John had lots of family and friends but wanted a no-fuss funeral. When he passed away, his daughter Marsha planned a simple service that gave everyone a chance to say goodbye.
“Dad was very dry. Very laid back. Quite quiet but very very giving. He’d done charity work for 42 years, 2-3 days every week. We worked it out and he’d worked for 18 different charities over the years. He was sporty as well. He jogged 5 miles a day and went to different sports clubs. He still went out every week with his best friend he grew up with too.
“When he passed away, me and my brother planned his funeral. He was always writing and drawing, and he had little notebooks where he’d put his wishes. One said ‘For if I pop my clogs’ on the cover. He had a funeral plan with the Co-op that he’d paid into as well.
“He was very stubborn about what he wanted. He always said, ‘don’t waste your money, don’t spend no money, I’m dead, I won’t know the difference.’ At first he said he wanted to go in a cardboard box, no funeral cars, straight from the chapel of rest to the crematorium. He’d taken out a funeral plan with the Co-op and his notes said ‘if you put me in anything, choose the cheapest one.’ We did talk about it though. We said to each other ‘Dad, you know a lot of people, you’ve done all this charity work for years, people are going to want to say goodbye’.
“In the end we decided on a mid-range coffin and to leave for the funeral from his house. He had elderly neighbours who he’d looked after, bringing them meals and getting them fish and chips on a Friday. They weren’t well enough to go to the funeral, so it meant they got a chance to say goodbye. We paid for a hearse to take him to the service, but we all followed in our own cars, no limousines. He would’ve hated the fuss of limousines.
“He'd said no flowers too. He said ‘I don’t want people wasting money on flowers. They’re a fortune. You’ll spend all this money and I won’t even see it.’ But my daughter is a florist so she made all the flowers. We thought he’d be okay with that because it was just the cost of the flowers themselves and she made them in her own time.”
“There were a lot of people at the funeral. He was a member of so many clubs that he was friends with a lot of people. Badminton, table tennis, the Stroke Club. Then friends from volunteering, neighbours he’d helped, old work friends, friends he’d grown up with.
We had a very simple order of service. Dad had said that he didn’t want any fuss - ‘no hymns and stuff’. He’d chosen his own songs. His Hands in Mine by Elvis on the way in and Milky White Way by Elvis for the committal.
“We had a non-religious service, but it was led by a vicar. When we were choosing a celebrant,
we’d told the funeral parlour that we were looking for. Nothing religious. Something a bit more
relaxed and uplifting. Someone who wasn’t morbid. They put us in touch with a vicar who was
actually really jolly and the right fit."
“Family and friends didn’t do readings. He wouldn’t have liked that. But me and my brother did write a eulogy that the vicar read out. It was quite a long one. It talked about his life, where he grew up, his friends, all about his hobbies and the charity work he did, his sports. In the eulogy they read out one of his poems. He was always writing funny poems. This one was about one of his neighbours who was there at the funeral.
“We had a wake at the local working man’s club. He grew up in the area and that’s where his mom and dad used to go out. It was busy – I’m not sure if that’s the right word to use for a wake, but there were a lot of people there. It was quite simple. They did a buffet for us and the radio was playing. We didn’t want anything too fussy.”
After the funeral
“After the funeral he went to Yardley cemetery to be cremated, because that’s where his parents are buried. We scattered his ashes in Cromer on the East Coast. His family were from Cromer and when he was younger he spent every summer holiday there. He used to take me and my brother there as kids too.
“It was at the end of March, but it was the most awful weather. It was the windiest day with blizzards and it even snowed! We laughed because he would’ve been laughing. Snow in March. What are the chances? We used the app What3words to mark the exact location. That way, we can go back and have a moment to remember him if we want.”
Marsha’s tips for planning a funeral
“I’d already planned a funeral before, so to be honest I was prepared and knew what to expect. I think people get so upset talking about what they want to happen when they die that they avoid it but because my dad had made his wishes clear and had a will, it made things a lot easier.
“If you’ve got a good funeral parlour, they’ll talk you through everything you need to know. They’ll ask the right questions and let you know what you need to do. They can guide you.”
To thank Marsha for sharing her story, we’ve made a contribution to Birmingham Dogs Home in memory of John.