When his mom and dad passed away on the same day, Nigel found himself in the unusual situation of organising two funerals at the same time.

“My mom and dad died on the same day. It was a bloody nightmare. They weren’t together. They’d split up when I was 9. Mom lived in Birmingham and Dad had moved away to Wiltshire. Mom passed away at 2:03am in Solihull hospital. I got a call and rushed there. I couldn’t have got there any quicker, but she’d already gone when I got there. Then at about 2 in the afternoon of the same day, I got a call saying, ‘your dad’s not well and he’s not going to make it’. So I had to get to Wiltshire. I was there when he passed away. It was a head wobble, believe me. 

"My dad had prepaid for his funeral with the Co-op. So that was helpful. It gave me, my brother and sister somewhere to head to. Mom hadn’t prepaid for hers. But we decided to do both funerals with the Co-op. It just made sense. Neither had really spoken about what they wanted. It wasn’t something that had come up a great deal."

My mom and dad died on the same day… it was a head wobble, believe me.

“Me, my sister and brother put our heads together to decide what to do. We planned one funeral at a time, organised them completely separately. It was a lot to go through. There’s a lot to sort out for one funeral, never mind two. There’s telling everyone on both sides what’s happened. Organising the funerals themselves. Writing two eulogies, which means getting information from family and friends on both sides. The wakes. But we managed it. 

"We chose cremations for both. I don’t really know why… the three of us just came to that conclusion. My mom used to say, ‘just throw me on the compost heap’ and my dad never really spoke about it. I think the main thing was that my sister wanted their ashes to keep. We’ve all got them now. We split them into these pink and blue heart-shaped receptacles. Mom in a pink one and dad in a blue one. My sister had some necklaces made too."

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“We knew we didn’t want either funeral to be overly religious. So the funeral directors recommended a civil celebrant. A lady named Stephanie. She was really good. She came out to my brother’s house twice. Once to talk about our mom. Then again to talk about our dad. She asked about the life and times of our parents. Then that information became the foundation stone of all the proceedings."

We planned one funeral at a time, organised them completely separately… there’s a lot to sort out for one funeral, never mind two… but we managed it.

“I wrote both eulogies though. My sister was in pieces and my brother was dealing with his own health problems. So I wrote them. I’m not too bad with words so I found it quite easy. I wrote Mom’s first. Then took the structure and modified it for Dad. I knew that I specifically wanted to get a laugh out of Dad’s one. He was always in the charity shops, so I finished it with the line ‘I’ll meet you in the big charity shop in the sky’.” 

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The funerals 

“The funerals were a week apart. Mom’s was on the 2nd March and Dad’s was on the 9th March. Both went smoothly. They were just before the coronavirus restrictions came in. We were fortunate that they were both nice, dry days. You never know what the weather’s going to be like around that time of year. 

"They both went in style. We had a horse and carriage for both. White horses for Mom and black horses for Dad. Both had flowers. Letter wreaths saying “MOM” and “DAD”. Dad liked motorcycles, so we had some flowers made into a motorcycle for him too."

The funerals were a week apart. Mom’s was on 2nd March and Dad’s was on the 9th March.

“I gave the eulogies at both. The charity line got a good laugh at Dad’s service. We had music at both too. My sister was adamant that she wanted Landslide by Fleetwood Mac played at both. It’s a bloody nightmare funeral music, isn’t it? I hear the songs we played now and am like ‘oh God’. Sets you right off. The songs become a bit of a trigger. 

"Obviously the most moving part of both funerals was seeing the coffin disappear behind the curtains. Because you know that’s the finality of it then. As I say, that’s the very final time that you’re going to be in their presence as such.” 

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After the funerals 

“We had a wake after each funeral. We chose to have them both in the same place. My niece, Molly, was adamant she wanted to do the food for the wakes. So we gave her several hundred pounds and she sorted out a nice buffet for both. We had both wakes at the Onward Club in Chelmsley Wood. It’s close by. There was food and drinks. People reminiscing. Your typical wakes.” 

Nigel’s tips for planning a funeral 

“If you have siblings, try to do it with them. Or anyone who can help. If you possibly can, don’t do it all yourself. There’s so much to do. It helps when you can share the responsibility a little. 

"It would’ve really helped if we had more details about our parents’ younger lives too. For the eulogies and to give to the civil celebrant as well. It would’ve been good to have more specific dates for things. If you don’t ask your parents before they go, you end up having to ask aunts and uncles and other people like that. Then, for them, these things were about 50 odd years ago and their memory might not be the greatest.” 

To thank Nigel for sharing his story, we’ve made a contribution to Cats Protection in memory of Ernest and Christine.

Image credit: All images kindly provided by Nigel