Hear from some of the families we’ve helped to get a sense of what we do.
All I knew was that my hubby Mark wanted a natural burial. He was also an unconventional kind of man so my daughter Claire went about finding a sympathetic funeral director and celebrant. Luckily she stumbled across Poppy’s Funerals.
Mark died at home and although I would have liked to keep him with us overnight it was suggested that he go to the morgue until the date for the burial was set. Mark was the owner of a beautiful wooden boat that he had been unable to use as he was ill for quite a while. So we decided, with Poppy’s help, to take him on his final journey in his boat up the Thames. It was a beautiful sunny day and he had his whole immediate family in the boat with him. He was shrouded in a closed stretcher as it is not legal to expose a dead body in public. Poppy and her team waited patiently as we made our way leisurely on his beloved river. Then he was respectfully carried from the boat to her poppy covered hearse-van.
When the day arrived and Mark was back with us for the burial ceremony I picked seven flowers from his garden to represent his family and tied them to the willow coffin. We placed cards and mementos from the grandchildren inside his coffin and off we went to the burial ground. I had asked Poppy if I could take him to his burial in his own car as I had been taking him everywhere over the past year. If the coffin had fitted I would have but it was just a tad too long. So he went in the hearse and we all followed slowly behind.
The thing about Poppy is that she will do whatever you want if it is possible to do it. There are no rules when it comes to funerals but not everyone knows this. I would recommend Poppy’s Funerals to anyone who wants to design their own kind of funeral. Oh, and there are no added extra costs…
All of us in our life time will lose someone we love, many of us will be required to take care of the affairs of that loved one and organise their funeral, and, unfortunately, only a few of us will be lucky enough to come across Poppy’s Funerals to help us do it.
My brother, seven years my senior was idiosyncratic; from the Fez he wore, to the cane he carried; he lived his life his way. When it came to his death, aside from the devastation I felt, I knew I wanted to organise a funeral that reflected who he was and what he meant to us. I didn’t want some ‘off-the-shelf’ event, which was more about adhering to a set of unwritten norms and rules, than it was about celebrating, cherishing and saluting the person whom we had loved and lost. Heaven, he didn’t conform in life…he sure wouldn’t want to in death.
From the moment I heard Poppy’s voice, her “Hello, this is Poppy, how can I help?” I felt the rightness and sincerity of this woman and what Poppy’s Funerals stands for. (Poppy doesn’t know this bit but she was the second funeral director I rang. Realising I couldn’t easily get my brother across London to the crematorium without help, I did a search on the internet; the syrupy, sycophantic Dickensian response I got from the first funeral director made me panic and made me want to call the whole thing off!)
Poppy empowered me. She was fabulous at answering all the difficult logistical and practical questions, whilst simultaneously encouraging, guiding and enabling me to do what I felt was right for my brother. Everything I asked was met with a “CAN DO” attitude, which in turn, encouraged me to be braver. I know, without a doubt, that without Poppy’s Funerals I would not have had the courage or the confidence to make my brother’s funeral the beautiful event it was.
My brother had always been a ladies’ man; hence, I think he would have rather chuffed about being driven to his last social event by a woman. We met Poppy and her team (blissfully, informally dressed) at the gates to the crematorium and as my brother was slowly driven down to the chapel in the poppy strewn white hearse we followed on foot with Leon Redbone’s ‘Whistling Colonel’ emanating from the vehicle’s stereo. We scattered daffodils on his coffin (he adored yellow), we saved a tree and had a cardboard coffin (his closest friend, touched his coffin and remarked “Oh how right, he’d have hated the waste of good wood”), my four children carried him into the chapel, we played the music he loved and had chosen (some painfully sad and some joyously uplifting), we dressed as flamboyantly as we liked (my two sons wearing the pocket watches their uncle had bequeathed them in the multi-coloured waistcoats of their top hat and tails, each carrying one of their uncle’s canes) and we gave eulogies about his life and recited poetry he’d held dear.
At the after party we took along some of his photography from over the years, which was lovely, as that often elicited memories and stories from people. We also took his hats for folks to try on and take home with them if they wished. It was touching and felt so right, to see people trying on a hat, checking it out with others to get their views and eventually leaving the party sporting one of Brian’s Fezzes, Panamas or Fedoras. The champagne flowed, as did the stories about him, which was perfect, and such a balm.
I guess a funeral is one of the last things we can do for the person we’ve loved and lost. I knew we got it right when several of his friends came up to the children and myself and said, “I hope it doesn’t sound odd, but I’ve had a really lovely time!” As would have my brother. I wish he could have been there…who knows…maybe he was, I’d like to think so. After all, as one of his friends commented, “That was the sort of event Brian would have thrived in.”
When my mother Rosa passed away (at the grand age of 100¾!) it fell to my sister and I to organise her funeral, but we found the traditional male funeral directors we approached and the whole traditional ‘funeral industry’ rather intimidating and off-putting. Formal black hearses and limousines and lots of black suited solemnity didn’t really seem right for a lady who enjoyed life so much, loved pink and danced at her 100th birthday party!
I came across Poppy’s while I was researching alternative funerals and was immediately attracted by the complete difference. They were young, they smiled, they dressed in bright colours, they actually encouraged families to take part and do things their own way. Kate from Poppy’s came to visit us at home and I felt she really listened and tried to understand what we wanted. I felt able to ask what probably seemed all kinds of daft questions! I also liked their whole approach of simplicity and practicality, which mum would have greatly appreciated!
It may seem a strange thing to say but Rosa’s funeral at a forest burial park was actually a really lovely family occasion. We chose a simple pine coffin and decorated it with roses. Four of our guys – including the youngest great grandson in T shirt and trainers – helped carry it, with lots of guidance from Kate! No one wore black. We made big bouquets of wild flowers for the hall and printed our own service sheets with a photo collage of Rosa’s many adventures. We wrote our own service: a few prayers but no hymns, some Glen Miller dance music, lots of time for everyone to share their memories and recall her life. Afterwards the guys again helped carry Rosa’s coffin through the woods and lowered it into the grave. I know, especially for my two sons and their cousin, how much that meant for them, to feel they did their bit. Kate looked after us throughout, organised everything and liaised with the burial park staff. We felt able to relax knowing everything was in good hands.
I know I speak for the whole family when I say how much we appreciated such a combination of professional skill and personal care. Thank you Poppy’s for helping us celebrate Rosa’s life and to complete our many rich memories of her in such a beautiful and unique way.
Dad died on the 17th May. One minute he was on a six week long holiday in France and Spain and the next he had a heart attack and died. He was only 64.
This was the biggest shock my brother, Dan, and I had ever had. The days after the 17th were full of strange conversations on subjects I hoped I’d never have to speak about. Our parents were divorced many years before so this left Dan and I to organise everything. We had absolutely no idea what to do or where to start. Once I’d managed to say the word funeral aloud, we started talking about finding funeral directors. The ones I’d seen on the local high street either looked like you could buy a holiday at the same time as organise a funeral, or looked like the most morbid place ever with lots of lace and dead flowers. Neither seemed fitting for Dad. Dan had heard a phone in on LBC radio talking about a new style of funeral directors and people phoning in were raving about them. He did a bit of research on the internet and found they were called Poppy’s.
The same day I called Poppy’s we went to another high street funeral directors. This absolutely cemented our choice; the high street one was a strange man dressed in black who gave us a list of costs, coffin catalogue, and couldn’t have been less personal. When I phoned Poppy she was caring, kind, and helpful. The experience with Poppy’s from start to finish was faultless. Ruth, our organiser, came to my house to meet Dan and I, and talk through options for the day. We spent a long time organising everything, as we wanted to make Dad proud and give him the send off he deserved.
We had a simple coffin but then decorated with Dad’s first London Marathon race number – he was a pioneer for wheelchair racing and raced in the first London marathon that allowed wheelchairs. We dressed Dad in the suit he’d worn for my wedding the previous year. Poppy’s even called me when they found his father of the bride speech in his pocket. Dad loved music so we carefully picked three of his favourite songs to play at the service. Dan and I spoke about Dad’s life, stories of when we were young, anecdotes of his rock band days, and his phenomenal dedication to wheelchair racing and its betterment. My sister in law read a beautiful poem we chose with the sentiment of always speaking about someone even if they aren’t there, as this will keep them alive in your mind and heart.
The only way the service could have gone better would be for Dad to have been there and seen how loved he was and how proud Dan and I felt to have him as our Dad. I could not recommend Poppy’s enough. Their service was fantastic. They allowed us to give Dad the funeral we wanted. To personalise it, to make it fun, to make it colourful. Thank you so much Ruth, Poppy and the team, I’m so glad we found you at the most terrible time in our lives.
Losing a loved one is always hard and the loss of our beloved uncle deeply affected both my siblings and myself. Harder still is seeing the strongest woman I know, respect and love, fall to pieces with the loss of her only brother and living relative from her childhood.
My uncle, an eccentric man, did not want a conventional funeral. My mother wanted nothing more than to give my uncle the send off he deserved and would have been proud of. With no idea or guidance on how to organise a bespoke funeral and then coming up against the ‘funeral Mafioso’ my mother luckily came across Poppy’s Funerals. From first contact Poppy helped give my mother the strength, belief and understanding of how to put together this final send off that my uncle would not only have been proud of, but would have been the life and soul of the shenanigans that occurred.
Not being able to join my mother in London to help organise this and support her, due to work commitments, was extremely hard but I was comforted on every phone call as she would say, “Poppy said”, or, “Poppy told me”. To Poppy and her team, this is more than a job, it is a calling. There are a small percentage of people in this world that truly make a difference and love and believe in what they do. We were very lucky as a family to come across one of this small percentage of people.
I didn’t meet Poppy until the entrance to the grounds of the crematorium, where they were waiting with my uncle in a cardboard coffin covered in daffodils in the white Mercedes hearse, painted with poppies. Seeing the coffin for the first time really hit me. As I tried to contain my emotions I met the gaze of Poppy and she gave me a warm smile. This of course did nothing to my emotional overload at the time but did instantly make me realise how this lady had helped my mother through one of the hardest periods of her life. She genuinely cares and it makes such a difference.
I hope my funeral is a long way in the making, but when the time comes I do not want a conventional funeral. I would like a funeral that represents me and celebrates my life and achievements as a person. Take courage, and give your loved one the farewell you want to give them.
The Wrays’ story
When Dad died we sat together soon after thinking through what he might have wanted as a send off. He was a man who loved people and good times, and disliked dreariness. On top he absolutely treasured his vintage car which he had for all of my lifetime, and had driven around the world. So we chose to have the basic structure of a funeral, but added colour, grandchildren singing and reading to give vitality, and then his three children drove his coffin off, in his treasured car, scattered with red rose petals, to be cremated.
Poppy’s were incredibly helpful, adaptable, easy to talk with, and it was so refreshing to be able to talk through the possibilities, not just the necessities and really make a farewell that we enjoyed and allowed people to celebrate rather than simply mourn. Thank you, thank you.
Sylvia’s funeral was totally unique, like her, and made a profound impression on all who were there, which is what she had wanted.
My sister Sylvia died of cancer aged 43. She wasn’t religious and had left a few ideas for the service, but Poppy’s helped us to fill in all the rest. We found a beautiful, leafy old cemetery that was still taking burials in central London, near to where she had lived. It had a Victorian ‘chapel’ which we decorated with a vase of beautiful roses and masses of tiny tea lights, which made it wonderfully atmospheric but not too church-like. My father had wanted to sit with the coffin open before the service, so Poppy’s managed that for him.
Poppy’s had recommended a ‘celebrant’ to conduct the service for us; he held together the various readings, eulogies, and live and recorded music, conducted the congregation singing a traditional round (it was lovely to get everyone singing and this was a great secular alternative to a hymn) and explained the proceedings. Then I, my other sister, my father and a cousin picked up the coffin (under Poppy’s guidance) and we processed a little way out of the chapel and rested it on trestles. Then a further group of relations and friends picked it up (holding the handles at hip level, not on shoulders) and took it the next step of the way, to be taken over again by another group and so forth. It was a very special thing to do, and everyone, children too, really seemed to appreciate being involved and having the chance to carry the coffin for some of the 300m or so distance. Even people who’d said beforehand that they weren’t sure if they wanted to, were then glad that they did – it just felt very inclusive. There must have been 150 people or so, but all who wanted had their turn and we processed slowly, either silently or sociably together. Poppy and her team were hovering discreetly with the trestles and to help if needed, particularly for lowering it into the grave. Then the celebrant said some words of a blessing and my niece distributed the roses from the chapel to be thrown into the grave or beside it.
We had organised a wake in the upstairs room of a pub nearby. We decorated it with helium balloons and once everyone was there and had eaten, we all went out onto the balcony and released the balloons into the sky. That felt very special too, watching them fly up and disappear. Sylvia had wanted her funeral to be different and memorable, emotional but uplifting too, and I am so pleased that we were able to achieve this for her.
Death is part of life – and both must be respected. It is hard when loved ones pass away. We have many questions, especially when we are not prepared and cannot accept the cause of death. Or if the death came unexpectedly. But even when we can foresee that desolate moment coming, we still feel unprepared.
My mother was diagnosed with cancer a long time ago and that was said to be the cause of death. As her daughter I find this hard to accept as I know she would not have had to die – if only we had the right information at the right time. My mother, however, readily accepted this “death sentence” – and I felt I could not make her change her mind. She accepted this diagnosis and left me behind with my understanding that cancer is indeed curable. She decided to go. I accepted her wish to complete her earthly existence.
Looking after my mother and caring for her 24 hours a day was very challenging in the last couple of months. Not only was I unable to generate income to pay the bills but it was physically very hard. Restless nights, non-stop day care (she had two bags which were very “active”), sometimes I truly hit my limits. I kept trying hard to do whatever possible to protect her from any bad influence, including bad food. We tried very hard to let her have some good experiences, we ate our dinner next to her hospital bed, tried hard to cheer her up. She did not eat much, and lost weight daily. Time was against us, against me.
She was a fighter, my mother, she knew exactly what she wanted, or did not want. At times she could be bossy, but in a somewhat pleasant way, not even recognising that she was being bossy. She was a strong character, for sure, and the life she lived was all but easy.
Life is very precious. Very precious indeed. From the moment we are born all the way to the end of our life we have all sorts of experiences, bad and good. It is hard to cherish all of those moments, especially the ones we do not like or find difficult to handle. That’s quite natural. We can consider ourselves lucky if we have caring and passionate friends to help us go through difficult times. Cherishing our life will help us cherish death. Nothing stays the same forever. If we learn to cherish life we will also cherish death. And “death” needs to be understood and respected as part of life. Perhaps we should consider replacing the word “Death” with a different word or words, such as “changing status” or something.
When my mother took her last breath, in the early morning hours of 6th March, I felt great respect for her. She was such a brave woman! She knew she was dying and she was anticipating this moment. In her last moments she was surrounded by family who greatly loved and cherished her – and gravely miss her now. Science has proven to us that there is not only “one life and that’s it”, in fact one might say that life goes on, in a different form and on a different plane. I knew my mother was still “around” after her last breath and I knew I wanted her to have enough time to detach from her physical body and earthly life. I came across a website www.naturaldeath.org.uk and found out that it is quite possible in the UK to keep a loved one at home after his or her death, for a certain time and bearing in mind that the body might change. There is no rush, no law saying they have to be collected instantly. But, medical professionals around me did not seem to know this. Luckily I found a funeral director, Poppy’s Funerals, to whom I did not need to explain “legalities”, as they were well informed. All I had to do was tell them what I wanted to do and they listened. They actually listened to what my wish was, and confirmed that it is not only possible but also legal, and will be respected.
I kept my mother at home for 3 days, always ‘checking’ on her as I used to do when she was still alive, only not as often. Sometimes I would be in her room talking to her. My daughters decided on their very own ‘farewell ceremony’ with their grandma, individually. One daughter finished reading the book she was reading to her grandma, when she was still alive. We were all so glad to have my mom still around, giving her the time she might have needed to detach herself from us, and enough time for us to detach ourselves from her. It was a quiet and peaceful 3 days, full of respect and love.
With Poppy’s Funerals we agreed to have my mother’s body collected after those 3 days, which happened to be on a Saturday. We invited some friends who also knew my mother and a nurse who felt very close to my mother – these two loved each other. A dear friend recited Buddhist prayers and we had a little talk after that. This moment was very sad. It felt final. Once gone my mother would never come back to us. Poppy’s Funerals came at the agreed time and took all the time in the world to lift my mom from her bed onto a stretcher. The way this was done was with complete care and respect. This was touching to see.
The next week my mother was cremated, as she wished, and we kept it very short. The chapel was the last “station” for my mother’s physical body. I wanted to carry my mother’s coffin into the chapel, which I did. And we saw my mother’s coffin actually being cremated, with the Tibetan silk scarf and the flowers on top of the coffin, and a photo of my father inside the coffin. My father passed away long ago. We saw her off till the very end. But she completed the circle.
Today would have been my mother’s 81st birthday. And I know that, wherever she might be, we did what she wanted us to do, respecting her wishes unquestioned. But I also know that I did what I felt I needed to do. And this was made possible with the right choice of funeral director. Happy Birthday, Mom, wherever you are! We love you.
Sarah’s death was never expected. She was just 53yrs old – true she’d endured ovarian cancer’s complications for the last four years but her death was a result of an optimistic operation. I was always optimistic and so was Sarah. Shock followed and then the realisation that there were ‘important things’ to attend to. Sarah’s sister mentioned a wonderful Humanist ceremony she had attended and this was just the thing. A celebrant recommended looking at Poppy’s website and I was instantly comforted – it was perfect, just as Sarah would have chosen.
Poppy and Bob visited our home and sat with all four of our wonderful children, round the kitchen table with sad hearts and lots of tea to make Sarah’s funeral as loving as Sarah had been to us. Sarah was and is The Love of my Life and my partner but this difficult time was made so much easier with Poppy involved from day one. It was with her constant almost daily support and guidance that the process was free from complications and I felt good about it all. With Poppy’s involvement the choices were easy. It was strange magic that it all fitted so well with what I wanted and we needed. I chose a glorious golden wicker coffin. Sarah loved wicker baskets so this was an easy choice. Her girls knew I would get the best for Sarah not to do with price but to do with what Sarah would have liked. All donations were to go to her chosen charity ‘Grace’. There was by request just one bouquet from us – white lilies and pale pink roses. It looked lovely.
On the 15th Oct just 11 days after her death, her girls Sophie, Francine and my children Ben and Katie and myself walked together into the crematorium carrying Sarah in her special basket on our last family trip together. Poppy had given us the confidence and practical help to do this with dignity. The service was gentle, emotional and loving. Sarah had chosen preferences, her favourite poem, appropriately sad music and songs to help me organise at a time she knew I’d be devastated.
I had asked Poppy if I could to be with her at the very end as I wished to see her treated and cared for til the absolute end and I gladly entered the backstage world of the crematorium. Poppy was with me and I felt really privileged as I watched my Love enter her last stage on earth I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
I picked up her ashes the next day, even this is lovely, all in a sweet canister. I am not scattering them yet and I love having them at home – time will allow me to relinquish them but I am not rushing.
The children enjoyed making cards with messages for their grandmother which they put on the coffin, together with a simple posy of her favourite colourful flowers. Being together as a small group of her closest family around the coffin gave us an intimate setting in which to talk about her, and to share our feelings.
A few weeks after the cremation we had a memorial at our mother’s local church. Her granddaughter Katie sang beautifully and her work colleagues, friends, and neighbours shared stories – many of which we hadn’t heard before.
We haven’t made up our minds what to do with the ashes yet, but as we really like the urn with its woodland print, we are in no rush.
We found Poppy’s by chance offering alternative funerals which we thought would suit us and we knew Bob would have wanted. She was most informative and helpful and at no time did we feel under pressure. Poppy explained everything and guided us through the whole procedure in a very personal way.
My two daughters and I decided that on the day of the cremation we would have a very private ceremony at home.
My husband’s name was Robert William, Bob for short. We bought some Sweet William flowers, we played his favourite song by Abba “I believe in Angels” and we each read a poem. We shed many tears and reminisced. Bob loved a cooked breakfast, so after we said our goodbyes we had a fry up and said “here’s to you Bob”.
Some may think this was a bit strange but it meant so much to us as it was very personal. We didn’t need someone else to tell us what we already knew about Bob, a loving husband and father.
We will always remember this day and be thankful that we found Poppy.
I was so pleased to be asked to write of my experience with Poppy’s Funerals as despite the circumstances, I had a very positive and moving interaction with them, which I can sincerely recommend.
A decade ago, having had sympathetic ‘green’ funeral directors to assist me with the passing of a loved one, I turned again to them, when in February this year my husband passed away in London. As they only operate in the West Country, they happily gave me some alternatives to try. They emphasised that in their opinion Poppy’s was the best, and they were right!
As my husband didn’t want an actual funeral, I knew that my requirements would be out of the ordinary, but none of this was a problem. Every effort was made to accommodate both his funeral requests and indeed my comfort as a person too. From the outset Poppy was caring, personable, professional, endlessly patient and efficient.
A young child who was close to my husband, but was unable to say goodbye, asked if he could put a soft toy in the coffin to accompany him, which was seen to with such delicacy and care that it was most moving.
We decided to have a wake to celebrate his life, which meant that I was going to be the only person at the cremation, something I was feeling very wobbly about. I was invited to meet at the mortuary to say a last farewell to him and then we all travelled together to the crematorium. Despite being properly fitted out inside as a hearse, the outside is a wonderful ‘poppy painted’ vision which I found both uplifting yet respectful.
I was given all the time I needed at the crematorium to conduct my prayers and goodbyes and our journey home was sensitively handled with just the right balance of chat and silence.
The next evening Poppy came to my home, with his ashes, in a rather lovely scatter tube together with all the final paperwork completed. At no stage was I hassled with excessive form filling or payment arrangements, nor did I encounter any form of ‘salesmanship’ whatsoever, on the contrary.
If you are an out of the ordinary sort of person, or you have requirements that are ‘special’, or if you just want a ‘real’ and truly personal service at this most difficult of moments, then I really can’t recommend Poppy’s Funerals highly enough. I am thankful to them for making it a most human and indeed, humane experience.
Linda and Fliss’s story
Our first thought when our father died was no service, nothing. Keep it as simple as possible was our starting point. We’d had a difficult relationship with him in later years. What could we possibly say about him that didn’t have a ‘but’ in it?
During an internet search of simple funerals we found Poppy’s. After an initial phone call, and a hectic day of collecting the death certificate, registering the death and closing bank accounts, we met with Poppy and Fran in a London pub. They asked questions and encouraged us to ask questions, and led us to understand we could do this any way we wanted, that nothing was set in stone. We agreed on a cremation, only ourselves present, both of us helping to carry the coffin and no service at all.
Over the following few days we discovered many of his friends wanted to come to his funeral. We decided we did want to mark Dad’s life, to remember him, to say goodbye. Four days later we were at the crematorium. Poppy and Fran were there to meet us and with great foresight had brought along some assistants to carry the coffin, as when the moment arrived we felt that we couldn’t do it!
We went in to music that took us straight back to childhood. Dad’s oldest friend spoke about him, we played some jazz he loved, and I read a poem. And finally as the Beatles sang my sister pressed the button and his coffin, draped in the St Andrew’s Cross, moved out. No celebrant, no vicar, no pomp or fuss. It was personal, heartfelt and just right.
Fran arranged a time to return the ashes. In a pretty cardboard scatter tube fortunately, as my sister handed them to me in another busy pub. I flew to Glasgow and scattered Dad’s ashes on the Clyde. The tide carried them towards the sea, and the sun shone.
When my mum passed away we did not know where to turn. We felt the only way to go was with the traditional undertaker, although we knew this was not what my mum would have wanted. Her wishes were to keep her cremation as simple as possible – that was the life she led as a qualified nurse.
Whilst browsing the internet we found The Good Funeral Guide and we came across Poppy’s Funerals. After reading about the service, my husband and I decided it was exactly what mum would have approved of, and what we were looking for.
After speaking to Poppy’s and our initial meeting, I knew we were doing the right thing.
For us it was the simplicity of the ceremony that was most important to us, rather than the expense. It also made our grieving process easier, knowing we could then take our time, when we were ready to celebrate at a later stage, the life of my mum, who was and will always be everything to us.
My father passed away in February of this year, suddenly and tragically alone at Heathrow Airport, from a massive heart attack. I am 42 years old and have never been faced with anything as challenging as this. I am, by my own admission, a child at heart and my wife is the adult of the family as I’m sure is often the case. My wife had major surgery on the day my father died so I was unable to defer to her and her competent skills and I was forced to make the calls myself.
I am the eldest sibling and therefore I had the responsibility of contacting the police, the coroner and making funeral arrangements. This was made all the more challenging as my late father and I reside in Ireland. I suppose this is something that we never hope to be ‘good at’ but I would be more incompetent than the average person due to having the aforementioned competent wife.
My father was the least conventional of people and lived his life by his rules. He was a very spiritual man who dedicated most of his adult life to attempting to make sense of life itself. He was an incredibly private person who didn’t socialise easily and therefore when bonds were formed they were strong. This is why the idea of a conventional funeral was so alien in this situation. Geoff, my father, would never attend a ‘normal’ funeral so how could we avoid one? And why were we avoiding one? We (the 9 siblings) all felt that nominating someone else to collect Geoff from the coroner and deal with everything for us was not personal enough. Personally I had a real need to be there and to do as much as I could deal with. This feeling was largely born from being in another country when he passed away.
First contact with a funeral director was okay but it quickly became apparent that deviating from the norm made things difficult and we were kindly diverted to Poppy. We were told that Poppy’s Funerals specialise in accommodating needs such as ours. I telephoned Poppy and I would honestly say that she was the first contact I had made in the UK that gave me a sense of calm and understanding. I shared with her my wish to collect Geoff personally from the mortuary and drive him to the crematorium. Poppy offered to collect my father from the coroner and take him to the mortuary where she works. I requested that no work be done to Geoff and he should be left alone as much as possible.
Later in the planning, 2 siblings travelling from Australia asked if they could see Geoff. I contacted Poppy who was very respectful and totally understood our needs. Geoff was prepared for viewing with the most minimal of intervention by Poppy. I felt my father would have approved of my dealings with Poppy and this helped to ease things a little. We had built a relationship, albeit a professional one, that meant I trusted her to act appropriately for my family and my father’s needs. On the day of the cremation I met with Poppy, collected my father and drove him to the crematorium in a hire car. Poppy had advised us well on what vehicle we needed to hire.
It snowed on that day and amongst all the grief we found the day to be of huge comfort. We had succeeded in providing a service that suited both our father and us. This was achieved with the support, knowledge, compassion and understanding of Poppy’s Funerals. Poppy is a remarkable woman who gave us what we needed, not what is expected, and for that we are truly grateful. We returned to Ireland with my father’s ashes and held a Life Celebration ceremony at home. We lit a bonfire, had a photo board of his life and loves and planted 9 trees with some ashes beneath each. The evening was finished with sky lanterns and too much champagne. We often have so many regrets when a loved one passes but we have none for the way in which we said goodbye. Thank you Poppy (and yes, my wife wrote this).
I wanted to do something less traditional for my mother.
I had been attempting to get a doula to spend time with her as I had heard it could be a very liberating experience for everyone. I had heard about a small charity in Sussex called Living Well Dying Well so I went along to a reception and was very impressed. The local eco undertakers recommended a celebrant as we did not require a priest from any one faith. The celebrant in turn recommended Poppy’s.
So we met up at mother’s house and made the plan. The day arrived and mother was brought to the house. We ferried her in via the front window and put her on two trestles in her sitting room for a couple of hours. The family came in and out and chatted. For me it was important as she told me that she wanted to leave hospital and go home. And we made it happen. Then mother was ferried back through the window and off we all set for the cremation. It was a beautiful send off. The ashes were delivered the following week. They will be scattered in Richmond Park, Wales and Scotland.
When I lost my sister Angy, I was very lost. I knew the time would come. She had been battling with cancer for 12 years and I knew she did not have long left to live. But she was still so young and at 48 years of age had only lived half a life. It was way too soon and so hard.
She was the first member of our family to die as well as my best friend. It was so hard to take everything in. We are originally from France and it was so difficult to tell my mum that her first-born had died. It was hard to tell my sisters and brothers, but the most difficult was her daughter.
I was so lost I did not know where to start.
We opted to have a simple funeral as we wanted to fly Angy’s ashes home to be scattered in France on the beach. I contacted Poppy’s. My heart was pounding. Everything was happening so fast. But within that initial minute Poppy had reassured me that she would look after my sister and be with us all the way.
Poppy explained the service and the cost. I have to say she was amazing, supportive, understanding and most importantly to me, caring for my sister and me. Poppy was so great to be around at this difficult time.
I decided with the support of my family not to see my sister one last time, because she died of cancer I knew the person in that coffin was nothing like my sister, so it was better for us to have a beautiful picture of her by the coffin.
Poppy explained that she would meet with us at the crematorium, to support us while we were saying our goodbye, and she did.
When we entered the crematorium, some of Angy’s favourite music was playing. I was shaking a bit and Poppy was there at the door to greet me and walk me to my family who were already gathered around my sister’s coffin. I took a few deep breaths and approached the coffin. It was then it became clear to me that I had lost her for good. She was gone. My family, friends and I cried for a while and then all of us stood by the coffin. We talked to her about things from our past, and we laughed and cried some more. We kissed the coffin leaving lipstick marks and wrote messages as well. It was a simple funeral but so emotional and intimate.
We left the crematorium and stayed outside for nearly an hour and a half, talking, singing, laughing and crying some more. That was it. She was finally at rest after such a long battle. Her body stopped suffering and her soul was with us and she flew to be with God’s angels. She was one of them anyway.
At peace, and everything was quiet and calm. It was a blessing to have had a sister like Angy and I will cherish every moment I had with her up until the end. Nearly 5 months on and I still miss her like mad, but I know it is for the best she was called back to heaven. It became unbearable for her.
I found the experience so much easier than a burial. It was quick and in the afternoon Poppy came to the house to bring us Angy’s ashes, which she had put in a beautiful blue/purple urn. It was very nice and ready to be flown home the following day. She was travelling home with the rest of the family. I did not go. I had already said my goodbye and I was looking for closure at this point. I had a newborn baby to look after, and I’d had 4 amazing, beautiful years with my sister, which the rest of my family did not have.
So they all left and scattered her ashes by the sea in France. In the summer, we have decided to plant a tree in the garden in her memory.
It all started on Thursday 11th October last year with a knock on the door. Our local policewoman was standing there and there wasn’t a smile on her face. Immediately I knew something was the matter. “I’m sorry to have to tell you that your brother has been found dead at his flat in Tottenham”.
Living 200 miles away in North Wales and not having visited London for over 10 years or knowing anybody there – what was I going to do? I rang the Met police whose number I had been given, they gave me details and the number of the coroner’s office who gave me advice and names of local funeral directors who offered a no frills funeral service since my brother wasn’t a religious person and that’s what he would have wanted.
I rang Poppy’s and explained the situation – I was not to hand to make arrangements for my brother’s cremation. They assured me that I needn’t worry and that they would see to everything. All that had to be done were the arrangements. This we did over a coffee at a local coffee house when my wife and I went to London. Poppy assured me that they could give my brother the simple funeral with very little fuss which he would have wanted – this is how he was in life.
It was a simple gathering of a few family and friends around his coffin remembering the good times we had had with him. Poppy stayed at the back of the crematorium keeping discretely out of the way but near enough to be to hand if needed.
When we had said our goodbyes we were shown to an annex where we had refreshments and chatted to people whose names my brother had mentioned many times but no faces. It was nice to have met them. We then headed on our long journey home.
We arranged to meet Poppy a few days later to collect his ashes and to finalise everything at his flat. I was so grateful that I hadn’t had to worry about any of the arrangements. It had been done in a most professional way which had eased the burden at a most difficult time and it hadn’t broken the bank.
Farewell to a brother, and a close friend to both of us and his sisters in New Zealand.