The Legacy Keeper: A Celebrant’s Gift to Me
My brother Jim had died on February 19th just over a month ago. The Sunday after my family gathered on that warm afternoon to share all of the stories we had accumulated throughout his lifetime. We (2 of my brother’s children, all 4 of mine + grandkids galore) had come to meet Keith Page, our Funeral Celebrant. I had briefly met Keith last year when he and Ty Rose, another Celebrant, came to our Mortuary to provide us with a glimpse of what a Celebrant service looks like. Little did I know that one year later he would be sitting in front of us, promising to tell our story.
Keith arrived on time. His dark hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail and his smile shown through a dark beard speckled with white . . . a profound sense of comfort settled throughout the crowded room . . .
After circling the room meeting our clan, he explained that he was here to capture the essence of the father, brother and uncle who had died. He wanted to hear not only the stories filled with life, love and fun, but also the heartbreaking truths about who this man was and the effect that he had on our lives. He was here to tell our story but, more importantly, to tell my brother’s story. A story of love and loss, heartache and pain. Of wanting to do good, but never figuring out how. A story of someone lost and then found. A story, when told would heal our pain. I didn’t know just how that would happen but I trusted the man who cared enough to let us speak the truth.
I shared my memories of my brother, of his life as a child, how proud he was to be a Corporal in the Marine Corps and serve his country in Vietnam. I recalled his struggles with PTSD, his addictions to opiates, and the lifelong demons that held onto him. I watched as Keith wrote on that big yellow legal pad with a bold, black marker. It seemed strange at first, but then I realized that he was writing with permanence and sweeping strokes the words that made up the legacy of my brother’s life.
As each of my kids brought their uncle into view, I was taken back by what they remembered. His favorite clichés, the cars he drove, his obsession with Peterbilt Trucks and the little girl slumber parties he crashed, performing his famous Elvis impression with a hairbrush for a microphone and dancing with each little girl. With a tube of lipstick he conned out of me, he would sign their little arms with “Elvis”. He was a wonderful playmate and they adored him. As I listened to them remember, tears sprang and earlier, happier memories flooded my soul. This was the man I wanted to remember. These were the days filled with life and laughter.
Then Keith looked over to my niece, Jim’s daughter Jayme, and said, “I haven’t heard from you yet.” She paused, and then said words that broke my heart, “I’ve been listening to all of the stories my cousins have been telling . . . and I don’t have any good memories to tell.” Too many broken promises had led his children into estrangement from their dad. I moved him from Oregon to California with a small hope of reconciliation but nothing changed until the night of his death when Jayme came. Keith asked if she would like to write a letter to her dad, she said she would but didn’t want to read it at the service herself. Keith lovingly said, “I will read your words.” Three and a half hours later, with legal pad in hand, Keith left us.
I was exhausted, emotionally and physically spent, and as I looked around the room, so was my family. There were tears and hugs, sighs and laughter, as we continued to recount the memories that filled the room that day.
Out of the stories emerged the man I wanted to remember, the man that I wanted to honor. I saw that he was worthy and that I was now the keeper of his legacy.
I miss him. When thoughts of him come rushing at me there will be tears and moments of great sadness. But I do know that for our family, using Celebrant helped us to honor and pay tribute to my brother. After that family meeting my heart felt renewed and at peace. We had created his legacy.
|| what do you think?
– How does this idea of the “Family Meeting” strike you?
Is it intimidating or inviting?
– Would you like to meet Keith? Click here & come to our Art Show!
Thank You so much for sharing and again allowing me to help serve your family for your brother jim. I was very pleased when I heard you would use a celebrant for your service they are very powerful in telling the whole story of our loved ones and very important to the entire family. I absolutely encourage this meeting with the family and again a celebrant helps every family on the journey to healing their heart, i say this would be something every family should do and they will find it to be very inviting. I appreciate your story of your brother and the time spent with Keith.
Sincerely , Joe Lavoie
Joe. . . I so appreciate all that you did to make my brother’s service so very honoring. I will never forget your kindness to my family. I have such respect for all of our arrangers and how you guide us through all of the difficult decisions that need to be made. I felt so at ease knowing that everything I ever wanted for my brother was going to happen. His service really honored him, just as its suppose to be. I will forever be a proponent of Funeral Celebrants. They are so much apart of the healing journey!
Thank you .
Dear Pat, I’m so sorry for the loss of your brother. I know how much you loved & cared for him. I’m so glad you had a celebrant service as this has brought about so much healing for your family. I love what celebrants do & am excited for the word to truly get out there about them. Once a family sees them in action, word of mouth is going to spread their message like wildfire. The family meeting is crucial to the success of a celebrant service. But it also begins the grief & healing processes on a positive note- so valuable! You are a true testament to why celebrants are so important & to how ceremony makes such a different experience of loss. Love, Carrie
Carrie . . I totally agree with your response. I do hope that we can create a more focused awareness of Celebrants and how important they are to families who might otherwise choose not to have a ceremony. Even as long as I have been involved in funeral service, I was simply going to have a visitation and a graveside service. Looking back now, what a missed opportunity for my family if I had chosen that path. What a glorious day it was as we morned the loss of my sweet brother, but we also had the chance to laugh and remember his very funny and caring side. His daughter, Jayme, really got the chance to hear those stories play out as Keith put my brother’s legacy to words. I will never forget how my brother’s death brought our family together . . in love and understanding of a man who tried his best to be good. Our healing journey is palpable and every time since the service, his daughter and I talk about him surrounded by a new wave of compassion and love. Thank you Carrie, for all that you do!