Shaun made sure his dad Charles’ love for Birmingham City Football Club shone through at a large funeral and wake. 

“If my dad was in a room with you, you’d know about it. He was loud. Really bubbly and jolly. Your normal bloke really. He was massively into his football. A Birmingham City fan. He liked his music too. Classic stuff, The Rolling Stones, things like that.

“It was all sudden and completely out of the blue when he died. His heart just stopped. He’d gone to the shops and just didn’t make it back. So there was no planning on his part when it came to the funeral. The only thing he’d mentioned before was that he wanted to be cremated. 

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I planned the funeral with my sister. We wanted to take some weight off our mom and give her some time and space to grieve.

“I planned the funeral with my sister. We wanted to take some weight off our mom and give her some time and space to grieve. We didn’t want her to feel like it was all on her. She had her input, but it meant she didn’t have to sit there planning every detail. 

“We just wanted the funeral to be a celebration of him really. Him and his life. Something that really reflected him. Planning a funeral isn’t something I’d ever thought about, even though we all know it happens to everyone at some point. You always think it happens to someone else and not you. Then you find yourself in the middle of it, making all the decisions.” 

The funeral 

“Everything went to plan on the day. It went better than I thought it would. It feels odd looking back on it. Almost like an out of body experience. It’s quite weird. I’d say there were between 200 and 300 people there. There were people stood outside who couldn’t even get in. He had quite a big family on his side. We phoned up close relatives making sure they knew, but I’d put a post on Facebook too. It was open invite and word of mouth spread, so lots of people ended up coming. Family. Friends. A lot of people I’d never even seen before. 

“There was a lady who did the service. A celebrant. She’d been around the house before the funeral to go through things with me and my sister. Helping us pick out songs and readings. I did a reading as well. It covered everything. It didn’t take me too long to write - it came quite naturally really. I just sat and wrote from the heart. I’m an alright public speaker, so don’t usually mind talking in front of people, but it did feel a bit daunting reading at the funeral. I spoke about him. Our experiences. Thanking important people who were there for him through his life. 

You could tell he was a Blues fan… there were a lot of people in blue for the football club… then at the end of the service, everyone sang the Birmingham football anthem – Keep Right On.
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“You could tell he was a Blues fan. I wore black myself. But there were a lot of people in blue for the football club. He had flowers saying “DAD” and “CHAZ”… of course, they were in blue and white. One thing he had mentioned was that he wanted Abide With Me at his funeral. Usually that hymn is for elements of religion. But I think he wanted it because it’s what they use in the FA Cup Final. Then at the end of the service, everyone sang the Birmingham football anthem – Keep Right On. It was on the order of service. The words were printed for everyone to join in. 

“We had some other music as well. He loved rock’n’roll, anything like that. There was some Chuck Berry. We played Wild Horses by the Rolling Stones. He’d never asked for it specifically, but he’d touched on it as a favourite song over the years. 

“I suppose the hardest part was the end of it. Walking out. It makes it all seem a bit final. You know when the curtain usually closes around the coffin? We decided to leave it open. We asked for that to be done after everyone had left instead. It made that part easier. I thought it could be quite upsetting for everyone so decided against it. You start thinking about everyone else and how they’ll be feeling when you’re planning these things.” 

You know when the curtain usually closes around the coffin? We decided to leave it open… it made that part easier… you start thinking about everyone else and how they’ll be feeling when you’re planning these things.

After the funeral 

“After the funeral we had a wake at The Woodman pub in Shirley. Most of the people from the funeral went and stayed into the night. It was more of a get-together than anything else. There were a lot of people to feed so there was a big buffet. 

“I can’t remember everything that happened. The whole day was a bit of blur. I just disconnected trying to get through it. I carried on as normal for three or four years after the funeral, but it hit me down the line. I tried to carry on as normal putting everything to the back of my mind, but it does catch up with you in the end. It’ll be okay eventually, but it takes some processing.” 

Shaun’s tips for planning a funeral 

“Planning the funeral went quite smoothly. The cost of it was a bit of an eye-opener though. I don’t think people realise just how much funerals can cost. Without going through it yourself, you just wouldn’t know the costs involved. That’s something more people should prepare for. 

Not everyone wants a celebration I suppose, but it suited my Dad. It helped make things lighter where we could.

“I think it helped having the celebrant. She helped guide us and she did a eulogy covering everything – from his childhood to the end. She went through it all. 

“I’d just say try and make it as authentic and true to the person as possible really. Not everyone wants it to be a celebration I suppose, but it suited my dad. It helped make things lighter where we could. Funerals are hard enough as it is, so it’s good to ease some of the sadness.” 

To thank Shaun for sharing his story, we’ve made a contribution to Cancer Research UK in memory of Charles.

Image credit: All images kindly supplied by Shaun.