Betty Forbes loves helping others. As a much respected and valued member of her local War Widows Guild in Sydney’s south west, it’s been a big part of her life for almost 20 years.
In that time, Betty has done much for her community. And it’s made a big difference to her own life too. Betty’s daughter Cheryl says she’s always supported the many social events and has enjoyed the friendship and camaraderie. “Mum loves taking an active role helping others. It always amuses me when she refers to them as the old ladies, even though she’s in her 80s herself!”
Betty became involved with the War Widows when she lost her husband Edward, known as Ted, in 1992. He’d been with the RAAF during the Second World War, enlisting in June 1942. He was stationed in Darwin, and despite not following his brothers to an overseas posting, Ted played a vital role in the war effort at home.
Betty was only 64 when Ted died. Suddenly she was facing her retirement years as a widow. But she’s always been independent, and joining the Guild enabled her to widen her social circle even more. Over the years, Betty has been a member of Camden War Widows and the President of Camden Legacy Widows.
Now that Betty is nearing 90 she is grateful to have been able to stay at home with the assistance of her daughter Dianne & son-in-law Ken.
The War Widows’ Guild Of Australia dates back to 1945, but the guild supports and advocates for all War Widows from all conflicts. Having seen the benefits her Mum enjoys being part of the association, Cheryl now wants to give back by offering her skills as a Celebrant.
Cheryl is part of the Picaluna family; a network of independent professional Funeral Celebrants and Planners who seek to offer a more authentic and personal way to plan someone’s farewell. Cheryl acknowledges it can be difficult and confronting for some people, but it’s important to have that conversation.
“I’d like to help the War Widows to realise how Picaluna can offer a meaningful funeral; something that’s very authentic. For many people, funeral plans in the 21st century are a changing landscape. While some take comfort in the tradition of a church or a chapel, others are thinking differently and holding the ceremony in a location meaningful to them, such as in a garden, a park, a beach or a bushland setting. These ceremonies can feel more relaxed and offer varying opportunities to honour and celebrate a life as they often have no time constraints.”
Cheryl has clear memories of her own experience when she helped to arrange her father’s farewell. “I still have a very strong memory of the funeral director trying to upsell us all of his services. My father always said, “Put me in a cardboard coffin, I’m going to be cremated anyway.” But when I asked for the cardboard coffin, the funeral director said “Do you not think your father deserves a decent coffin?” I was really upset. Anyone who knew him know he would be horrified if we spent a lot of money on his funeral.”
Authenticity is key when creating a funeral ceremony. Cheryl’s many years of experience combined with her empathy and understanding means she has lots to draw on when needed. “Everyone has a story, and being able to bring out that story in a ceremony is so important. I know when I go to a funeral I like listening to the eulogies. Even with people I’ve been quite close to, you realise there’s so much in their lives, some of which I had no idea about. That’s what really makes a funeral meaningful – when it’s all about the person.”