Present Ascent

Funeral Ceremony By Lucy Biggs


Hello, I’m Lucy. I’m an Independent Funeral Celebrant which means that I help to plan and often lead a personalised, meaningful and (if suited) creative funeral ceremony. I live in Macclesfield, at the edge of the Peak District and I work throughout Cheshire and South Manchester. It is the greatest privilege to serve the families that I work with. I’ve included a little more of my background below…

I write this on a summer’s evening, 2022, watching the sun go down over Snowdonia National Park. The mountains remind me of the beauty and fragility of our lives and how we are held, small and delicate, within nature’s great arms. This gives me the perspective to tell you the story of Present Ascent.

New Beginnings

How I came to be here is a tale of both love and loss — a practice devoted to the memory of our baby, Reuben, who died at the end of pregnancy in 2018. We had no warning, no cause for concern and no reason was ever found. What followed was a series of events that changed the course of our lives forever…

Navigating Reuben’s death, birth and memory changed my perspective on everything. Throughout the following four years, my relationship with my established academic career became strained as I grappled with a new reality as a bereaved mother. When our second baby, our daughter, was born in 2019, I found myself searching for an alternative working path, wanting to be as ‘present’ as possible for her for the years ahead. In 2020, pregnant with our third baby, our second son, I realised I could draw on my experience of death, grief and loss in a way that complimented my existing professional and personal skills and I found my new direction.

I completed my funeral celebrant training in 2021. Newborn Toby slept in a sling against my chest throughout many months of learning. My first funeral as a celebrant was in 2022. It was for my own precious Grandfather who died one month ahead of what would have been Reuben’s 4th birthday. It was an incredibly special ceremony, tailored entirely to my Pop and my family’s wishes. It was full of personalised elements such as live music, some open time for contribution, drawings from 12 great grandchildren and a family-led room layout with my Pop and his coffin resting centrally amongst us all. Following the ceremony, we toasted his life, death and memory around an ancient olive tree in the grounds of Birches Remembrance Park near Knutsford, Cheshire. It was everything that I had envisaged during my training, and a benchmark of what I hoped to provide to families: ceremonies reflecting their hopes and wishes, tailored to the beauty of the life lost.

I believe in something ‘greater than’ ourselves, though I don’t belong to any one religion — therefore, I’m an independent celebrant rather than a Humanist celebrant. You could think of me as the middle ground between clergy/a religious leader and a Humanist celebrant, in celebrant terms. Being an independent funeral celebrant means that I’m able to create funeral ceremonies that are crafted in a way that touch on many aspects of a person’s story — their passions, their beliefs (religious, spiritual or other, if they have/had them), their culture, their personality. A ceremony can also be reflective and inclusive of specific people and communities that surround them. I do this creatively and respectfully, through listening. If, rather than an independent celebrant like myself, you would like to work with a Humanist celebrant, I can recommend Emily Bartram.

Throughout my work, I adopt the principles of the Funeral Celebrant Accord (which you can read more about here). I am also a member of the AOIC (Association of Independent Celebrants), the Good Funeral Guild (a collective of like-minded people working to change funerals for the better), and have completed additional training with Rosalie Kuyvenhoven on dementia-friendly funerals.

Some notes on my business name, Present Ascent;

“Ascent, from the Latin ascendere, to climb, has to do with physical movement upwards. Ascent is associated with emergence, elevation, sublimation, freedom from what weighs one down. It is often depicted mythically as flight, wingedness, the birdlike eye taking in a greater perspective or spiritual expansiveness and release from the limitations of mattered life […] It signifies one pole in a shifting between above and below, height and depth, the ups and downs of affect and mood or the movement between intellect and instinct as means of self-knowledge or in the dynamics of separation and synthesis. […] Ascent evokes tree, ladder, mountain, sky and outer space, as well as elevators and stairs. It suggests gradual, step-by-step progression to the heights, a climbing to the summit or a more rocketlike “taking off.” It depicts soaring thoughts and intuitions, and leaps of imagination.”

The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images (2010) by the Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism (ARAS), published by Taschen

This definition of ascent ticks over in my mind as I drive throughout Cheshire and the Peak District in-between appointments and ceremonies. This work is about journeys, change, climbing. It matters that we are as present as possible in the time and processing of death. Funerals really matter — they are not only a rite of passage for the person who has died, and for the living in grief, but also, I believe, they can act as a light to guide us.

It is the greatest privilege to serve the families that I work with and I take great care to respect the paths they are walking.


You may have a specific funeral ceremony in mind or questions about what’s possible. Either way, it would be good to be in touch and talk it through. If I’m unable to respond immediately, I will be in touch within a few hours.


Thank Yous

There are many people to thank — all of whom have enabled me to arrive at this place…

  • Firstly, to Reuben, for making us parents—and for enriching us in ways that we never knew possible. You live on, through us, as we now work to help others
  • To my husband, Stephen, for being an ever-constant support
  • To our living children – Juno and Toby. The only way I know how to thank you is to love you and be present for you
  • To my parents, for their love, support and practical help
  • To my Nan for asking me, and my Pop for enabling me through his death, to plan and lead my first funeral ceremony on behalf of our family
  • To Caroline & Bethany for journeying with Reuben & I, and to Sands for bringing us together
  • To Ruth, for having faith when I had none
  • To Holly and Jo for your gentle and professional steer through two NCT antenatal courses – one where our baby died and another where our baby lived
  • To my colleagues at Manchester School of Art, for allowing me to bow out gracefully from the world of design academia
  • To Liz & Sue, for your grounded insights and wisdom
  • To Katrina, Vince, Raymund, Cheryl and Chloe – for carrying me through my antenatal and postnatal years and bringing me out the other side
  • To CJ, for validating and supporting my instinct to start conversations about death, dying and grief
  • To Sally, Debbie and Martin for being the first celebrants to talk to me about your work and for encouraging me on my training journey
  • To Rachel, for our enriching coffee dates talking about life, art, death and parenting – each one carrying me through to my next chapter
  • To Rose and her beautiful Acacia Tree, for holding all of my plans in conversation plus nourishing food and juice
  • To Rachel of Wheatcroft Willow for lending me her first, precious woven coffin
  • To Sarah of North & Flower, for the beauty of your work and your constant, ever-present generosity
  • To Kim & Sally of Somewhere Off Grid for their intuitive, creative branding work, founded and nurtured through walking in nature
  • To Anna of Folk & Tale for the light that you bring through a lens – and the visual face that you brought to my vision
  • To Pete and the team at Birches Remembrance Park & Crematorium for the warmest welcome to the profession for my first funeral. Your smiling faces and your beautiful space and gardens feel like home
  • To Kate, the Smiley Celebrant, for inviting me to shadow her alongside Jo of Three Shires Funeral Directors at Birches
  • To Rosalie Kuyvenhoven, Louise Winter & Anna Lyons of Poetic Endings, Poppy’s, Natural Endings, Full Circle Funerals, Cariad Lloyd of Griefcast, Lifting the Lid Festival and the Grief Channel for inspiring me and paving the way for progressive conversations about death, dying and funerals
  • To Debbie, for your spiritual intuition which never fails to steer me
  • To Hannah, Adele, Catherine, Lucy, Lou, Dee & Hayley for their unwavering encouragement and belief in me through the darkest of years
  • To Jennifer, founder of the Academy of Modern Celebrancy, and also Penny, my mentor, for building a platform that meant that training was accessible to me with a newborn baby
  • To you all – thank you – for bringing me to this place

I couldn’t have imagined anything so wonderful. Nan asked for love, laughter and family, and it was all that and more.

Ruth Voisey Funeral at Birches, June 2022
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I am a member of the Good Funeral Guild, a collective of like-minded people working to change funerals for the better.