[LIFE/CANCER] Planning a Funeral

Apparently, millenials are increasingly planning their own funerals, at a session a Maggies Manchester we talked about the fact that although death may seem (a lot) closer after a cancer diagnosis, the only certainty in life is that we all die! It’s a conversation that has come up other places too, such as the #YouMeBigC podcast, the UCLAN event, a previous blog on here, and this excellent book:

With the End in Mind: Dying, Death, and Wisdom in an Age of DenialWith the End in Mind: Dying, Death, and Wisdom in an Age of Denial by Kathryn Mannix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book came recommended by the #YouMeBigC podcast, within their episode on ‘death’ (not passing on, etc), and also in Instagram @thecancerchrons reckoned it was one of the best books she’d ever read, so I downloaded it from the library!

I found it powerful, gentle, hard at times, and comedic at others. Considering I finished reading it the day before I was having a spinal biopsy to check for mets, a particularly challenging read, but within society we think that we can evade death, whereas, as people joke ‘death and taxes – can’t be avoided’ … and the more we avoid talking about it, the harder it gets – especially for those panicking about dying, and the family/friends around them who don’t know the wishes.

I’m part of a FB group on death and dying, tied to Uni Of Winchester MSc – having spoken at the conference about representations of death in WW2 propaganda posters – very limited on the home front, more drastic for the armed forces – and stayed in the group as I’m interested in how the digital (especially our footprint online) impacts our notions of death – I’m still Facebook friends with people who have died – some of whom have undertaken the official FB process of memorialisation, and others where family maintain access (or the account just lies dormant – except for birthday reminders) …

I may also look further at Death Cafe, and I prepared my will a couple of years ago, and I’m planning on talking to a vicar friend about what I can do to sort for funeral, etc. Hopefully I won’t need them for many years, but hearing how another friend has been left trying to sort out a relatives muddled effects – being prepared does not equate with giving up!

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I had already sorted out my will before I got my cancer diagnosis, and had been thinking about preparing for a funeral (it’s definitely going to happen at some point). Those who’ve had to arrange funerals for others say this is one the best things that you can do for your friends/family, and are planning funerals in their 20s. Using Sarah Jones’ Funerals Your Way, and a bit of info from the government and the Church of England, plus chats with some friends, and keeping on an eye on how to organise a funeral without spending ridiculous amounts of money (see also avoid the funeral sting),  I’ve made some progress. I’m not saying I’m finished, but so far here’s what I’ve got (TBH, I’ll be dead so it’s more for other people!):

Location: St Elisabeth’s, Reddish (I always thought it would be Christ Church, Winchester, but…)

Tone: A celebration of my life, but space to grieve (especially if it’s ‘way too early’)

Songs: Maybe influenced somewhat by the odd mix of having been brought up in a Brethren church, and ‘Beer and Hymns’ at Greenbelt!

A couple of songs we had a laugh saying “I’ll get bored of lying there if there’s too many verses,” a few others we listened to the lyrics (on Alexa) and e.g. Evanescence ‘Bring me to life‘, which I love, maybe not appropriate… although that could start off a playlist for the reception.

I have a lot of friends who can play music, I wonder if they’d provide it.

Service lead/speakers: I know a lot more vicars and speaking-orientated people than average, so I need to sound people out who would find this a privilege rather than wanting to be ‘just a guest’ at the funeral – I don’t know how people feel about this!

Technology: Obviously I would encourage the use of digital/technology – it could include a Twitterfall (what’s the hashtag?), there’s an option for live streaming (I watched a friend’s funeral online), should I pre-prepare photos/a video message or is that just weird?

On the Coffin: My books stacked up (too narcissistic? my gift to the world…)

Flowers:  Gerberas (bright pink, purple, red, white) – guests could throw these on the coffin/weave them


  • Cheese (obviously)
  • Port (and equivalent soft drinks)
  • Friends to make cake
  • Bring and share food (how very ‘church’ of me)
  • Photo frames
  • Photo books for people to look at
  • My badge blankets of places I’ve been on display

Charities: I support a number of charities (bottom of page), so one of those and/or Secondary1st.

Burial: Woodland burial – emailed these local arrangers, although they’ve never replied, which is not a great start!

Coffin: Something that’s pretty eco-friendly, probably a wicker coffin (I did debate a cardboard coffin that people could write on, like a school shirt, but not sure I (and people there) are 100% comfortable with that)

Headstone: “She made a difference”

I’ve scribbled a few more things into the Funerals Your Way book… I may be back with more ideas, or write another blog in future times, but at least some of the information that might help people is here…

Oh, and I’m not a fan of the term ‘fly high with the angels’ …

I still need to sort out power of attorney, and think about managing digital assets.

Photo by Mitchel Boot on Unsplash


[LIFE] Giving the House a Makeover

I moved into my house in Spring 2016, expecting that I’d spend the first few years getting it how I wanted it. It was liveable, but the space wasn’t best used. The past few months threw somewhat of a curveball with the cancer diagnosis, and my first panic was how I was going to keep paying my mortgage (and every episode of scanxiety comes with that too), but work have enabled me to continue working mostly from home, even though I’ve lost most of my ‘extra work’ via my own consultancy. In the first year in the house, I’d replaced the garage roof, mended a leak in the main roof, fitted an alarm, new boiler (Jeff Douglas), basic electrics, painted 3 rooms (one with extensive wallpaper stripping, including on the ceiling), custom built bookcases, decluttered a lot, put some pictures up… and there was a question of ‘what next’.

A legacy from my Great-Aunty Audrey meant that, with some careful juggling, a new kitchen was possible, as I went from this tiny galley kitchen:

To this stylish ‘showroom’ kitchen/diner:


Kitchen design by Rachel at Howden’s kitchens (and despite the loss of 2 walls, I have more storage space AND dishwasher), patio door/window by Peter Jay, electrics by Mark Wood (Bright Spark Electrics), fitting by Mark Forster and Daz Cheetham and various other trades they called on!

I also pottered around the garden, with various cheap and cheerful experiments, and you’ll note not much in the way of holidays. Having got quotes, I decided I could just about afford to have a fireplace put in by Complete Fireplace Services (advice was really simple and to the point, price was clear, and the job was done whilst I was away):


Plastering undertaken by Danny:

I then got given a good quote for stripping/decorating the large lounge. Job kept getting delayed, and price kept increasing, so ended up finishing off the painting myself, but finally had my ‘Redcurrant Glory’ fireplace wall (same colour as my Durham house feature wall), with the rest of the room all ‘brilliant white’ – lots of reds, browns, greys scattered around:

I still need skirting boards fitted to the feature wall, a small piece of coving above the patio doors, a carpet, and a large painting with room colours in it for above my sofa.

There are two big rooms still need doing – the bathroom, and the hallway:

Bathroom: Discussed with Jeff Douglas a design that I like (that he did in his own house), providing more neat STORAGE, for which he says I’d need to allow around 10-12 days, could re-use the shower as it’s a good one. Mark Wood would need to fit an extractor fan (which I already have), and fit my choice of bathroom safe light (playing with ideas on Pinterest). We have to hope the floorboards are in good condition underneath, and I’d finish the painting (I’ve already painted the ceiling with proper bathroom paint a couple of times).

Hallway: Strip back the wallpaper (including on the ceiling), fill in many holes/gashes (could be replastered, but I grew up in a 16th century house, and despite loving my newly plastered walls, I don’t really notice walls!), paint (have brown for lower half, and a ‘bright’ pale colour for top (what do you call the wood in the middle – might change that), finish sorting out the attic access, mend light (unlikely, probably cheaper to just find a more solid one), and I want one of these:

Other general jobs remaining (and I won’t complain if anyone volunteers to do any of these, or can offer a quote!):

  • Add a front doorstep (others have problems, and so now do I, getting up the high step)
  • Strip & repaint column/pillar
  • Replace back fence and gate (with a lock I can access both sides)
  • Replace guttering/fascia – back of house
  • Repointing, mostly front
  • Advice on gardening
  • Pressure wash back patio *I’ve had offers for this
  • New upstairs radiators
  • New blinds, and master bedroom curtains
  • Hang pictures (what/where)
  • Repaint office ceiling (and milk splashes on kitchen ceiling)
  • Change some/all internal doors

Having spent so long in my own house, working at home 4/5 days a week, it makes such a difference! I stared at that lounge for months on end, which is why I stretched myself to get it (almost) done this winter!