Updated: Oct 13, 2021
2021 has seen many changes for Melbournians. For me, there were some really positive opportunities. One of those was helping to create Melbourne's first funeral home specialising in memorials style funerals, Tomorrow Funerals.
A lot of people ask me “How are you able to work on funerals?” When I first became a Celebrant, I wasn’t sure exactly how to respond – was there was something wrong with me that I really, really wanted to work in this space? Was I heartless that I didn't find it terribly difficult?
Perhaps it was the fact that I’d been through (and recovered from) a cancer diagnosis?
But mostly, I discovered it was the simple fact that I could do this wonderful job. I loved that I could help families at what is often an extremely difficult time.
And so I began in earnest, working hard to connect with as many funeral homes as I could – gaining experience in different types of funerals and memorials.
"It has been an honour to be a part of every single service."
Over six years, I conducted almost 100 services - for children, for people who had very difficult deaths and complicated, diverse family situations, through to many elderly people who had led incredible lives. I can honestly say that it has been an honour to be a part of every single service.
However, one thing I found problematic was finding the right kind of funeral home to align with. Quite simply, I discovered many of the organisations were in fact de-sensitised to death itself. But it’s no surprise that what’s on offer in the funeral space is less than inspiring. We have a culture that does not like to think about death, let alone prepare for it. Add to that a deregulated industry, run by only a couple of big players who sell to customers experiencing shock and grief – customers quite often completely clueless as to what it is they want!
In many cases this muddled equation does not often result in an open-minded, ethical business model. (Although, fortunately, there are exceptions!)
For me, over time I did less funerals for funeral homes and set myself up as an Independent Funeral Advisor. I loved being able to work directly with clients and offer them options that were more suited to their individual needs.
"We laughed and cried – we enjoyed good food and drinks."
Back in 2019, when my own beautiful cousin Janet died I arranged her memorial event.
Janet was a young, 60-year-old vibrant woman who loved a family party, a glass of champagne, music and good conversation. With that in mind, we arranged a dignified cremation and turned our attention to throwing the most fantastic party ever!
Not going through a traditional funeral home meant we were not rushed to book a chapel, so took time planning, invited special friends from interstate and chose a fantastic beach side venue, West Beach Pavilion. It was a cold wintry day so the venue lit an open fire and we began in a candle lit room filled with photos and flowers, where we held a beautiful ceremony sharing our stories – everyone (even her children) learned new things about Janet that day.
Afterwards, we moved on to the party. We laughed and cried – we enjoyed good food and drinks. We caught up with people we hadn’t seen in ages. It was wonderful, memorable and it was perfectly Janet!
Looking back, this became a kind of model in my mind for what’s possible.
"What's most important is creating authentic ceremonies."
And then, in early 2021, I was approached by a small team interested in looking at the funeral space with a fresh set of eyes. After some exhilarating conversations which were fuelled by a passion for creating something amazing, over several months, we created Tomorrow Funerals.
At Tomorrow we offer simple cremations and remarkable memorials. That’s it!
It’s pretty much the opposite of the traditional model but we believe that by simplifying what we call the ‘funeraly’ bits (burial options, coffins, coffin handles, mortuary care, outdated chapel hire etc,) we are in fact able to offer a lot more freedom for families wanting to celebrate their loved ones in really authentic ways.
Investing more time, creativity and more of the budget into the memorial event itself allows us to plan a truly personalised, unique celebration – one that tells the story of someone’s life.
At Tomorrow, we believe that, despite what we are often told or what we assume, a funeral or memorial does not have to be what it’s always been.
What's most important is creating authentic ceremonies.
I know from personal experience that finding genuine ways to honour our loved ones can be an important step in starting to move through our grief.
And that, I guess, is why I do what I do.