CORKONIANS are turning to end-of-life celebrants for their funeral plans instead of clergy-led ceremonies.
Celebrant Edel O’Flynn, from Carrigtwohill, has seen great demand for her services in recent months. The mother-of-two initially served as a celebrant for weddings, but later specialised in end-of-life ceremonies.
A member of Entheos Ireland, an organisation that caters for people with non-traditional faith paths, Ms O’Flynn said that she was inspired to become a celebrant after working in Marymount Hospice as a teenager.
People suffering from terminal illnesses are booking her for their funerals, such is her compassion. They range up to elderly, but parents have contacted her on behalf of their children.
The former beauty salon owner spoke of one man in his 90s who confided in her after his health took a sudden turn.
He expressed his wish to have a non-clergy-based funeral. The man had opted to donate his body to science.
Cases of much younger people dying, Ms O’Flynn said, are painfully heartbreaking.
“I’m having young people contact me who don’t know how long they have left, but that death is imminent,” she said.
“They have made their peace, but fear that their partners may not be able to deal with this when the time comes.
“The worry is that they might be influenced by other family members to take a traditional route.
“They want to make sure that loved ones won’t have to think about it, so I liaise with the family in relation to their wishes.”
She spoke of one elderly man’s wishes.
“He told his family that he didn’t want a religious ceremony, but if they wanted religion he wouldn’t be annoyed, so to speak,” Ms O’Flynn said.
“While there could be religious elements to it, he didn’t want the funeral to be clergy-led.
“The family had never been involved in a non-religious ceremony before.
“They were so thankful afterwards, knowing that it was how he would have wanted it.”
She described how end-of-life ceremonies work.
“You talk about what they liked and how they made people feel,” Ms O’Flynn said.
“You talk about what meant a lot to them and who made them the person they were.
“People can take a journey through the sadness and the grief and come back out the other side.”
She cast her mind back to where it all began.
“I’ve always questioned the end of life,” she said.
“It was a space I had always wanted to enter. A lot of people on my course didn’t want to do funerals, but I love having that opportunity to bring people that little piece of comfort.
“In a way, I was at an advantage, because I worked in Marymount Hospice as a teenager.
“I had a grandparent who passed away there two years previous to that and I wanted to do something to give back.
“I can still recall how upset I was when one of the patients died,” Ms O’Flynn said. “A staff member reminded me that this was why people were here and that I had made the last few weeks of her life lovely.
“I’m lucky that I can draw on this experience going forward with this role.
“It’s been really cathartic on a personal level. In some ways, I feel as if I’m on a journey, too.”
Ms O’Flynn had a traditional Catholic upbringing.
“I haven’t renounced my religion, but if someone asked me if I believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church, then I would have to say no.
“I get comfort in believing there is something beyond death. It’s reassuring to believe that there is an afterlife.
“We are here to be all-inclusive and accommodating of what everybody believes in.
“I love aspects of different religions, because they all came from the same place. Any belief that gives people comfort can never be a bad thing.”