Questions & Answers
How much does a humanist funeral and memorial service cost?
The cost depends on whether you have the service at a home or in a rental facility and whether you hire other vendors such as musicians or caterers. My fees depend on complexity, my level of services and distance traveled, but usually range from $300 to $700+. We can talk about it when we meet.
As with other types of funeral services, you will pay separately for the services of a funeral home or crematorium.
What exactly is a humanist approach?
For an increasing number of people, religious funerals are too structured and, frankly, too impersonal. So people turn to humanist and secular funerals, because we do need the satisfaction that ritual provides after the end of life, and after we know that a beloved person is never coming back. Humanism and similar beliefs reaffirm the ultimate importance of the life that has passed and is no more. The humanist view rejects the idea of an afterlife, and interprets death as the end of an individual's consciousness. The deceased will live on through the memories and experiences that their loved ones hold in their hearts.
Why would my family and I choose a humanist service?
A non-religious funeral service may be chosen when the deceased did not practise any specific type of formal religion. Non-religious funerals are also appropriate where the deceased had been an Atheist or a Humanist, or when a religious service would create family conflict.
Just as life is not predetermined, the end of life celebration should never be routine. Whether it's Elvis songs or the Hallelujah Chorus, flower petals or balloons, there should be a uniqueness to the celebration and ceremony.
What is the difference between a funeral and a memorial service?
Some people choose a later memorial service, which has the advantages of giving grieving family and friends the chance to recover from the immediate pain of death, of including others who may live a distance away, and of fulfilling obligations before having to plan for such a personal event.
It's key that I get to know who the person was, and we'll decide together; should it be a ceremony or a celebration? Do you want an open microphone, or a list of speakers? Music, or not? Some people want a video recording, for others, that's definitely not on the cards. You and I will decide together how to create the celebration or ceremony. You can start gathering photos, momentos and stories about the departed person.
Where can a humanist service be held?
There are many options. Some secular services are held in a funeral home or crematorium. Services can also be held in someone's home, in community rooms or in a private room in a restaurant. For larger memorials, you may want to look for a building that reminds you of the departed person's interests. Like Cylburn Mansion arboretum for a gardener, the Paca House in Annapolis for a history lover or anywhere in the Baltimore-Washington area.
What is the process and how do I get in contact with you?
Depending on the wishes of the bereaved or the person approaching death, my services can include introducing and guiding the service or acting as a consultant, suggesting location, structure and ways to personalize and recognize the importance of the event.
We'll set up a home meeting with yourself and whoever else you want to be present. I suggest that, in preparation, you consider any photos, favorite poems, sayings and/or music, or anecdotes about the person that you may wish to include. At the meeting I will find out what the person did during their life, their likes and dislikes, the importance of their life to the people I meet with, and the circumstances of death, so I get a feel for who the person is or was. I can also talk with the person approaching the end of their life.
We can also take this opportunity to discuss practicalities such as:
The date, the time and appropriate place
The mood of the event; will it be named a 'Celebration of Life' or a 'Memorial Service'?
Music, poems, memories, photos
Who will introduce the event and the memory of the deceased?
Who will speak at the event and for how long?
Whether a reception is planned afterward and the details of the transition