A New Chapter

MY20082013-1323164130/sbfuneral/Jason Quah/Samantha Boh Funeral director Ms Angjolie of Life Celebrant Pte Ltd poses with her company's hearse.
Life Celebrant – Commemorating Loving Memories

Ang’s successor, 2nd eldest daughter among his four children, Ms Ang Jolie Mei, rose up to the challenge and took on the role that her father left behind in this very male-dominated industry, together with her mother.

Having graduated from The National University of Singapore a few years at the time of her father’s unexpected death, Jolie, armed with an Economics and Psychology degree, did not feel burdened with having to give up her job to take on a very difficult and taboo-ridden industry. Choosing instead to think that the business was a blessing from her father, Jolie was determined to apply economics to the business and psychology to the people she had to meet, especially the distressed next-of-kin of the departed.

Jolie, who did not have the opportunity to learn the ropes of the business directly from her father, had to gain experience on-the-job. Fortunately, her father’s staff were always there to give her support and advice.

Two occasions imprinted in Jolie’s mind gave her insight to what she wanted for the funeral business, moving her towards providing more ‘software’ and care to meaningful funerals.

One was her best friend’s death when she was 12 years old and the other, her father’s funeral. “I locked myself in my room and played the piano continuously for days, as I could not understand death when my friend died,” says Jolie.

At her father’s funeral, she learnt first-hand that as next-of-kin, one had to play host, explain how the deceased died, and so on, while trying to cope with one’s own grief. “In my eyes, my patriarchal father was strict, quiet, and seldom joked with us. But I came to know another side of him through his friends who came to the funeral. They told me that he was an extremely kind and humorous person!” From this experience, she thought deeper into the business and discovered that the commemoration and eulogy would allow the family reprieve in enabling them to cope better and not regret his passing, as well as to help them heal their grief. Being remembered in good ways comforts the living, honors the dead, and provides a lasting legacy of love.

Losing her father, who was the sole breadwinner, at a young age created great financial and emotional turmoil for the family. This brought Jolie to the realization that she needed to arm herself with wider knowledge and expertise. A year into the funeral business, she decided to foray into the financial industry by joining an independent financial advisory firm, IPP Financial Advisers Pte Ltd (IPPFA), in order to understand the linkage between financial instruments and the funeral industry. Jolie, who has achieved premier accolade “The Million Dollar Round Table” for 2 years, found her answer – the link is to equip families, especially breadwinners, with protection for their loved ones.

In year 2009, she returned to the funeral industry. She took the opportunity to travel to Malaysia, America, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, France, Japan, Taiwan and The Philippines. This helped Jolie widen her knowledge extensively on their different funeral cultures and brought about her motivation to reform Singapore’s essentially traditional funeral industry.

During a funeral exchange programme in New Zealand, Jolie who was one of the funeral assistants during the service saw that it was a funeral celebrant who was the officiant of the funeral instead of the usual religious Buddhist monk, Taoist priest or Christian pastor.

During a funeral exchange programme in New Zealand, Jolie who was one of the funeral assistants attended to a family who had a funeral celebrant service, instead of the conventional religious Buddhist monk, Taoist priest or Christian pastor ceremony.

The funeral celebrant, who was the officiant of the funeral, focused on the life of the deceased. As memories were recounted, there was laughter and smiles through tears. Jolie found through this experience that there was immense meaning and healing power through commemoration. Even Jolie, who never met the deceased lady, felt that she had known the deceased lady all her life. It spurred her onto getting herself certified in year 2010 in Sydney. Jolie is the only Funeral Celebrant in Singapore.

Jolie also discovered – through her visits to USA, New Zealand, and Australia – that funeral directors had extensive knowledge. Therefore, she decided to acquire the Funeral Directing Certificate from Mount Royal University, Mount Calgary Canada in 2012. The topics she studied included: regulations in the funeral industry, professionalism in funeral directing, conflict resolution, delicate care for the deceased’s body, and psychology of death and dying.

As a certified funeral director and funeral celebrant, she aims to bring Life Celebrant to the next level of funeral service in Singapore, one that reflects the life of the departed, honor them as well as leaving a lasting legacy to the living.

Jolie is your atypical funeral director, one who doesn’t let her job take her life away from fun. One would find her on the dance floor, swaying her hips to her favourite salsa dance routine. Jolie – who loves adventure and is even an adventurous foodie – has since made many innovative changes to the business with aplomb.

Life Celebrant has, not only, extended services to families of other faiths, but has also organised secular (non-religious) funerals where a funeral celebrant focuses on the life of the deceased person. Life Celebrant caters to each family’s unique customs, needs and budget.

The newly renovated funeral parlours of the Ang Yew Seng Remembrance Hall – differ from the dingier traditional “cold” parlours. The new parlours have been retrofitted with air-conditioners, improved toilet facilities, smooth marble finishes, warm brown rattan furnishing, and crystal chandeliers. Families are offered privacy, complimentary wifi facilities, sets of toiletries, and so on for their convenience.

Other than designing and organising funerals with a contemporary touch, Jolie has also imported new products, for example, environmentally friendly urns for those who would like to disperse their dearly departed’s cremated remains into the sea. These urns would sink into the sea and disintegrate within a few hours.

Jolie, who is a certified funeral celebrant, funeral director, as well as a financial advisory representative, aspires to combine the funeral and financial industries into a one-stop “cradle to grave” service to the community. She hopes this would enable her to continue her father’s legacy of “Ang Yew Seng Funeral Parlour” and better it together with “Life Celebrant”.

Life Celebrant’s services will encompass:

– pre-planning and pre-arrangement before one’s death to pave the way for those left behind, eg: wills
– pre-planning funeral arrangement
– organizing funerals, and
– post-funeral administration eg: guidance to relevant legal advisers to administer the estate

Jolie and her team also provide awareness seminars to various corporations and organizations, on the importance of pre-planning in funeral arrangement to help families prepare for the inevitable eventuality.”

Above these, Jolie hopes to offer comprehensive meaningful funeral packages that minimizes the stress of logistical matters that the family has to go through during the funeral wake, and include the often-forgotten psychological and emotional support for the family of the deceased. Jolie says, “I hope through giving extra care and through innovation, Life Celebrant may bring about the changes needed to make funerals more meaningful to both the lives of the deceased and their loved ones”.

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