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Making sure your last farewell is how you would want it

PUBLISHED: 06:45 03 August 2017

From flowers to funeral (and, of course, your will) make sure your wishes are known - now.

From flowers to funeral (and, of course, your will) make sure your wishes are known - now.

kzenon

Opinion: If you want your final wishes respected, then now’s the time to sort them out, as Rachel Moore urges

I’m writing this a few hours after the funeral of an extraordinary woman. She was just 56.

A mother of two, friend to many and a highly-respected professional in her medical specialism, her loss leaves a massive void.

More than 100 people filled the Norwich church to hear her 93-year-old father, who had driven himself from Oxford, speak about his only child’s early years.

Her son, just 21, courageous beyond his years, followed with his own tribute, watched by his distraught 18-year-old sister, in the front pew.

The woman in the lily-topped coffin had been a force of nature. Through eight years of cancer treatment, she continued to work full-time, fitting chemotherapy into her lunch hours.

Never self-pitying, resentful or mournful about her fate, she forged on doing what she did brilliantly, much of the time feeling wretched, but no one would ever know. Some people weren’t even aware, as she kept her illness private, her business, so not to worry people.

Her cancer was aggressive, and she knew its inevitable outcome, but she still hosted a New Year’s Eve dinner in her new home, where she moved just days before Christmas for a new start, and we all toasted the start of 2017, wishing each other Happy New Year.

As we lifted the prosecco at midnight none of us thought it would be her last. Whether it was in her thoughts, we will never know.

But quietly, she was getting her affairs in order. Divorced, and an only child, she knew she had to articulate her wishes to family and close friends who would have to make the arrangements after.

She put her trust into a few selected close friends – magnificently loyal, efficient and effective women, who became known as the Three Musketeers in her last weeks and the weeks after her death - to translate her plans into action, making everything work.

Her funeral was just as she had wanted it, from arriving to music by Handel, the readings, hymns, no flowers, apart from one arrangement on her coffin, and the recessional music, Mozart, as she left the church. Everything was done just as she had requested, with a gathering at the Assembly House, a place she loved and totally fitting to her.

In the last two months, I’ve witnessed just how important it is to have everything in order, especially if there are children involved.

A funeral should always convey the essence of the person it’s for, not be a one-size-fits all conveyor belt funeral.

But we don’t like to talk about death because it makes us feel uncomfortable. But being prepared isn’t about being pessimistic, it’s about planning, just like getting house and life insurance, to make sure everything is covered.

Making a will, having the conversations and writing a funeral plan should be top of our to-do list this week. I remember a religious funeral for an atheist, whose family had done what they wanted because there were no clear instructions. We sat through it feeling it was about someone else, deeply uncomfortable that he would have hated every moment.

Making plans isn’t just about making life easier for the people left behind but about having your last say and for those people who come to say goodbye feel you’re there with them.

Do it today. Nothing is more important.

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