Writing this column, I have the chance to sit down and reflect on the funerals I have taken and the families I have met with over the past few weeks. And it is always the same feeling and that is joy. When people discover I am a funeral celebrant and Paul (Shoobridge) is a funeral director, they will often say with sad and compassionate eyes: "I don’t know how you do your job."

Yes, it is deeply emotional and we are meeting with people often in tragic circumstances and it’s really awful to feel their brokenness; thankfully, Paul and I are in it together and we can share our despair and understand each other. However, overwhelmingly, it is laughter that fills the room at meetings with the family, and it fills the chapel during the funeral as well. We smile and we laugh because we want to celebrate a life that has meant so much to those of us left behind.

We recently worked with the most wonderful Feniton family. Mike had died way before his time and left an absolutely lovely family behind, including his wife soulmate, Tracy. They had been teenagers in love, growing up five doors apart, and then bought their house together in the same street. They adored each other and his loss is devastating. But the evening I spent with them learning about his life was filled with laughter and clear joy. I left theirs walking on air that there is so much love out there. And I left East Devon crem after the funeral feeling exactly the same way. They are such a fantastic family. My job is a real blessing! How would I know about this love in this family if I hadn’t been privileged be right in the middle of it?

I ask the same question to others, though. I ask it to the young carers who have looked after people in care homes and, daily, made them laugh. I ask it to the nursing staff at Hospiscare who literally hold the hands of the dying and their heartbroken families day after day. And I ask it to the Salvation Army officers and volunteers who spend their time actively living out the Gospel through social justice, finding shelter for the homeless and feeding the hungry through the Foodbank.

Shoobridges’ Exmouth branch is a stone’s throw away from the Salvation Army Hall and we have made some beautiful friends there over the past year. They asked me if I would lead their Sunday Worship last weekend and I am so glad that I did. It was a really uplifting yet prayerful experience being with them for the morning. They seem to ‘get it’ on every level. It all began on the streets of East London in 1865 when Methodists William and Catherine Booth abandoned the concept of a church pulpit to take God’s word directly to the people.

Their work is in their community and for anyone who needs them. They are driven by their mission to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination. As Andrew Cutler, their inspirational Mission Manager, said: “Just one person can have an impact on generations to come.”

I don’t know how they do their job, others don’t know how we do ours … but all we need to make sure is that we carry on doing these jobs and building our neighbours up one smile or word of encouragement at a time.