When her grandfather died, Alicia and her family knew they wanted the funeral to reflect his cheeky personality. That meant lots of humour, laughs and all his favourite tunes.
“My Poppa, Roger, was so cheeky and sarcastic. He was always laughing, and he loved music. Everyone always commented he had a cheeky grin – something he passed down to us much to grandma’s dismay! So we wanted the funeral to reflect Poppa’s personality. It wasn’t about saying ‘I’m sad’, it was about reflecting who he was, his life, so we chose his music and worked closely with the celebrant for it to be a humorous funeral. We laughed a lot, because that’s how he was.”
Poppa didn’t leave any final wishes about his funeral, so it was down to Alicia, her grandma, mum, aunties and cousin to plan the kind of funeral they thought he would have wanted. Alicia became the family PA, liaising between them and the funeral director to sort the arrangements. This included working closely with the celebrant to write the eulogy and readings.
“Lisa, our celebrant, was brilliant. She did a great job of coordinating 6 of us all talking at once! We put across his personality and incorporating that – everyone's different but for us we didn’t want it to be all sad. We wanted to bring out funny stories that were tasteful and respectful, so it was as if Poppa was talking or had written it himself. Poppa’s friend Frank also shared a story – he couldn’t be there on the day, so he wrote it down and Lisa read it out.”
“For music, we chose a song he mentioned once that he wanted at his funeral which was a country instrumental, and a couple of Vera Lynn songs that me and Poppa liked, plus “Find me in the river” chosen by my mum. Except this last one, all the songs we chose were ones he enjoyed and probably would have chosen himself.
“We decided not to wear black too. I wore green, some of the kids wore flowery dresses. We said wear what you’d be comfortable in. Poppa wasn’t a suit and tie kind of person. For us black is a mourning colour and we wanted to keep it as upbeat as possible for a funeral.”
One last private moment
Before the funeral, Alicia and her family chose to spend some time with Poppa in the chapel of rest.
“We all took our drinks for one last drink and sat in the room and just spoke. We didn’t have the coffin open – we had it closed – but I don’t think anything can prepare you for looking at a coffin. If you feel up to it it’s a nice thing to do, to have that one last private moment before the funeral. We spent a few hours chatting and laughing and crying – hats off to the funeral director for putting up with us for so long.”
On the day of the funeral
“One of the most moving moments was when the hearse pulled up outside and it said ‘Poppa’, and I had the realisation that this is it, that we need to do this and say goodbye.
“We followed the hearse to the crematorium, then we carried the coffin into the chapel. It was all Poppa’s female relatives carrying the coffin and we carried it on our shoulders... the weight of that coffin physically and emotionally, I’ll never forget that. I don’t know how we did it – he wasn’t a small man.
“We had the funeral at Gloucester Crematorium. We filled the chapel quite comfortably with friends, family, and some neighbours came too. We also had a live-stream for people who couldn’t make it on the day. Everything went smoothly.
“After the funeral, we went to the wake. It was non-stop. We went to the local Royal British Legion Club where Poppa used to go to play pool. There was 60s music playing, kids running around, family sharing memories and catching up – what Poppa would’ve wanted.”
Alicia’s tips if you’re planning a funeral
“Just talk to people - I think a lot of people think of dying and funerals as taboo but when you’re put in the position of planning, why not email the funeral director and ask things? We worked with Lizzy at Ernest Cocks Funeral Director in Gloucester, they were fantastic and supportive. Or you can ask someone else who’s planned a funeral. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help whether it’s for the funeral or for you. You’ve got to unload somewhere and get advice, so try to get as much help as you can.
“It’s just a lot of things you don’t expect to be talking about - I was at work on my lunch break organising a coffin. Now, having had that experience I’d say it’s going be a lot and there’s going to be things you need to think of. Like I don’t know what material coffin I want, or I don’t know what colour flowers I want – it's all those little things.
“Even though you want to do your best for the person, I wish I’d had someone sit me down and say remember you’re going to be doing this and you’ll be mentally and physically challenged by it. It’s ok to take time for yourself and be a bit selfish and say I don’t want to think about the funeral this morning, I’m going to catch up on Eastenders.”
As a thank you to Alicia for sharing her story, we’ve made a contribution to the Royal British Legion in memory of Poppa.
Image credit: All images kindly supplied by Alicia.