'At one funeral, the coffin was brought in the bucket of a digger' - Well known Mansfield 'celebrant' retires
A Mansfield celebrant has spoken of his ‘fantastic life’ carrying out non-religious wedding and funeral services as he retires after 16 years.
As a humanist he has led weddings, funerals, vow renewals, baby namings, interments and memorials from Mansfield to Sheffield and Scunthorpe to Peterborough.
Drew Baxter, who is almost 60, and married to Jill for 37, years said: "I have done ceremonies in gardens, woodlands, pubs, working men’s clubs. One of the strangest was inside a tiny hide for the funeral of a bird watcher. At one funeral, the coffin was brought in the bucket of a digger!”
Drew joined the police, aged 17 but after many years changed direction.
“I’d been ill, needed to define myself a new path. By chance, I went to a wedding which happened to be a celebrant service. Someone said, you could do this. As a police officer I was used to talking to people and I’d done a course in performing arts, skills needed for public speaking. I applied for training with the British Humanist Association. I found it fascinating. Your’e not bound by religious rules in the service, there’s a lot of freedom.
"One of the first celebrants in the Mansfield area was my mentor Don Sharpe. He was a lovely man, more celebrants came along and I was able to focus on the Mansfield, Sutton, Kirkby, Swanwick, Eastwood and Heanor areas.
“The wonderful thing about the job, is helping a family or someone find peace. People have been so kind. It’s that warmth and generosity of spirit by people, often at their lowest point that’s amazing.
“Death is part of the human experience, the hardest part is children’s funerals. What can I do or say to make people feel better? I can’t, all I can do is make sure I don’t make them feel worse, there is responsibility to get it right.
"There‘s been pressure with Covid, services are smaller. We have to take precautions. It’s tough on funeral directors.
“It’s hard not to get emotional. You share a family’s experiences, I keep in touch afterwards.
"As you get older you get more tired. It was the right time to retire. I’m not deserting families, if they need me I’m still here and I’ll still do ceremonies for close friends. It’s been a fantastic life.