Katie spent the last 4 weeks of her dad’s life at his side in a hospital and hospice. When he passed, she wanted to plan a funeral that everyone could attend, including the family dog.
When Katie’s dad Tony was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis – a terminal lung condition - he decided to spend as long as possible in his own home. As his condition worsened, he moved into hospital for 2 weeks and then Dove House Hospice for 2 weeks, where Katie and the family dog Molly stayed with him day and night.
“Dad was great. He’d do anything for anyone. When he got ill, he relied on other people for everything. I was his carer and when he went into the hospice I went with him. He was terminally ill and we knew he was going to die. Death was never a taboo subject. I think you have to be open about it, because even if you close yourself off and say, ‘I don’t want to have this conversation’, it’s still going to happen.”
“We had a different story to someone who passed away unexpectedly. We knew it was happening and that we’d have to plan a funeral. He didn’t really specify what he wanted. It was more about what we would want. I just wanted it to be nice for him. I wanted it to be that if he was sat in the room he’d be happy with the funeral we’d put together.
“One thing he did want was his grave sorted. We decided to have a cremation and inter his ashes. He wanted to be as near to his mum’s grave as possible, but in a separate plot. When Nanna passed away in 2017, he felt a little lost. He kept saying we need to go and pick a plot. He was adamant. My mum booked a date to pick the plot – it was Thursday 9th February 2023. My dad died on Wednesday 8th, so we ended up going to choose the plot without him the day after he passed. We chose a plot very close to Nanna’s – you can see her headstone from the spot we chose.”
Tony passed away in Dove House Hospice. “My Dad died in a hospice, so we got quite a bit of support when it happened. As soon as he passed, we said our goodbyes. After so long, the people in the hospice come in and ask where you want him to go. We chose Jones Funeral Directors. They’re a family funeral director. We’d spoke to Dad about it when he was in the hospice and they did Nanna’s funeral, so we decided to go there. They were amazing and so supportive to me and my family.”
What the family didn’t realise was that Tony had cancelled his life insurance policy about a year before he passed away, so finances weren’t in place for the funeral. “We asked if Jones did funeral plans and they didn’t, but we made it work.”
Katie, her sister and her mum found ways to reduce costs where they could. “We had letter wreaths in the hearse – “DAD”, “GRANDAD” and “HUSBAND”. They weren’t real flowers – we actually got them on Amazon.”
The rest of the funeral planning process went well. “We had a bit of a laugh. My dad was a standard dad with his dad jokes. He was a rock music lover as well. He loved Journey, Def Leppard, Queen… that sort of stuff. We decided to choose ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ as one of his funeral songs. The song resonated with my brother especially because when he was a kid he used to say to my dad ‘play the dust song’ when they were in the car.”
“A lot of people that went to that funeral had never been to a more chilled out funeral. There were jokes. Apparently when my dad was younger he liked the ladies. We had a humanist celebrant who made a joke about it. I think some people were a bit shocked but my dad would’ve loved it.
“We didn’t really specify a dress code so people came in darker colours. I did associate the colour purple with him though. It’s the colour of Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis, so it kind of became his colour. I got purple ribbons for the funeral and asked the funeral director to hand them out for people to wear. Molly had a purple bandana that said ‘Tony’s best friend’ and my dress had purple flowers on.
“Molly dog was at the funeral and wake. She’d been there with him in the hospice so I think it was important for her to be there at these parts as well. We’re going to inter his ashes in his grave later this month and I’m hoping she can be there for that too.”
At the wake, the music machine had broken, so Katie plugged her phone in and played one of her dad’s playlists. “It was amazing as it really did feel like Dad was there. If this is an option for you when you’re planning a funeral, I’d really recommend that you do it.”
Katie’s tips if you’re planning a funeral
“If you’re planning a funeral or going to be planning the funeral of someone who’s terminally ill, I think it’s a good idea to talk to that person beforehand. See what they want and what their wishes are. Me and dad were very open and there was no taboo subject. We were open about his death as soon as we knew he was going to die.
“Look and see if the person has a life insurance policy or something in place for the cost of the funeral too. If they haven’t, look into which funeral places have payment plans to make things easier.”
All images and videos kindly supplied by Katie.
As a thank you to Katie for sharing her story, we’ve made a contribution to Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis and Dove House Hospice in memory of Tony.