A football fan's funeral

Black and white photo of men in football team kit
Susannah's dad John (centre, front row)

Three minute read

Susannah’s Dad, John, was a lifelong Watford FC supporter. We helped her remember and say goodbye to him in a way that expressed what was special about him.

When we were little, our Mum was a hospital Sister. She worked nights and slept during the day — so my dad looked after us after school and at weekends.

He was really into sport. He cycled and he played football for his local pub team, the Fox and Hounds in Croxley. He played tennis with us and we had these little nets that we’d go fishing with.

He also gave us books of flowers, trees and birds — we’d go out with him to spot them and we’d tick each one off when we saw it. He was brilliant with young kids.

My Dad was a lifelong Watford FC supporter

My Dad, his brother, his father and his grandfather had always supported Watford FC. One of my strongest early memories was in 1984, when Watford were in the FA cup final. We queued for tickets at the club, and my father, uncle, brother and I all went to watch the match.

For three years before he died, he lived in a care home. He’d often wear his Watford FC tracksuit top, he had a Watford calendar in his room, and he was there when [former Watford player] Luther Blissett visited.

When I visited Dad, I gave him the Watford results. Even with his vascular dementia, it seemed to ignite something in him.

I didn’t know anything about planning a funeral

When Dad died, I didn’t know anything about planning a funeral! Nothing was in place. But I knew Poppy’s were the ones for me, because, several years ago my Mum heard a talk from Poppy at St Francis Hospice in Berkhamsted and she was blown away.

When I phoned up Poppy’s, I first spoke to Lily. Her voice and tone were so calm. When I burst into tears, she waited and listened. She wasn’t patronising, just so kind.

Even though my Dad was in his 80s, it was still an unexpected death and he needed to have a post-mortem. That gave us time to think through the decisions we had to make.

My Dad was a very no-fuss, simple person, not religious but open to anything. He was a brilliant artist and he played the trumpet, but Watford FC was his big thing. He’d loved the club from when he was a boy.

We had a cardboard coffin, but I wanted to make it personal to him, so I bought a five-by-three-foot Watford flag to lay over the top.

My brother had kept his bright yellow Watford shirt, from when he was about five years old. We put this shirt in the coffin with our Dad, along with a cardboard Watford rosette. For the flowers, I chose yellow and red roses — the Watford colours.

I had found a funeral directors I felt comfortable with

When I came into Poppy’s to drop off the shirt, I loved the office. It’s so light and airy. When I think about funeral directors, I think about top hats and black clothes, everything dark and sinister, so this was completely unexpected. The mortuary blew me away — it’s such a beautiful chapel.

For anything in life, whether it’s a plumber or a gardener, you rely on recommendation. I would definitely recommend calling Poppy’s if someone asked me for advice about planning a funeral.

Normally the first thing you have to do when someone dies is decide on a funeral director. I was lucky because I already knew I was going to choose Poppy’s. The hardest part was taken away — I had found someone I felt comfortable with. It all just flowed beautifully from there. They were so amazing, every step of the way.

Read more from our Talking Death blog about including young children in a funeral or leading a funeral yourself.

To stay in touch with all the latest news and updates from Poppy's by email, sign up here or contact us if you need help planning a funeral.

Discover more articles