On Tuesday 27th March, my mum had the funeral she wanted.
On 4th Feb 2015, when told that her COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) was now in end stage and was terminal, and that she only had a few months left to live, Mum started organising her own funeral so that she could have it exactly how she wanted and save some of the heartbreak of the family having to arrange it when that time came.
Despite the doctors’ prognosis, Mum carried on fighting and defying the odds for the next three years, though it wasn’t all plain sailing. Numerous hospital visits, respites, and being told by hospital doctors that, ‘she won’t make it through the weekend’, it was a bit of a rollercoaster often with no two days the same. We did try our best to give her the best time - doing days out, holidays, etc, generally making memories.
Unfortunately, Mum passed away on the 7th March 2018 aged just 55, after the fight became too strong and her body couldn’t cope anymore. What we didn’t know (except from our Nan and one of our uncles), was that during that three year battle, Mum had gone through the effort to have herself recorded singing the Leonard Cohen classic ‘Hallelujah’ (but the Alexandra Burke version). This played as my sister, two of my uncles, and I carried Mum’s coffin into the chapel.
We didn’t hear all of it, as she had only had the energy to sing the first verse and chorus. It had almost finished as we were entering and she handed it “over to you Alexandra”. It was the most beautiful thing, albeit obviously upsetting, but so special as it was exactly how Mum wanted it. The song had been put onto a CD for me, my sister, and my Nan so I listened to it later in the day to hear it in full. You can hear Mum’s voice is weak, but that gives it so much more impact – it’s clear she put so much effort in to ensure that she did it for us, and to have it played at her own funeral. A huge achievement for her! You can listen to it here:
On numerous occasions during the past three years, Mum had searched for the viral video of the Irish Priest singing Hallelujah, and she listened to it over and over again. Now I know why. It gives it just that extra little bit of feeling.
Mum had been in and out of the funeral parlour a few times over those few years in order to organise her funeral so she could have it exactly how she wanted it. Every part of it went to plan – we had four doves to be released by hand - but they don’t fly if it’s raining. The rain was coming down on the morning of the funeral but miraculously it stopped as we left the chapel to head to the graveside where the doves were released after the burial, before the rain came down again as everyone was heading off. Perfect!
If there is one thing we’ve learnt from this as a whole, is that it’s essential to make memories with the people you love and give them something you will always be remembered by; special holidays, unique days out, just sat watching ridiculous films but having a good laugh with it, anything - capture it all. Videos, Photos, voice recordings. Those things will become very precious in the days, weeks, months and years after!
It breaks our heart that our mum is gone, but it’s all a part of the circle of life, and we just have to carry on with life as it is now, without her. It’s nothing new, but it’s horrible to deal with – but what Mum gave us was beautiful memories, and things to treasure for the rest of our lives, like the song recording.
We’ll always love her for that, and everything she ever did for us.