Bridget was a proud and well-loved Dubliner. When she passed, her children put her plans for a large Roman Catholic ceremony in place.
Bridget moved to England from Dublin when she was a young girl. “She was treated quite badly, as a lot of Irish people were back then. But it instilled a determination to achieve and do well in life. She always worked really hard to provide for her children. There were six of us and she was a single mom a lot of the time”, Roger remembers. “She was our queen. We all adored her and would’ve done anything for her. She was funny, always laughing. She was a good’un, just a remarkable human being.
“We knew for a while it was going to happen. Mom was diagnosed with cancer 5 years before she passed away and for her last 15 months, she became very sick. It was difficult for us to have to watch. But the fact we had so much time to plan and prepare meant that planning the funeral went like clockwork for us. Mom was a proud Dubliner, a proud Irish lady. We knew she wanted all the things an Irish Catholic would want from their ceremony. A Roman Catholic requiem mass. Me and my sister Tracey took the reins. We’ve worked in funerals so we were in a better place to be able to help with it.
“She’d left a comprehensive list of all the things she wanted us to do for her. She’d really planned it down to every detail. I work in the funeral industry and she leaned on me quite a lot towards the end when she was choosing what she wanted us to do. There was a lot involved, a lot of logistics, but it meant we knew everything she wanted for the day.”
The day of the funeral went as planned. “There were no problems, hitches or timing issues. It was pretty spot on to be fair. She was received at her home address. She originally wanted to go into church the night before, but in the end she said she’d rather be with us in the chapel at Hicktons funeral directors. Lots of family and friends came and said farewell to her the night before the funeral which was lovely.
“I think there were about 300 people in the church and a couple of hundred came to the crematorium after. Mom was quite well known locally. She’d lived in the same town most of her life and she had a character where she’d talk to anyone. She was loved and well respected. People travelled from Ireland, Scotland and Wales as well.”
The family organised a traditional, horse-drawn hearse with another nod to Bridget and her heritage. The horses’ plumes were in the colours of the Irish flag – green, white and orange. “We also had a motor hearse on the day for flowers. Then three limousines following with close family. One for her children. One for her aunties. One for the grandchildren.”
The funeral service was led by 2 priests. “We chose Father Christopher Fitzpatrick, mom’s local parish priest. He gave mom the last rights and took the lead. Father Vatalis was there for support.” Everything was quite traditional. “The dress code was traditional black and we chose white roses and white lilies for the flowers. We wanted to keep it nice and classic.”
For Roger, the most moving part of the ceremony was the eulogy. “We all got involved. We all did something. I did the eulogy. We got to talk about mom’s life and really speak from the heart. My wife did a reading. The children did the bidding prayers.”
Bridget had picked the music for the funeral herself. For the church, she’d chosen 3 hymns – Do Not Be Afraid, Here I am Lord and I Watched the Sun Rise. For the service in the crematorium, there was a homage to her first home with I Remember Dublin in the Rare Old Times, as well as Three Little Birds by Bob Marley.
The funeral service was followed by a wake at Kingshurst Labour Club. “We know some really good caterers. There was some traditional Irish food and mom loved Caribbean culture, so there was lots of Caribbean food too – jerk chicken, rice, salt fish, mutton.”
After the funeral
Though Bridget initially wanted a burial, the family had to consider alternatives to allow her to rest where she wanted. “To be honest with you, she did originally want to be buried. But she wanted to be buried with her mother in Dublin. Grandma was poor and had a pauper’s grave. There wouldn’t be enough room in the grave for Mom to be buried there too. So instead we chose a cremation. That way we can inter her ashes in the grave she wanted to be in, in Dublin, next year. I don’t think any of us are ready to let her go yet. She’ll be in Dublin, and we’ll all be in England. But when we’re ready, we’ll take her over.”
Roger’s tips for planning a funeral
“I’d say to get things in place before the big day comes. I know it’s not possible for everyone. But if you can think ahead to your own funeral, or someone else’s funeral, do. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. We’re all going to die at some point and letting people know what you want can really help.”
“It’s good to be prepared where you can be. Take precautionary steps and get necessary support in place. Don’t be afraid of doing it your own way either. There’s no right or wrong way to do a funeral. There’s no set template.”
To thank Roger for sharing his story, we’ve made a contribution to the Kemp Hospice in memory of Bridget.
Image credit: All images kindly supplied by Roger.