Barbara's story

Barbara Mitchell | Poppy's funerals

Barbara was warm, sociable and loved making friends. Her husband Earle explains how her funeral celebrated a woman who lived life to the full.

I met Barbara when I was 14 years old. I think I fell in love with her at first sight. We started dating when I was seventeen. We’ve always been friends.

We had a really rich life together, I don’t mean in money, I mean that we had lots of friends, we travelled a lot and we were always going to parties, weddings and social events. We had friends that we’d met and made all over the world.

Barbara wasn’t just sociable, she was exceptionally sociable. She’d meet people on the bus or in Sainsbury’s and become instant friends. She’d even steal my friends, although I’ve got some of them back now! She knew everyone’s birthday. She’d help out at the children’s church and the little kids loved her.

She had sickle cell disease and lupus, but was not debilitated by these conditions, quite the opposite! We still travelled — we even went bungee jumping and abseiling. We were lucky — lots of people wait till they retire before doing these things. We didn’t wait for anything, we were too busy with life.

We wanted Barbara’s funeral to reflect what she was like. It was intimate and personal. We didn’t want a massive event with loads of cars, or anything flashy like that, but we did want it to be stylish. Barbara was always stylish, she loved dressing nicely.She looked glamorous even in casual clothes.

We asked people to wear bright clothes to the funeral, rather than black. We wanted to celebrate rather than mourn. We didn’t want lots of flowers either. We asked people to donate to a sickle cell charity instead and we raised about £7,000. Afterwards, lots of friends said that the funeral was “really Barbara”.

It was very important to involve our church in the funeral. Everyone is family to us: we have our church family, work family, and of course, our family family! Our household is very large: friends are always turning up, and there’s always food and drink. For the funeral, we hardly had to pay for anything — without asking, all our different ‘families’ came together to give Barbara a good send-off.

"We couldn’t have many people at the funeral, but hundreds of people watched it online from around the world."

If it hadn’t been for Covid-19, we would have had a party. We are planning a memorial now — there’ll be lots of people, music and everyone in traditional dress. We are an Afro-Caribbean couple, but we have friends from all different communities.

We chose Poppy’s after looking at your website, and because a friend of my daughter’s recommended you. It was important to us that Poppy’s wasn’t part of a massive company. Lots of funeral directors look like they are independent but they are not.

Poppy’s discussed everything with us in such a caring way. You explained what would happen and how it would happen. The funeral was so well planned, nothing about the day was left to chance.

I think Barbara would have loved the funeral. She would have liked that so many of our friends were able to watch online, and the fact that it wasn’t flashy or showy, it was personal.

Barbara's choices

  • Buried in a family grave and her son's ashes buried with her.
  • Natural pandanus coffin and tropical-looking flowers arranged by a family friend.
  • We dressed her stylishly for the day — as she would have wanted.
  • Professional bearers wore traditional striped trousers, black jackets and black tie.
  • Barbara arrived in a black vintage Daimler hearse.
  • Pastor Success Adeshida led a personal and uplifting service.
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