Rick Trehearne believes every life deserves to be celebrated, treasured and remembered.
“It makes me sad when I see in an obituary that there will be no kind of memorial gathering for the person,” he said.
“When people come together, it is a chance to acknowledge the value of a life, what that person accomplished and contributed and a way for people to show respect and to comfort each other as they face their loss together.”
As a funeral director with 50 years’ experience, 37 of them in Vernon, he has seen people not pre plan or arrange a service because they had no church affiliation and because they weren’t sure of what to do. They may think there has to be some kind of minister or they don’t have a family member or know anyone who is comfortable with the event.
“I think that might be why people might request that there be no service and I think that’s sad. People in all cultures and times feel a need to mark a death in some way. With fewer than 60 per cent of Canadians having any church affiliation, there is often nothing done,” he said.
“I have heard people say later that they wish they had had some memorial or celebration of life.”
Trehearne said the funeral director’s job is to see to the legal and practical part of the funeral while it is up to the family to have the kind of service they want. He helped many families with memorial services while he was working, presiding over them following the family’s wishes.
“There does not have to be any kind of religious element to a memorial, although some people might want hymns or readings or reference to a deity,” he said. “That is why I think it is so important for people to make their wishes clear to family and friends, to plan things long before death so no one has to make important decisions at an emotional time and be afraid they are not doing what their loved one would have wanted.”
Trehearne is continuing to serve the community as a certified funeral celebrant. The idea of a certified celebrant for memorial gatherings came from Australia about seven years ago and there are now more than 3,000 certified celebrants across North America.
He is particularly concerned that all veterans have the proper honours that they deserve. He is a veteran himself, having served with the military police in the British Army in Libya, Malta, Cypress and the Suez Canal after being a London Bobbie (British police officer). He went to school in Vernon, went back to England afterwards and came to Canada to live in 1961 and to Vernon in 1976.
He said that in the early ’80s at the Vernon Funeral Home, five per cent of people chose cremation and now that number is 95 per cent. Whatever the choice, he hopes that people make it clear to the family. His job as a celebrant is to help the family decide what they want to have for a memorial gathering. That includes location, music, speakers and what ever else they want, whether ashes are present or not, photos or flowers, and anything else that is meaningful.
Trehearne’s longtime friend Joe Fabi turned to him for help with the service for his wife, Lois, a longtime member of the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Auxiliary, recently.
“I tell you from the heart that he did an excellent job. The family really appreciated it,” said Fabi.
Trehearne urges people to make their wishes known, preferably written down and safely filed somewhere, and then get on with living.
“Everyone makes contributions to the community in some way and every person’s life should be celebrated,” he said.