Week Forty-Nine


Chapter 25

I have contacted the vicar up at St John’s and he gave me good advice. He will come later in the week to discuss plans for the service. I have an appointment later at the Cooperative Funeral Care, so it was good to talk to the vicar first. He said that we don’t need to split the service between the church and crematorium – in fact there is no need for us to accompany the coffin to the crematorium at all. That makes sense as we might lose guests that way and I want as many as possible to come back to my house afterwards, to celebrate Mum’s life over food and drinks.

I have to wait another day to go to the Bereavement Centre and they have made an appointment for me to go straight afterwards to register the death. Isabelle has offered to do all that with me. I feel like I haven’t seen her in a long time.


The appointment at the Coop was straightforward as we already know what we want to do. The funeral is booked for Friday 8th April at 3pm. I can hardly believe that Mum is going to have her funeral on the anniversary of Daddy’s death. She will like that. I’m sure they are laughing about it in heaven already. The Coop are expensive – it will cost over £2000 for them to make the arrangements. Never mind, it is sorted at least.

The Bereavement Centre gave me a bit of a shock today. I met with a lady to discuss and sign for the brain donation and she asked me if I wanted to see the death certificate. I did. It said – ‘Cause of death: Septicaemia caused by a UTI’.

“She didn’t die of a UTI, she died of brain failure, according to the consultant”, I protested. “I would have understood if it said that she’d died of dehydration or starvation, but not septicaemia!!”

Did it matter, I reasoned to myself, but somehow it did. I fought back the tears.

“If she was dying of an infection, why was she not treated for it in the normal way? Why did the consultant tell me she was dying of brain failure?”

It all seems academic, but I felt very confused and like I’d been cheated – like we had cheated Mammy and not given her the correct treatment. Had we had let her die unnecessarily? I was crying in my need to understand. The consultant was sent for and he did his best to explain why it was written as it was, but I am still not convinced. There seems little point in asking them to alter it, we cannot alter anything else.

I arranged to donate Mum’s brain to research, as I know Mum wanted to be useful and she certainly doesn’t need it any more. If it can help to discover more about this horrid disease and how to prevent or cure it, then this last act will be invaluable.

Nevertheless, I left feeling disgruntled and in just enough time to get to Shakespeare Street for our midday appointment.

With that paperwork done, we went back to Isabelle’s for a quick lunch and she dropped me back at the shop. My head is swimming with thoughts and lists of things to do. I caught up with some work and I bought the Nottingham Evening Post to read the Notice of Death I had sent in.

HAYNES — Avril. Passed peacefully on 28th March aged 64. Beloved Mammy to Debbie and Dawn, sister to Julia, Nana and friend. We celebrate your life thanking God for all the precious moments. Enjoy the welcome into Glory. Funeral service 3pm on Friday 8th April at St John’s church Oakdale Road. –


I don’t really know what I am doing. I’m not much wiser after meeting the vicar either. It seems we can pretty much do the service however we want. He’s going to contact the organist to request he plays for us; Josh is going to learn the songs on the guitar too – Mammy liked to play guitar at church, so it will be fitting to have Josh play ‘Amazing Grace’ for her.

I think I’d like to go with the Psalm I was given in hospital – Psalm 116 – but I will need to cut it down a little. I want to write a tribute too and I have asked Debbie, Julia, Wendy and Monica to write tributes. None of them feel brave enough to read though, but I will. Isabelle has agreed to read the Scriptures.

Wendy has sent me an article that Mammy herself wrote for her school reunion magazine in 1996, a year after Daddy’s death. I think I would like to read that at the funeral – to let Mum give her version of her story. It is amazingly concise to say it spans over 30 years and expresses beautifully her rose-tinted outlook. It was her story just before the Alzheimer’s began to take a hold, just after her ‘world fell apart… when Dick died aged 49’. I will include the order of service and any written tributes in the last appendix.

I have had an overwhelming number of sympathy cards – amazing how quickly news travels. I hope that these people will come to the funeral and stay to share their memories.

I have also been to see Monica finally. She is in pain and has an enormous log/leg which inhibits her movement because she cannot bend either the knee or the hip. This is something to do with the lymphatic system secreting. She needs to get the stuff drained, but keeps missing the appointments. It was good to see her and share more memories and stories – I hope that she does write some of them down to share at the funeral. Monica seems to think that she will be following shortly behind Mammy and commented on how they began a life together on Graemsay all those years ago and now will be ending their lives together too.

I got a call today from another vicar – apparently the incumbent vicar is unwell and has asked her to step in and conduct the funeral service, so I have had to arrange another meeting with her.

Debbie should be down again early next week and have time to help with the final arrangements. I have ordered the flowers to go on the coffin, but I want to pick some flowers from my garden too, as I want Mum to have wall-flowers, daffodils and forget-me-nots – scented garden flowers that Mum would have admired and said ‘They don’t look real, do they?’

There is a lot of paperwork, arrangements and decisions to be made and lots of expense. I am glad that Debbie and I had enough time to discuss much of this together. I have bought a cherry-wood coffin and still have to take in an outfit for Mum’s body to wear. I have decided that she should wear the cerise suit that she wore to my wedding.

Mammy in her outfit for my wedding and her funeral

The day before the funeral, Mum’s body will be available for viewing in the chapel of rest. I am not sure that I want to go there, but I will if somebody else would like to go. The boys don’t want to go.

We have decided that the majority of Mum’s ashes will be buried alongside Daddy’s, as this was always her request, but we are going to reserve some to be scattered or buried up at St John’s and her name remembered alongside her Mum and Dad’s on the memorial vase. Debbie will arrange the Graemsay burial for the Summer. I will arrange for the rest to go up to St John’s sometime after that.


My cousin has said that she would like to go see Mum’s body and would like me to go with her, so I will. It turns out that Debbie is going to the Chapel of Rest with Rachel, James and baby Skye. As it happens, Conor has now decided to go with them.

Well, that was not how I expected it to be. I met with my cousin at the Funeral Parlour at 2pm. We had a bit of a wait and a good laugh as the people in the Parlour couldn’t find Mum. My cousin commented that she can’t have gone anywhere… It was farcical and we couldn’t stop giggling about it.

I was a bit nervous, but remembered how it was seeing Daddy’s dead body and how obvious it was that he was no longer in it. So I thought I was prepared, especially as I had also seen her as she died; but she looked very different. She did not look like Mammy at all. Perhaps it was because they had removed her brain and had to re-stuff it with something? Neither of us really wanted to stay long, so we said another farewell and went to the pub for refreshments in the glorious sunshine. I could easily have stayed there, enjoying the company and another pint, but I still had much to do for the morrow.

I really hope it all goes well and I don’t crumble. Debbie is sorting the buffet for the wake, which is to be held at the Elwes Arms, not far from the church. I still need to make sure that photos, slide show, music and everything else is ready and working properly.


Yesterday was Mum’s funeral and Daddy’s anniversary. Conor gave out the order of service leaflets and Alzheimer’s envelopes to the guests at the church. The projector was missing a cable, so that didn’t work, although right at the end, Conor found a cable and began to show the photos as the guests were chatting and dispersing.

There was a good turnout – only Monica, Tony and the Orkney friends were missing. Monica’s sons came on her behalf though and we read one of Tony’s poems as his tribute for Mum. Everybody sang and spoke beautifully; I read two tributes and Julia managed to read what she had written for Mum. Josh played ‘Amazing Grace’ on the guitar, accompanied by the church pianist. We had Elvis’ version of ‘Amazing Grace’ for the entrance and Everly Brothers “All I have to do is Dream” for the exit. The other song that we sang was “Morning has Broken”, as that was Mum’s favourite song when I was little and Mum taught me to sing it, word for word.

It was great to finally relax a little and enjoy the company of family and friends, as we all shared happy memories of Mammy’s life. After the pub – which coincidently was ‘opened’ by Simon’s Great relative and hence carries Granny’s maiden name – we went back home and continued our celebration, with more food, drinks, music and the complete slide show of photographs of Mum. We talked and laughed long into the night. I think we gave her a good send-off. I could feel her finally smiling and at rest, but sure she was having a good jive too. I really missed Monica though and want to see her very soon.

Mammy home at last!

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