As the famous quote says, nothing is certain except death and taxes. But when that time comes, dealing with death is difficult, daunting and distressing. Whether expected or unexpected, losing someone we love is the hardest time of our lives.

With empathy and understanding, I can help you create a ceremony that’s not only personal, meaningful, sincere and authentic, but also uplifting, comforting and full of love.

We'll choose the right style, the right elements and the right words to express your feelings. We’ll ensure their wishes as well as your own are met. And with my extensive experience conducting many hundreds of ceremonies, it'll be presented with professionalism and respect, as well as great care and warmth.

When the time comes to look back, those around us can take inspiration from the memories, achievements and legacy left behind and celebrate a life well lived.

Picaluna Funerals

I am part of Picaluna - a network of celebrants and professional planners creating authentic meaningful, family-led farewells. So not only can I conduct the funeral, I can also help plan it too. You can call us instead of a funeral director when someone dies and we can assist you with the practicalities from start to finish. 

We do death differently, helping families to create a better way to say goodbye. We aim to revolutionise the funeral industry by offering more bespoke experiences, without the rushed, cookie-cutter service of some of the major corporations in the funeral sector.

We offer open and transparent pricing, and give back by donating 10% of our profits to a charity or cause nominated by the family.

We team up with service providers such as florists, stationery providers, coffin suppliers, cemeteries and crematorium to tailor everything we do to suit the family’s needs.

With Picaluna, a funeral can be of any shape or size, and in any location. Many of our ceremonies take place away from the time-constricted chapel or crematorium; often in places of personal significance or even at home.

We enable communities to mourn, honour, celebrate and rejuvenate, and we give you all the freedom, choice, guidance and time you need.

See more about Picaluna on their website.

For help when someone dies, call us 24/7 on 02 9191 5006.

 

The Humanist View

I am a Humanist Celebrant. When the time comes to say goodbye, looking back at how someone lived helps us to find our own meaning and purpose. Meaning is something that we create for ourselves through thought and experience, so we can live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity, and help others to do the same. In an increasingly secular society, many of us seek purpose, beauty and joy in the one life we know we have. And when we do die, we will all live on in the work we have done and in the memories of the other people whose lives we have been part of.

 


My Approach - Independent Sydney Funeral Celebrant

Death is a natural part of life.
 
It makes sense for us to try not to be afraid of this, but instead to come to terms with it, and a funeral ceremony is a very important way of doing so.
 
In fact, death is life’s one certainty. But we’re often unprepared for it. Losing someone we love is the hardest time of our lives. The timing can be expected or unexpected, it can happen at an old or young age, and the circumstances can sometimes be tough to come to terms with. So a funeral is a challenging time, but I’m here to help you through.
 
A great funeral is an essential part of the grieving and healing process.
 

What form does a funeral ceremony take?

 
Every ceremony I write is very different because it is created from scratch especially for the person who has died. The ceremony can take whatever form is the most appropriate. The style and content is very much your choice, and I am entirely flexible with your wishes. I’ll spend lots of time with you to find out what’s important to everyone, hear your stories and memories, and create a ceremony that’s unique, meaningful and authentic, as well as comforting and uplifting.
 
Think about where you want to hold the funeral or memorial (a funeral is when the body is present, a memorial is when the body has already been buried or cremated). It doesn’t have to be in the crematorium chapel. They have to be booked in time slots and you will be restricted for time. How about a beach, or a park, or even at home?
 
A ceremony will usually include the following (this is not an exhaustive list):
  • An introduction and welcome by the celebrant
  • A eulogy (facts about the person who has died and some of their life story, written and read by the celebrant)
  • Tributes (stories, memories and anecdotes read by family and friends, woven into the eulogy)
  • Music
  • Video and/or slideshow of their life
  • A committal (a goodbye to their coffin or ashes, if present)
  • A conclusion from the celebrant

How is the ceremony prepared?

I will spend lots of time with you to find out as much as I can about the person who has died. We will talk through whatever wishes they have, and whatever wishes the family has, and I will write a ceremony which brings everything and everyone together.
 
I will coordinate contributions from other people, run through the ceremony with you in advance so there are no surprises, and support those who are speaking on the day.
 
 

LGBTI Funerals

I am also a same sex marriage celebrant, used to working with the LGBTI community. I understand and recognise the unique needs and potential issues when it comes to a LGBTI funeral.
 

Planning Ahead

What are your wishes?

Let’s be honest – nobody feels comfortable talking about death. Many of us find it too confronting and frightening. But as hard as it may be, it’s definitely a conversation that needs to be had. Do your family and friends know what you want when the time comes? What would happen if they were left to second guess your wishes? How would they cope at a time when they will be affected by their own grief?

Find time to sit down with your loved ones and begin that conversation. Perhaps you can start by writing some notes or instructions. This will be a huge gift, because your family and friends can find comfort in what you have chosen for yourself, knowing a major and stressful part of the funeral process is already prepared.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you want to happen to your body? (Burial, cremation etc)
  • What kind of coffin or urn would you like?
  • Where would you like your funeral or memorial ceremony to be held?
  • What style of ceremony would you like?
  • Have you written an autobiography or life story? (Do you have notes or a video or audio recording?)
  • Which funeral director have you chosen, if any?
  • Have you given your funeral director clear directions in advance of what you want them to do?
  • Do you have a will?
  • What are your goals and priorities for your funeral or memorial?
  • Have you spoken to those close to you about your wishes?

(Thanks to my celebrant colleagues Elizabeth Trevan and Kathryn Breusch for this list, which they hand out as part of their “How to have a fabulous funeral” workshops.)

Have your own say

Why wait until it’s too late? A growing trend is for people to pre-plan their funeral ceremonies. I can work with you to make sure everything is in place and ready in advance, and you can approve your ceremony while you still can.

As a journalist of more than 20 years, I know the right questions to ask to get you to tell your own story in the most effective and engaging way. And we can even conduct some interviews on camera, so we can use some extracts at your funeral. Technology is a wonderful tool to help capture memories and moments that will help form your legacy.

Before we meet

Before we meet to plan the ceremony, it will help you to think about the following:

  • Do you have ideas about things that you would like to have included?
  • Would you like the service to concentrate on celebrating a life?
  • Is there anyone in, or close to the family, whom you expect will be willing to speak at the service? If so, what kind of things would you like them to speak about?
  • What things would you like the celebrant to speak of? (Childhood, education, work, interests, personality, family, achievements, character … )
  • Do you have any ideas about poems, prose or readings to include in the ceremony that would be suitably reflective and inspirational?
  • If you or your family do not have all the information is there someone who I could speak to? (EG a work colleague or an old friend?)
  • Is there any music you would like played during the service?
  • Would you like a tribute video to be played?
  • Is there any organisation that should be mentioned or that might play a part in the service? (RSL, Masonic Lodge etc)
  • Would you like me to offer an invitation to any gathering for refreshments after the service?
  • Are there people you would like thanked? (eg Carers, neighbours, doctors)
  • Would you like any symbols of the person’s life to be displayed?
  • Should I mention any significant people who will not be able to attend?
  • Would you me to invite anyone present to say a few words of tribute? (I can speak to you about the pros and cons of this).

Helpful Resources

Books worth reading

Rest Easy Journal - Non-Religious Independent Sydney Funeral Celebrant Stephen LeeThe Rest Easy Journal is a book created by author Shanna Provost to help you think about some of practicalities of dealing with your death.

If you were to die tomorrow, would your loved ones know:

  • what to do?
  • who to contact?
  • how to access documentation?
  • your funeral wishes?

Shanna has many other helpful tips, advice and publications available from her website.

Funeral Rights Book - Non-Religious Independent Sydney Funeral Celebrant Stephen LeeFuneral Rights by Robert Larkins helps to uncover the mysteries around the funeral industry and what can be possible if you are armed with the right information and know who to ask.

Did you know you are allowed to transport a body yourself?

If you die in hospital, your family can take your body home if they wish.

If you die at home, you don’t have to take the body away immediately.

You don’t have to have a funeral ceremony in a chapel – it can be anywhere you like, on a beach, in a park – you have choices that your funeral director may not make you aware of.


Quotes about death

To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.
– J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone


Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
– Steve Jobs, American Entrepreneur, Apple co-Founder (b.1955).


The value of life lies not in its length, but in the use we make of it.
– Michel de Montaigne (1533-92)


It is only those who do nothing that make no mistakes.
– Attributed to Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)


If you have a warm and caring heart, you’re loved ones will ensure you never depart. For long after you’ve turned that final page you’ll still be right there on center stage.
–  Stanley Victor Paskavich


Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone.
-Mitch Albom


Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.
– Dr. Seuss


In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.
– Abraham Lincoln


The song is ended but the melody lingers on…
Irving Berlin


Popular Songs played at funerals and memorials

Bury My Body – AI Kooper
Amazing – Alex Lloyd
Con Te Partiro (Time to Say Goodbye) – Andrea Bocelli
Bright Eyes – Art Garfunkl
When You’re Gone – Avril Lavigne
Slipped Away – Avril Lavigne
Memory – Barbra Streisand
The Way We Were – Barbara Streisand
The Long and Winding Road – Beatles
Let it be – Beatles
Immortality – Bee Gees
Summer Rain – Belinda Carlisle
Sand and Water – Beth Nielsen
Chapman The Rose – Bette Midler
Only the Good Die Young – Billy Joel
Vienna – Billy Joel
Lean On Me – Bill Withers
And When I Die – Blood Sweat and Tears
Death is not the End – Bob Dylan
Forever Young – Bob Dylan
Blowin’ in the Wind – Bob Dylan
A Song for Mama – Boyz II Men
Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything there is a Season) – The Byrds
Child Of Mine – Carole King
(They Long to Be)Close to You – Carpenters
Superstar – Carpenters
Because You Loved Me – Celine Dion
Goodbye is (The Saddest Word) – Celine Dion
My Heart Will Go On – Celine Dion (From Titanic Soundtrack)
For A Friend – The Communards
Don’t Dream It’s Over – Crowded House
Pictures of You – The Cure
Home – Daughtry
Lost Without You – Delta Goodrem
American Pie – Don McLean
Goin’ Back – Dusty Springfield
Candle in the Wind – Elton John
Circle of Life – Elton John
Daniel – Elton John
Funeral for a Friend – Elton John
One Day at a Time – Elton John
Love Me Tender – Elvis Presley
Memories – Elvis Presley
Always on my mind – Elvis Presley
Return To Innocence – Enigma
May it Be – Enya
Only Time – Enya
A Day Without Rain – Enya
Change the World – Eric Clapton
My Way – Frank Sinatra
All Things Must Pass – George Harrison
You’ll Never Walk Alone – Gerry and the Pacemakers
Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye – Gracie Fields
Live and Let Die – Guns N’Roses
November Rain – Guns N’Roses
Someone’s Watching Over Me – Hilary Duff
Going Down Slow – Howlin Wolf
Holy Grail – Hunters & Collectors
By My Side – INXS
Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
Goodbye My Lover – James Blunt
Fire and Rain – James Taylor
Last Goodbye – Jeff Buckley
I Can See Clearly Now – Jimmy Cliff
Hear You Me – Jimmy Eat World
Up Where We Belong – Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes
In the Sun – Joseph Arthur
You Raise Me Up – Josh Groban
Beautiful in my Eyes – Joshua Kadison
Moonlight Lady – Julio Iglesias
Stole – Kelly Rowland
Celebrate Me Home – Kenny Loggins
Cool Change – Little River Band
What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
Dance With My Father – Luther Vandross
Butterfly – Mariah Carey
Music Box – Mariah Carey
Hero – Mariah Carey
One Sweet Day – Mariah Carey and Boys 2 Men
Always look on the bright side of life – Monty Python
Nothing Else Matters – Metallica
Beloved Wife – Natalie Merchant
Unforgettable – Nat King Cole
Childhood Dreams – Nelly Furtado
Don’t Look Back in Anger – Oasis
Last Kiss – Pearl Jam
Oceans – Pearl Jam
Who Knew – Pink
Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
I’ll Be Missing You – Puff Daddy and Faith Evans
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes – The Platters
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
The Show must go on – Queen
Everybody Hurts – REM
Right Here Waiting – Richard Marx
Unchained Melody – Righteous Brothers
Forever Young – Rod Stewart
If Tomorrow Never Comes – Ronan Keating
Time to Say Goodbye – Sarah Brightman
I will Remember You – Sarah McLachlan
Now I Run – Shannon Noll
Bridge Over Troubled Waters – Simon and Garfunkel
Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor
The Last Beat of My Heart – Siouxie and the Banshees
|As I Lay Me Down – Sophie B. Hawkins
You Are the Sunshine of My Life – Stevie Wonder
The Best – Tina Turner
Bury Me Deep in Love – The Triffids
Beautiful Day – U2
So Long, Farewell – Various Artists (From “The Sound Of Music” Soundtrack)
We’ll Meet Again – Vera Lynn
Keep Me in Your Heart – Warren Zevon
The Day You Went Away – Wendy Matthews
I will Always Love You – Whitney Houston
Can’t Cry Hard Enough – Williams Brothers
Over the Rainbow – Judy Garland
Goodbye My Friend – Linda Ronstadt


Professional Membership

FCAA Logo - Non-Religious Independent Sydney Funeral Celebrant Stephen LeeIn an increasingly secular society, it’s vital we don’t overlook the importance of ceremony and ritual at the most important times of our lives.

As a professional funeral celebrant, I’m here to help you mark those milestones in the most meaningful and personal way possible.


Contact Stephen

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