Honouring the Life of an Old Soldier – Written By Jean Francis

It was many years ago that I heard a remark made by a compassionate, young
carer that has haunted me to this day. 
It was during a Q & A session that the young lady voiced her concern that in
the rest home where she worked, when someone dies their names were never
again mentioned; like they had never existed.
Yet on the other hand I have heard many heart-warming stories of a funeral
corsage halting outside for the staff and residents that wish to, to say good bye
to a deceased resident on the way to their funeral. Another report was that
residents come in the front door so why shouldn’t they leave the same way?
This policy enables other residents that wished to bid a friend farewell, to do
so. When someone dies in other care homes a photograph of the person is
placed on the hall table beside a single rose.
When a resident simply disappears and their existence not even acknowledged
how depressing it must be knowing the same will happen to them when it is
their turn. To not mention the name of a person that has died is surely an
archaic idea?
Nowadays we encourage people to speak about and remember those who
have died, honouring their presence in our lives and remembering especially
the good times. This surely is a healthier approach?
Celebrating the life of Des
In July 2013, on my 73rd birthday, I was ordained as a OneSpirit Interfaith
minister. My training amongst other things included the art of creating
ceremony and I recognised the richness and healing ritual can bring into
people’s lives.
I was working at a local rest home when Des, an old soldier died. Rather
than arrange transport for 15 elderly and frail residents to the
crematorium I suggested that his family join us in the
lounge in the afternoon following the cremation
to ‘Celebrate the Life of Des’.
Military music played as people gathered in the communal lounge.
To be continued …..
welcome and candle lighting. Glasses of sherry were raised in honour of
his memory and the poem; Old Soldier; was read. Memories of Des as a
boy were shared by his family and the residents spoke about Des, their
friend. Photographs were shared and discussed amongst much laughter. I
thanked everyone for coming, before reading a short story by Edward
Monkton, which ended with the words: ‘The Penguin simply smiles and
pours another cup of tea.’
Tea and cake was then served.
I am happy to share my template for such a ceremony should anyone be
interested, contact me via: