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19th Ave New York, NY 95822, USA

For The Moments That Matter

Our lives are a catalogue of moments that matter

As a celebrant, I have the privilege of being part of people’s stories, bearing witness to many of them, from the happiest to the saddest; hatches, matches and despatches!  One thing they all have in common is moments that matter.

Our lives are a plethora of memories, stories and events from the day we were born.  We can often struggle to find our earliest.  For me, it was my swing.  My father was a telephone engineer, and the swing was made of two telegraph poles!  It was massive!  I loved to swing, being pushed higher and higher, skirling with delight!  Even now, in my garden, I have a swing hanging from an ancient chestnut tree, but I’m not quite so brave.  It’s a great place to sit and ponder the moments that matter.

The joy experienced when a baby is born is like no other.  Following months of researching the best cots and buggies, appointments attended, classes joined, and multiple purchases made in preparation, the baby has arrived!

But, one of the most challenging decisions the parents make is choosing the name.  I remember fondly the toing and froing between my ex-husband and me.  What about Sam?  No, that’s Evi’s dog’s name.  I like Morag.  No, it reminds me of someone who was a horrible person!  Back and forth we went for weeks!  Can you relate to that?  It’s like playing a game of tennis!  Eventually, a name is agreed upon.  That is a moment that matters.

Going straight to number one of my favourite ceremonies to date is the commitment ceremony I officiated for Wayne and Percival.  I loved every moment of it.

There was so much love and laughter, and speak about going off script!  I almost chucked my folder away; the ad-libs were way better than anything I had prepared!

The couple had been legally married in Australia, their chosen home, but they wanted a commitment ceremony in Scotland for their Scottish relatives.  Getting to Scotland is always a challenge for them, with complex planning required.

They are a same-sex couple and have to plan their journeys meticulously because being gay is still illegal in many countries.  If their flights touched down in one of them and they were suspected of being gay, they would be arrested.  Being told this was a jaw-dropping moment for me.  As a straight female, I was ignorant, and on this occasion, it was not bliss.

So I went on a voyage of discovery and was gobsmacked to find out that being gay is still illegal in 69 countries, and the sentence can be death, including being stoned to death.  It beggars belief that you could be killed because you love someone of the same sex.  Love is love.  Wayne and Percival were lucky enough to find a flight that would see them touching down in Singapore, where, since August, it is no longer illegal to be gay.  For Wayne, Percival and the LGBT+ community, this was a moment that mattered.

Our histories are full of life-changing events, but not all are happy.  The death of a loved one is sad and, for some, can be bittersweet, but it deserves to be celebrated.

I officiated the funeral of a man who had a chequered life, having been failed by his parents and then a system that was supposed to support him abused him.  He took solace in drugs and alcohol.  It is one of the saddest stories I have witnessed.  Tash, his daughter, is one of the most courageous and resilient people I have had the pleasure of meeting.  I’ll never forget her.  Despite what her father put her through, some of it quite traumatic, she stood by him, loved him and supported him when many people had walked away.  Understanding that addiction is an illness, she could see through that and saw him as a man destroyed by circumstances beyond his control.  She was his safe haven.

When planning his celebration of life, she made it clear that she didn’t want him painted as a saint because he wasn’t and asked that I read this on her behalf.  “My dad was an arsehole, but he was my arsehole, and I loved him.  He is at peace now and no longer wakes up wondering where his first dram will come from, and I’m glad of that”.  For Tash, this was a moment that mattered.

I met with a family to plan their mum’s farewell ceremony, and they handed me an envelope.  It was nicotine stained and stank of stale smoke.  They had found it alongside their mum’s important documents, all carefully labelled with instructions on what to do when she died.  The envelope was titled “to be read at the end of my funeral; do not open”.

Inside was a letter to her children, penned by a shaky hand but heart-felt and upbeat, containing some embarrassingly funny stories about them.  The tears of sorrow turned into tears of laughter as they were reminded of the mischief they got up to throughout their lives.  Despite the author knowing she was approaching her death; she prepared a light-hearted but poignant lasting memory that will be in their hearts forever.  Reading the letter was a moment that mattered.

I have a pen pal, not online, but proper handwritten letters that wing their way from New Mexico to Scotland and back.  I treasure each and every one I receive and keep them safely in an organza bag.  My friend, Reem, takes great pleasure in using different paper designs for each letter, often adding stickers of flowers, butterflies and other pretty images.  When I receive a letter, I wait until I will not be disturbed before reading.  I have a ritual of making a cup of tea, getting comfy on the sofa and carefully opening the envelope, always full of anticipation.  I’m never sure what I’ll find inside!  This is a moment that matters to me.

What are the memories and stories that matter to you?  Do you have rituals that are important?  Do you have a letter in you to share with your loved ones when you die?  Do you have a message you want to pass on?  Take a moment to write them down and share them with your nearest and dearest to be passed on to the generations that follow.

Because these are the moments that matter.