‘She took care of everything’ — Poppy’s first client looks back

Mariel Ramos, Poppy's funerals

Five minute read

Mariel Ramos was Poppy’s first client, back in 2012. Mariel was only 28 when she had to organise her husband’s funeral. We supported her to have the funeral that both she and her husband wanted.

Ten years on, we’re so grateful to Mariel for talking to us about her husband’s life and death, her experience with Poppy’s, and why she believes open conversations about death are so important.

How did you and Oli meet?

We met when I was 24 and he was 26. I was doing an internship where he was working. I was only there one month, but that was enough to get his attention! We married two years later.

Oli was an adventurous soul. He was so curious about the world. I admired his intelligence. He was well-mannered, soft-spoken, a good writer, a speech-giver. I was very suspicious of marriage. I was not sure I believed in it. But Oli completely broke down my barriers to love.

He died only two years after we married. It was very brief, but it felt like we’d lived a lifetime together. Not because of the number of things we did, but the intensity of our connection. It felt like we’d known each other forever.

When did you discover that Oli was ill?

It all happened very quickly. He was tired all the time, low, not himself. He was usually such a happy guy, all of a sudden he wasn’t up for doing many things any more. We’d been to the hospital several times, but they said it was stress or indigestion.

At last, someone did a blood test, then a series of tests. Eventually, they diagnosed liver cancer.

How did Oli approach his diagnosis?

Oli wanted to face his death head on. After we knew the chemotherapy wasn’t working and that palliative care was the only option, he needed us to accept that he was dying. In his shoes, I would not have wanted to always keep up a brave face.

We were able to talk about everything. I was glad to have the opportunity to let my thoughts and feelings out. The two of us faced it together.

I had very little time to interact with anyone outside the family. I was at the hospital non-stop, I was sleeping on the floor.

We wanted to enjoy the time we did have together. Each day, we didn’t know whether or not he’d be feeling well. When he did, we made the most of it — we went on a bike ride, on the London tour bus, or just to the pub by the hospital. We would fit in these little moments.

When did you start planning Oli’s funeral?

His death was becoming imminent, but we didn’t know the date or time. Oli wanted to be part of planning the celebration of his life. We sat down — me with paper and pen — and wrote down what he wanted as part of the day.

He didn’t want a coffin, so we found a wool cocoon. He had a specific playlist that he wanted at the celebration. He wrote a speech for his father to read out. He wanted to be cremated. Everything was very specific.

This was two or three weeks before he died, when he was awake and aware and before he was in too much pain.

When you have a loved one who is about to die of an illness, you know it will happen. But it’s still unbelievable. You can’t ever really be prepared.

Find out more about recording your funeral wishes.

How did you hear about Poppy’s?

The week before he died was a blur. I was sitting next to his bed in the hospice when I found Poppy’s, I think, in an online search.

When I spoke to Poppy, I felt good energy. We made the decisions and then she was there on standby for when he died. I didn’t realise that I was her first client. She was so clear on schedules and pricing too.

In respect of the funeral and the arrangements, Poppy was so good. She was lovingly silent — she was just there, taking care of everything. I didn’t have to think about anything, I could devote myself one hundred percent to the day, to saying goodbye to Oli, to celebrating his life, and being with my family.

Poppy was in the background, you didn’t see or notice her. At no point, did she have to come to me and ask anything. She just took care of everything. I guess that’s why she’s still doing it after ten years.

How did you cope after Oli’s death?

After he died, I was grateful for my friends who were there to help me in my grief. I went to Nepal, to a monastery and meditated in silence. It helped me absorb things a little.

Oli left everything organised in order to help us. If I had been faced with all those choices after he died, it would have been so difficult. I was not in a place to make tough decisions with such high emotions, such grief and so little sleep.

The hardest bit was not when he was ill, but the weeks after he died — organising his clothes, giving things away, closing accounts. That was the toughest bit of the whole thing. The fact he told me all his wishes made it much easier.

We wrote a journal together when he was first diagnosed. We’d pass it back and forth, I’d ask questions and he would write his answers. I thought I would die of heartbreak. He made me promise I would go on living. The journal is invaluable to me now.

Why do you think it’s important to talk openly about death?

I love my friends who know and love me and who have been through the journey with me. They can still talk about Oli in a way that makes us laugh. There is no reason not to talk about him. There should be no shame in it.

I disagree when people say we should not talk about death. It is hurtful to those who are dying. I have seen this first-hand. We must change the conversation and speak more openly.

I hope attitudes will shift. That’s what Oli would have wanted.

Read lots more interviews and real-life stories on the Talking Death blog. Hear from Mark about why there are no right or wrong answers to grief or from Carla about why we need to talk about miscarriage.

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