of funeral ceremonies (or emcee) for so many years, I’ve recently found that families are more likely to give ideas and suggestions on the farewell ceremony for their loved ones nowadays than in the past.
Sometimes the family members will tell us that the decedent was a very low-key and simple person; so the more simple the ceremony the better. Some families may also request the emcee to not write the eulogy in a particularly sad way. Some may even want to do away with any ritual and ceremonies and just be left to accompany their loved one on the final journey of life in peace and quiet. When such a request comes up, I will naturally feel a bit nervous as a funeral emcee – as I will think I don’t have much of a role to play throughout the entire ceremony other than just an announcer.
Then I started to contemplate about what it means to be a good emcee? Is it to write a very moving and tear-jerking eulogy? Is it being able to make all the guests cry? What is a “complete” farewell ceremony? Should the venue be richly and grandly decorated? Is it to have a lot of performances? Sometimes we even put up banners for the family members. If there are only a few guests on the funeral day, we might assume the decedent must have been a not-so-pleasant character in life without realising that the individual may have expressed desire for a quiet farewell ceremony prior to passing.
After much thought, we began to communicate with the family with empathy. The insight I gained is that the farewell ceremony is not a place for bereavement care personnel to show off their skills or advertise themselves because we are not the main focus. We are just the people who can lend assistance to the bereaved family during a vulnerable time. We should not deprive the family of their right to fully direct the farewell ceremony of their loved ones.
I prefer to call myself a life educator than a “funeral practitioner”. Funeral practitioners tend to feel like doing what is supposed to be done by the book; but the essence of a life educator is to “respect” life and hopefully through death, the living can gain insight. There is a passage in the bible that says, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.” – Ecclesiastes 7.
What is a complete farewell ceremony? It should be a bridge that “honours” life, respects the wishes of the living or the family of the deceased, and enables the living to learn to respect and cherish life.
NV Care’s Emcee Department is responsible for conducting funeral ceremonies according to the family’s respective background, customs and rituals, as well as language and culture. We ensure the smooth flow of the funeral process, including the viewing, sealing of the casket, paying of respects and the funeral procession. The funeral emcee is also responsible for interviewing the family to obtain information in order to celebrate the deceased’s life, help write eulogies and memorialize the deceased together with the family.
Eve Chan is the master of ceremonies (or emcee) of Nirvana Care, she is also the Assistant Manager of Emcee Department. She is familiar with funeral culture and customs, and is proficient in Mandarin, English, Cantonese and Hakka not only as a professional emcee, but also as a reader and writer.
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