Podcast with Celebrant Jean Francis & 'Sounding Out Horsham'

Podcast with Celebrant Jean Francis

Podcast with Celebrant Jean Francis & 'Sounding Out Horsham'

Sounding Out HorshamCelebrant and Interfaith Minister Jean Francis recently sat down with journalists Anna Hjalmarsson and Emma Eversham from Sounding Out Horsham. Jean discussed her work as a celebrant and the Last Wishes Workshops that she hosts. These give guidance and encourage people to reflect on what they want when they die. This can benefit loved ones, so they have a better idea of how to celebrate and commemorate the life of someone who has passed. Take a listen and/or download below, or listen wherever you usually get your podcasts. Read more

Last Wishes article in AAH magazine

‘Preparing for our Last Wishes’ article in AAH Magazine

'Preparing for our Last Wishes' article in AAH Magazine

Following her recent Last Wishes Workshop, an article in AAH Magazine features Jean Francis, who explains how grieving families need not be restricted to expensive coffins, traditional church services and gleaming hearses. Read or download an Acrobat PDF version of the full article here.

Jean will host another Last Wishes Workshop in Horsham, West Sussex, on Saturday 16 November from 10.30am to 4pm. Booking is essential on 01403 451103 or visit the Last Wishes Workshop page for more information here.

Fur Therapy

In human years my beautiful retriever Ozzie is 105, considerably older than any of the residents in a nearby rest home that we visit.

We visit on a regular basis where Ozzie offers ‘fur therapy’ to residents, many who have had beloved pets but been forced to re-home them due to needing full time care themselves. A situation I would find devastating.

With their full attention on my four legged friend, we chat and I am constantly amazed how quickly people open up emotionally and share their problems, grievances and often their resentment at having had to give up their independence and in many cases their wish to die.

I feel so blessed to have found a way into the lives of these dear folk – all thanks to Ozzie. Because he is the focus of attention he allows spiritual counselling to take place in a relaxed matter-of-fact way. Wherever people are sitting, either in the main lounge, the garden or in their own rooms, we potter casually around, stopping if anyone wishes to connect with us.

Discovering ways to turn negativity around under limiting circumstances is an on-going and fascinating challenge. We discuss peoples’ amazing lives, look at photographs and recall happy memories, many of which include family pets.

We are all currently busy collecting funny poetry to share. This creates laughter and in turn leads to feelings of well-being. After all, laughter has to be the best medicine, not forgetting the ‘fur factor.’

My Funeral Plan – Rev. Alyson Carter

When I reached, and moved on from my 70th Birthday, it began to dawn on me – initially, very gently – that something had changed. There was an inevitable and new milestone on the horizon ahead of me and I began to ‘practice’ thinking about’ Endings.’  Because familiarising myself with this took time to take root, initially, I shied away from facing these things to begin with.  But through allowing them to settle in me and become comfortable, and as the years rolled by and I approached eighty, I realised that with one son and his family approaching a time of fulfillment in their lives and planning to spend more time in Europe, and my younger son living in the US, I needed to take responsibility for my own future: for their sakes.

In the natural course of events and family records, I guessed I had a maximum of ten years and began to make lists of my favourite music and writings.   Over Time, again, these changed inevitably, until I felt sure I had found the things I wanted to include in any Funeral or Celebration ceremony that might follow my dying.

Then one morning – like any other morning- I felt moved to find out about the Natural Death Centre and from their website I discovered that one of their funeral directors was based in the town where I live.   The rest became a quite surprisingly joyful experience.   The staff I spoke with about it all were so kind, sensitive and thoughtful.   They told me about the availability of Natural Burial here in Dorset.   I had already found the premises where I wanted to hold the ‘Celebration of my life.’    We discussed in depth the impact of cremation on the planet and any additional inclusions I might want.   They guided my thinking and made sensitive suggestions in answer to my many questions. 

As I moved into the experience of making this ‘real’ the ceremony changed as the ‘shape’ of the celebration altered in light of my increasing knowledge.  The reality of what I was doing deepened.   I found I felt increasingly relieved.  The experience itself helped me come to terms with the fact of my dying, making of this a reality of which I am no longer afraid.  I was able to write to my Funeral Director saying how sad I was that I wouldn’t be present to experience his gentle and sensitive care to my’ needs’ when my time came.

I find there is a feeling of achievement at having completed this.   The fact that this final celebration is settled has lightened my day.   There is a sense of relief and comfort that I have helped my family at a time of grief for them, and enabled everyone professionally engaged in carrying out this final ritual to support them with loving care and sympathy to complete the final, gentle task of a long, very full life.    I feel wiser for having undertaken this experience.   It has acquired a fullness of meaning, together with profound gratitude to all who have helped me.          

Alyson Carter

What other words or phrases do we use instead of saying the word ‘death or that someone has died?

Passed over
Slipped away
Curled up his toes
Popped off
Pegged it Read more


My grandson’s naming ceremony and teddy bears’ picnic took place in the family’s cottage garden beneath a willow tree. The joy of preparing for this special celebration with my daughter and her husband made me realise that many other young parents may like to explore such possibilities. This is a chapter from my yet unpublished book of Naming and Welcoming Ceremonies.

Recognising a sense of the divine in the natural world, Carrie and Brian have always felt most at peace while in the countryside, whether on horseback or walking the dogs. Read more

The Green Thing

Checking out at the supermarket, the young cashier suggested to the
much older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because
Plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologised and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘green
thing’ back in my earlier days.” Read more

 Miracles do happen…

I picked up a card bearing a butterfly and was asked what does a butterfly mean to you? I thought for a moment and replied “freedom.”

I would have signed up for the One Spirit training years ago had it not been for my rapidly deteriorating eye sight. I was eventually told by my ophthalmologist that nothing could be done to improve the situation. I had already given up driving and could no longer see to cross the road safely, let alone thread a needle. It was at this point I decided to apply for a guide dog but thanks to modern technology a miracle took place.

At my next eye check, I was given the incredible news that a new procedure was available that may improve my sight. With little to lose, I embraced this news open- Read more

The Healing Power of a Good Funeral

When my ex-husband was told he had only a short while to live he asked if I would write and conduct his funeral. I began to put words together and as I read them to him over the phone asked him to stop me if he wanted to make changes. During this process he opened up in a way I had never known, in all our years of marriage and it was like our hearts really touched for the very first time.

He spoke about the hardships and trauma suffered as a 13 year old on a naval training Read more

Has Your Child Been Formally Welcomed Into This World?

Those that follow a traditional faith-path will no doubt go to their own place of worship to have their off-spring blessed, named and welcomed into the world.

There are many people who have a deep spirituality but feel they don’t fit into any particular box; rather like me before I trained to become a OneSpirit Interfaith minister/celebrant.

My training enables me to respect people of all faiths or none, holding the view that there are many paths to one truth. Together, with the family I create and carry out creative and loving ceremonies that celebrate the many milestones of life.

A ceremony creates a heart and a focus to any gathering especially when witnessed by family and friends, becoming an important milestone in the lives of all those present.

Here are just a few ideas:

• Combining a blessing on your relationship with having your child/children officially named, blessed and welcomed into your family
• Such a ceremony can take place almost anywhere, choose an unusual venue
• Within a mixed race relationship; rituals, customs , readings and music from both faiths can be interwoven
• If you have complicated family issues, together, we can usually find a way around problems
• Create rituals that tell your family story
• Make promises that you know you can keep
• If you love the great outdoors, combine a naming ceremony within a country walk and picnic
• Remember those unable to be present for whatever reason by lighting a candle in their honour.

We are all unique beings, let us together, create a ceremony that honours your uniqueness as a family – Contact me – I’m always up for a challenge!!

01403 273754 –