Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors engages with communities across West Sussex – in Billingshurst, Crawley, Horsham and Hurstpierpoint – in a variety of ways. Read on to find out more about their inaugural Community Remembrance Service
Last week was The Good Grief Trust’s first National Grief Awareness Week. Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors marked the occasion by realising a long-held ambition – hosting a Community Remembrance Service. Organiser Chrissie Wilkie of Freeman Brothers Hurstpierpoint explains further…
Clichés are used all the time, none more so than when you work in the funeral industry, we try our best to step away from them as much as possible, but occasionally, sentiments can often be very true, ‘time is a great healer’. As hard as it may be to accept or imagine at the time of experiencing the death of someone you loved and who remains important to you, sometimes words just aren’t enough.
What Freeman Brothers has done, is to facilitate a special event for bereaved families and anyone suffering the loss of a loved one, to come together to celebrate and honour the life of someone who has died and to commemorate them.
Having 165 years’ experience as a family-run, independent Funeral Director, we recognised that a Remembrance Service can sometimes help people move in the direction of healing, bringing people together, in a safe place and in the presence of a caring community, ‘We are stronger together than we are alone’ – Walter Payton.
Our Hurstpierpoint branch is the newest addition for Freeman Brothers, with offices in; Billingshurst, Crawley and our Head Office in Horsham, and has seen us help with arranging and conducting almost 700 funerals per year. What we can say with certainty, is that every funeral is different, and wishes can vary significantly from family to family, creating a very personal, bespoke service for all religious denominations and beliefs, together with secular ceremonies.
When considering how we wanted to present our Remembrance Service, it was felt that a non-denominational service would be most befitting and inclusive, allowing all faiths and beliefs to join together; and giving them the chance to talk openly with others or simply reflect quietly.
Having extended the invitation to the Hurstpierpoint community, it was clear that we needed to find a bigger venue, somewhere close to our branch that could accommodate a larger crowd. We turned to the Bowls Club, who we are proud supporters and members of, and were delighted that they were able to help us. Their Club House can comfortably seat 80 people, or 100 standing, providing us with plenty of room and luxury amenities to hold our Remembrance Service.
The evening was designed to be an uplifting experience, filled with poems, readings and songs. Given our experience and skills in arranging, we wanted to give it a magical twist, and we were fortunate to be joined by some very talented guest artists; Phoenix Choir of Crawley and our very own Freeman Brothers soloist, Jennifer Bolt, who performed some amazing songs. Some of these were taken from well-known musicals, and other songs were especially chosen because they are quite simply classics. What was particularly touching, is that we put in a special request, a song which held a special meaning, and both Jen and the choir and organist were happy to learn new material and perform it.
The audience got the chance to participate in singing a couple of well-known songs, accompanied by the choir and organist. There’s something very special when people join together to sing, it doesn’t matter if you can hold a note, you are coming together in unison and for a purpose.
Being able to hold a Ceremony of Remembrance played a significant part in the Service; everyone that attended, could take the time they needed to remember those that had passed away either recently or in the past. An important part of living, is to allow yourself moments to think about someone who played a special role in your life, even if they have passed away years before.
To mark this moment, we wanted to create a unique tribute, where you could write a personal message, or a name on a ‘Memory Pebble’ and place it in a symbolic Bowl, where it could lie alongside other tributes to loved ones.
Our ‘Memory Pebbles’ were inspired by nature and by the need to do something completely different and original, and hopefully give a little comfort to all who chose to write something from the heart.
Having watched our staff members touch and move the wooden ‘Memory Pebbles’ around in their hands, as they are incredibly smooth and tactile, we decided that we wanted to be able to give everyone the chance to take one home with them if they wanted to.
We inscribed three different quotes; ‘Be kind to yourself’, ‘Never forgotten’ and ‘To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die’, allowing people to choose a particular quote that they found comforting and to keep it with them. It’s a lovely keepsake on what has been a truly inspiring and inspiring evening.
The Service itself was very well attended, something that we had hoped for, but not expected, given that this was our inaugural event and we are still relatively new to the community of Hurstpierpoint, and not forgetting of course that Christmas is a very busy period for most people.
We were keen to make the evening a memorable affair and wanted our guests to feel relaxed and enjoy a glass of fizz or mulled wine – or two – afterwards. The refreshments from Hampers of Hurst were incredible, the canapés rapidly disappeared and the mince pies and yule log proved too tempting for many. The reception gave us the opportunity to speak with several families and people from the local community afterwards. Many of them could not thank us enough for a ‘wonderful evening’ and as one lovely lady said ‘I had hoped that the evening would be a celebration of a life well lived, and that was certainly the case’.
The Remembrance Service acts as an end of year marker, at a time that many people may find difficult. For some, this could be the ‘first’ festive season without their loved ones, and we need to be forever mindful.
As with most events that we do, we try to encourage people to donate to a charity. This year, we wanted to honour Kangaroos, a Haywards Heath based charity who are celebrating their 25th year. They have been busy fund raising lots of bespoke trips for children and young adults with disabilities. We are so fortunate to be able to help others through what we do and it’s heart-warming to know that everyone’s kind donations will make a real difference.
There are many awe inspiring charities that continue to offer support throughout the year and for us, we have had the privilege of being able to offer an additional service to all of our wonderful families and the wider community.
From our initial meeting with the family and arranging their loved ones’ funeral, this serves to provide the continuity that some families need. We often have families visit with us after the funeral for a cup of tea and a chat, but we are now able to provide them with the opportunity to join with us in a group setting for our annual Remembrance Service, which completes the circle and hopefully continues to give them encouragement and support. A time to remember.
Tel: 01403 254590
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Tel: 01273 831497