Bill Black has embarked on a second career as a funeral celebrant.

Celebrating people’s lives through their stories

After retiring as an elementary school principal in Campbell River six years ago, Black missed working with people – so he decided to become a funeral celebrant

Bill Black is full of stories – other people’s stories that is.

After retiring as an elementary school principal in Campbell River six years ago, Black missed working with people – so he decided to become a funeral celebrant.

A funeral celebrant works with families and the funeral home to plan a unique celebration of life for the deceased.

Black’s business, called Coastal Celebrant, offers services which are non-denominational and very personalized.

“They’re never the same because these people are not the same,” explained Black. “They’re all individual with very unique stories.”

“I love people’s stories,” he added with a smile.

First, Black meets with the family for a few hours to learn about the person who passed away.

“My job is to direct the conversation and listen,” explained Black. “I really get to know who the deceased was.”

He then works with the family and the funeral home to create a personalized service, which can include things like a grandchild walking up to the front of the room to light a candle, or a memory table to remind family and friends of the deceased’s hobbies and interests.

Black said services offer closure for family and friends of the person who passed away, and considers this vital to the grieving process.

“Services, call it whatever you like, a celebration of life, is really important,” said Black. “The family needs something to say goodbye, to acknowledge, to respect.”

Black and his family didn’t do any kind of service for his father or mother, and he said “there’s still this gap,” because they didn’t get the closure they needed.

Getting the family and friends together to swap stories about the deceased is something Black also says is very important.

“If we don’t ask about the stories, about the history, sometimes it’s gone,” he explained.

While Black thoroughly enjoys his current profession, some may wonder how exactly he came up with the idea to become a funeral celebrant in the first place.

When his mother-in-law passed away Black’s family asked him to do the speaking at the service because of his public speaking experience as a principal.

Then a close friend of his requested he do her service before she passed away.

After the two services went smoothly, his wife suggested he keep doing it. After training, Black was certified by Doug Manning of the In-Sight Institution in Oklahoma, U.S.

Although he is based in Campbell River, Black offers his services throughout central and northern Vancouver Island. And even though he already retired once, he doesn’t see himself retiring from his new profession in the near future.

“It’s very rewarding,” said Black. “It’s finding respect, and happiness, and sadness… it’s hard to explain.”

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