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Posts from the ‘Value of Ceremony’ Category

Why Memorial Rituals?

As I cruised the web doing some research today, I came across the prose included below and must share with you. It is written by Cinder Hypkie and is excerpted from this compelling article. I’m continually exploring the healing nature of rituals for the dying and after death. I treasure this kind of a find! Her poem speaks volumes to what I bear witness to, within only a few tenderly conveyed lines. I agree with her observations.

Yes, we do enter ritual “to respond to the call of the soul” and our fearless response to the call “places us in a realm of experience that we could not enter alone.”


We enter ritual to respond to the call of the soul1:

To heal ourselves,

To pay our tribute

To honor our ancestors,

our fallen warriors,

our soft spoken heroes,

To encircle our children with love and hope for a future,

To stitch our neighborhoods together one honest connection at a time.


As artists and teachers and activists,

As would-be and sometimes wounded healers:

When summoned, we walk alongside, in humility,

Open ourselves to hear deeply,

Enter in to core matters of the heart.2

We tip the soul’s basket onto the table,

Offer possibilities for mutual healing,

bring into being acts of resilience and resistance.


IMG_3198So we build our ofrendas3 of rose petal and rosemary,

Mexican marigold and store-bought mums.

We pour our libations on the earth or the pavement –

From the waters of West Africa to the streets of Baltimore.


We paddle out into an ocean of grief,

Place a sea of flowers at the gate,

We spray the bike white,

Wrap a teddy bear tight around a pole.

Write a name in the sand, or R.I.P. Brotherman

On the wall of the rowhouse next door.

We sing a song they loved, draw a dove on their photo,

We sing and dance and eat and carry on,

Long, long after they are gone.


Art for remembering in a time of forgetting,

Art for asking: What is needed here?

Art for mending a broken heart

Finding our voice, our resolve, a new start.


Hush now, listen, and call their name.

Widen the circle; welcome them in.


Composed from research and interviews with community artists and activists by Cinder Hypki, 2011.
1 Quote by Malidoma Patrice Somé in Ritual: Power, Healing, and Community 1993.
2 Quote by Andrew Boyd, personal communication 2011.
3 Spanish: “altar,” “offering”


Do you value custom ceremony?

You are likely reading this because a) either you already do, or b) you’re not quite sure and find yourself googling for information to make a decision. My answer: yes. Yes, I do. I value custom ceremony experiences beyond words and devote my practice to bringing these into existence. (As usual, I find myself employing words for wordless experiences!) Reading my values and how they possibly relate to what you seek to experience might help.

And so here I am as a Life-Cycle Celebrant® in Tucson, sharing the what and why behind my core values for Sweetgrass Ceremonies: 


Core values

1) Expanding a sense of connection

All with a sense of ease and joy between people, animal companions and place. I love to support and expand relationships amongst you, your family members and your guests, your animal friends and the special places you gather for celebration. So often the couples and families I serve have a connection to each other and the place where the memoria occurs at the center of their priorities for the event. Our work together expands and deepens this connection.

2) Co-creating meaningful experiences

Through crafting, guiding and leading custom ceremonies based on YOUR stories, beliefs and values. I am committed to hearing what is important to you and then holding up a mirror, so you see these things reflected back to you in your ceremony. I infuse the universal meaning or symbolism into the personal symbols, stories or exchanges – so everyone present can tap into the meaning.

3) Offering relevant ceremony elements

Ceremonies come to life through a feeling of timeless, relevant and uplifting moments. With my whole heart, I believe we open ourselves to living these moments when we lean into both the joy and the work of life or the happiness and the sorrow. I believe there is space for belly laughter and gentle tears, all during the same ceremony. Together we find expressive and fun elements to express what is true for you, wherever you find yourself in life.

4) Surpassing ideas of what is possible

I actively listen to help you suss out what you want to experience and then present alternatives for both meeting and exceeding your visions. This is born out of collaboration. I love to hear your seed ideas and form collaborative remembrance rituals, for example, that nobody at your ceremony has ever seen before.

5) Being calm, open-minded and confident

The day of an event can be full of anticipation and even sometimes, full-on anxiety. I always arrive on the day-of feeling rested, calmly present (well in advance of ‘go-time’) and ready for whatever lies ahead with an open mind. I take this work very seriously – it is my livelihood! I am professional in every way: from how I speak to how I guide people pre-ceremony to how I dress. I strongly value helping you feel as calm, comfortable and confident as possible, so naturally, it helps if I am too!


P.S. Custom and co-created experiences open us up to a different world of what is possible. As a Western culture, we do have some reliably staid norms around events like funerals. As a result, people might close the door on holding the event at all, due to either having experienced the same generic sequence of events over and over, or feeling intimidated by entering an awkward fray of blending beliefs or cultures in a contemporary and dynamic world.

To this sentiment I say: “Be Fearless!” Open the door to what is possible during a custom ceremony. Take a leap and value the work of co-creating a custom ceremony. Find yourself a Life-Cycle Celebrant® to help guide your efforts. Write or call me to begin the conversation! I have faith you’ll be satisfied by doing so.

Why hold a Celebration of Life?

While I work beside a family or community to co-create a Celebration of Life, it is a delicate time. Yet the sense of joyful remembrance is palpable, too. This week, one family with whom I’m working is particularly inspiring. Their confidential story brought me to post in a universal sense, about the value of holding a Celebration of Life.

The deceased may have departed some time ago; weeks or even months have passed. With the passage of time, the rawness of loss seems less harsh, as compared to a funeral near the time of death. Yet grief may surface unexpectedly, too. It is this upwelling – of painful loss felt in a public space – that I think people may fear. There is a sense of vulnerability that coincides. And so often as a result in our culture, no ceremony is held to acknowledge, let alone truly celebrate the life lived.

So why then, hold a Celebration of Life? Based on my experiences leading, supporting and witnessing families and communities through these events, here is my take:

  • Guests mingle in a comfortable place, to help each other carry what is too big to carry alone. Holding a hand, sharing a story, looking into eyes full of tears, offering to help with end-of-life ‘chores’, embracing – within a relaxed or familiar setting – all of these exchanges help to ease the burden of loss. (Likely venues I’ve seen include parks, HOA clubhouses, favorite family restaurants, homes, or boutique resorts that hold meaning somehow.)
  • Everyone present has a collective moment to recognize what it meant for the deceased to live. This is inextricably linked to having a ceremony or ritual portion of the Celebration. What I usually suggest is a brief ‘program’ piece during the gathering, where I help people pause and reflect upon the honoree. (It might just involve a standing ovation!) The collective power of those moments tap into something bigger than all of us combined.
  • It supports and reminds the mourners that life is full of connection, despite their loss. Yes, it is a fragile or vulnerable time. And yet, there is always one or more stories that yield knowing smiles, nodding heads and even great waterfalls of laughter. The delight in knowing connections live on and might even expand post-death is a great consolation. A great healing.

These are just a few ideas among MANY reasons why holding a Celebration of Life is plain good and worthwhile. Do you have more to contribute? If so, please do!

A surfer memorial service, Huntington Beach Pi...

Surfers hold a Celebration of Life in Southern California ~ Image via Wikipedia

What is a Life-Cycle Celebrant®?

When people ‘get’ what I do as a Celebrant, they realllllly get it. Readily. Eyes brighten and tense shoulders drop. Not only do they get it, they dig it. People I serve at Sweetgrass are relieved to know they have a choice for ceremony guidance that is beyond the ordinary. I love to see their relief and excitement about what is possible!

Sometimes I see furrowed brows for a few moments. That is okay. Once in awhile folks truly hear what I do – only by asking what I don’t do. “So you’re not ______? Or ______?” “No,” I patiently say. It takes awhile until we reach their ‘aha’ moment.

After a recent flurry of these defining conversations, I am moved to post more here. I’ll describe what a Life-Cycle Celebrant® is and is not, plus tell some stories to give historical perspective.

Most notably, we are part of a world-wide movement that is more than 3,000 people strong. We create and lead custom ceremonies for individuals, communities and organizations that transcend the ordinary. We hold ceremonial space for occasions from ‘womb to tomb’. We come with no judgments. We base our work on the stories, beliefs and values of people we serve.

A composed satellite photograph of North Ameri...

Celebrancy gains momentum as a movement in North America ~ Image via Wikipedia

Here is the thumbnail version of the movement: Civil Celebrancy began in Australia, during the early 1970s. It was initiated by the government, offering people flexibility for holding meaningful ceremonies. Civil Celebrants in Australia ‘marry or bury’ people in settings outside of the church or government registry offices, while still upholding the Laws of the Commonwealth. Today, the majority of weddings and funerals in Australia are composed and led by Civil Celebrants.

Now leap from AU in the 70’s to the U.S. in 2001. A core group of women in New York and New Jersey witnessed a yawning chasm in our culture, days after September 11th. They saw, felt and heard community yearnings for ritual or ceremonial ways to acknowledge heaving losses. They saw how people not associated with a church or government body needed to gather and make meaning somehow. So, they enacted multi-generational, multi-faith or non-faith, inclusive and relevant ceremonies.  For example, they led memorials at train stations in NJ. Such locations were silent reminders of loss, where cars parked by people who would never return sat eerily empty.

After experiencing these post 9/11 scenarios, this core group began investigating the work of our Civil Celebrant friends in Australia. They gleaned lessons from the Aussies and brought pieces of the model to North America. Through a true labor of love and enlightenment, they founded the Celebrant Foundation & Institute in 2001: where I was certified as a Life-Cycle Celebrant® and where I currently teach Funeral Celebrancy. The Institute offers specific training in the art of co-creating rituals and ceremonies for all of life’s milestones. Upon successful completion, students are certified to provide the utmost professionalism and quality services, and agree to perform those under a Code of Ethics.

And well, if it helps to round out this explanation by saying what I am not (yet some other Life-Cycle Celebrants may well be!), then I offer this brief list. I am not celibate. I am not an attorney or event planner; a judge, county clerk, funeral director, counselor, chaplain, pastor or life coach. (Cue to unfurrow the brow.) 😉

As a full-time practicing Celebrant, I am a highly attuned ceremonial guide. I meet you where you are in your life experience. I work with you and/or your animal companions. I help you celebrate and acknowledge new life, love and loss – in a way that feels real for you.