Monday, January 14, 2013

'I was in my previous job in telesales for 27 years'

Avril West Telesales worker turned civil funeral celebrant

“I’m a civil funeral celebrant and what I do is give people the chance to say goodbye to loved ones in a way that is suitable for them and which does not include a full religious service,” says Avril West.

She admits her job inspires curiosity and is one that she could never have envisaged 10 years ago.

“I was in my previous job in telesales for 27 years. I went in there from school and thought I would be there until I retired. When we were made redundant in 2004, it was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I thought I’d never work again.”

Six weeks later, she had joined Colliers Funeral Directors. 

In 2005 her boss supported her to go to Britain to train and she qualified as Ireland’s first civil funeral celebrant.

“Civil funerals are becoming more popular because people aren’t afraid to say what they would like, or move outside the traditional places for funerals.

Making a difference 

“People often say to me, ‘I didn’t know we could have such a song or read a poem like that’.
If they want to have a prayer or a psalm, that’s there for them too because I’m not a humanist.”

Music requests can range from the Birdie Song and Elvis to Frank Sinatra.

But the important thing is that people can say goodbye in a way that suits them, says West.

“I just help people to do it for themselves. I feel the job I do makes a difference to people at a very hard and difficult time in their lives. I can put my hand on my heart and say, ‘I feel I made a difference’. That I was able to do something for them that they may not have even known was available. I always said I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. That was up until a few years ago, but now I’m closer to knowing. And really, I think this is probably it.”

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