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Saturday, April 13, 2024

‘Smiley celebrant’ in running for top award

A local celebrant who took up the profession after a conversation with her partner is in the running for the award of funeral celebrant of the year.

Kate Moran, (43), of Rode Heath, known as The Smiley Celebrant and with the email address “the Stokie Celebrant”, has been shortlisted for the title at the national awards for the funeral industry, The Good Funeral Awards 2023.

Ms Moran officiates funeral services for families at local crematoria and at her newly-opened funeral venue The Old Chapel, in Etruria.

She has been a celebrant for two and a half years and said she was “excited” to have been shortlisted as a finalist – for the second year in a row – from a long list of celebrants from across the UK.

She said: “Encouraging people to talk about their wishes is so important. Many people can feel afraid of speaking about death but someday it will come to us all and I encourage individuals to be open about what they would like to happen to them after they die.”

She told the “Chronicle” that she started training to be a celebrant over Christmas 2020.

She said: “I think the pandemic and hitting 40 made me re-evaluate what I wanted to do. I have always worked with people and really loved that – I had been helping people lose weight for 15 years.”

She said she had always wanted to work in the funeral industry but was never sure if she would be too emotional.

Then one day her partner, Jason – the couple have four teenage boys – came home from work and said he had been chatting to a celebrant and she thought, “I would love to do that”. She booked the course two days later.

“For me, being a celebrant was a great fit. I could help families say goodbye and tell their loved one’s story, which is so important,” she said.

Ms Moran said she didn’t know how the funeral industry would take to her, as she was not only Scottish with a strong accent but also had bright pink hair.

“I thought initially I would do weddings but my heart is with helping families say goodbye,” she said.

Of her quirky approach – The Smiley Celebrant – she said funeral directors were “magic” at placing the right celebrant with the right family.

“They listen to the kind of service they want for their loved one and just know who will fit well with them – I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s ok.

“While smiley, I am also respectful and listen to the family carefully. Families I work with ask for a celebration of their loved one’s life and I have been part of some fantastic services.

“There has been dancing, singing along to their favourite song instead of a hymn, Sex Pistols T-shirts, live music and sequins on occasion – all at the family’s request, of course!”

She added: “Funeral directors are just amazing humans, in the way that they care for ‘your person’ as if they are one of their own family.”

As for how the new career went down with her friends, she told the “Chronicle”: “At first, I think they were surprised!

“And they had lots of questions, the most frequent being, ‘How do you stop yourself from getting upset?’

“A friend in the industry in Glasgow told me, “It’s not your grief, you are there to help that family”. These words have become my mantra because I do get upset after speaking to families – I’m human – but the time during the service is for them and I have learned to leave my feelings at the door so I can focus on the person who has died and their family.”

She said she had opened her funeral venue in Etruria to allow families more time to say goodbye without the usual constraints of a traditional crematorium chapel.

She said she worked a lot with Birches Remembrance Park and Crematorium at Lach Dennis, saying: “They have got it just right with their hour time slots and relaxed approach to moving chairs around and allowing dogs / owls / bands and even a motorbike in the chapel for services!”

At the restored Old Chapel at Etruria, she holds space for families as they prepare to say goodbye to their loved one. She sits with them and listens to people’s stories and writes their eulogy, offering advice on personal touches they can add to the service.

Families can send photos and she will create a visual tribute to be played on the screens in the chapel, including photos and video footage looking back through the years from childhood to their more recent adventures.

She also runs workshops entitled “It’s YOUR Funeral” at both The Old Chapel and the Birches crematorium, letting people know their options for a funeral service and she speaks openly about death and what happens afterwards during the planning of a funeral service.

The Old Chapel is a former Wesleyan chapel, built in 1820. The church, now deconsecrated, was attended by Captain John Smith of the Titanic in years past. After a renovation, the chapel is now a mix of new and old and has all the modern technology of a crematorium chapel.

She said: “Since I was handed the keys, we have installed a media system allowing music and visual tributes to be played on both the large screens situated in the chapel. We have a webcasting service if a family member is unable to attend, this can be live streamed and recorded.”

All faiths are welcomed and although Ms Moran is a celebrant, she encourages families to choose their own officiant and is at hand to help if a family would like to lead their own loved one’s service.

She will find out if she is the national winner and celebrant of the year at an awards ceremony at the National Conference Centre in Solihull on Saturday, 28th September.

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