I began writing this blog over 6 months ago when I lost my beautiful daughter órla so that I could write down my feelings & emotions and keep órla’s memory alive but also to write about my experience planning a funeral, choosing a coffin, preparing her body etc so that if anyone else had the horrendous task of doing this for their children they may be prepared.
When someone dies especially a child we are in so much shock (whether the passing was sudden or not) that we tend to leave most of the planning and decisions up to the funeral director when in fact they are there to advise & help but also to offer choices.
As my daughter had a terminal illness I began researching online about what was involved in planning a funeral and what my options were, I found very
little information about DIY funerals and it seemed that it was viewed as a cheap shortcut way of doing things. To me this was far away from the reason I wanted to be more involved, because órla had autism and I had cared for her up to this point I simply could not imagine handing my baby over for someone else to wash her body or dress her, I could not imagine leaving her body in a morgue if I had the option to keep her at home and most importantly I wanted to be the last person to lift and place her little body into her coffin.
It was important to me that órla’s funeral was not going to be a public affair, and that only the people close to her were there to say a final goodbye. I realised this was quite unusual for a child in a local area and that usually teachers/medical staff/friends/extended family/neighbours etc want to pay their respects but I strongly felt that this was my last seconds minutes and hours with my daughter and I simply was not prepared to share that with just anybody. I had buried my dad two short months earlier and although we tried to make it a small private affair we still found it ending up quite large and of course costly.
Now I mention cost here because although I wanted to give my daughter the ‘send off’ she deserved as a single mom I didn’t have a huge amount of spare cash and I wanted to make sure that whatever I did have was going to be spent wisely on the things that were important to me and more importantly órla.
After making the decision to have her die at home I had to make sure that I had both our local gp and her cf consultants to come visit her every 7 days as if on her passing they hadn’t seen her in that time they wouldn’t be able to sign her death certificate and for a body to be cremated you need to have 2 doctors signatures. Did you know that you have to pay for the death certificate? Or to be exact the doctors signatures, I certainly didn’t and tbh couldn’t quite believe I had to pay the standard charge to each doctor (£75 x 2) so much for the NHS they could visit órla as many times as needed free of charge when she was dying but to actually sign a piece of paper to say she was dead cost me twice.
The coffin was something very important to me and so I’ll write about that in a separate post.
I did not want to use a hearse – I always remember feeling very sad when I would see a hearse pass over the years tradition told us to bow our heads and make a sign of the cross to wish them a peaceful crossing. I didn’t want this for órla, I didn’t want passers by feeling sorry for us or even knowing what we were going through so it was arranged that a van like car would be use and that the person driving wore normal clothes and not the stanch black tie and suit usually worn. I didn’t want any wreaths as again I saw this as a sign of death and grief and I wasn’t able to deal with the fact that she had gone yet. Many of my friends asked if they could leave anything and I suggested roses as they were her favourite flowers and of course she was our órla Rose.
I didn’t want any form of ceremony at all, I wanted her cremation as quiet and calm as her passing. I had already been talking to God for along time so I didn’t feel I had to have a church service I knew my angle was going straight into gods arms. I had a cd of 10mins worth of music that meant something to me. It began with Bette Midlers ‘The Rose’ and ended with
‘Fly’ by Celine Dion on the final
Min of the music the button was pressed to lower the coffin, Again strangely I wanted to see below to the room she was lowered into and to know how quickly her body would remain in that room until she was actually cremated. The thought of her body lying for hours beside other bodies made me shiver. I was fortunate to be told she was being cremated straight away and I got to collect her ashes the following morning.
This is where our funeral director came in very handy. I knew what I didn’t want but wasn’t quite sure what I was allowed to do and his help was invaluable to me. He has become in my eyes an honoury uncle to órla.
The sun shone brightly on the 18th June 2014 and I felt it was órla’s way of telling me she’s ok she’s happy. Two days before órla died my only other child found out she was expecting a baby so emotions were all over the place.
I said my final goodbyes to my childs physical body for the last time.
Although the day was very sad I don’t have any regrets not having people around me I was able to experience my loss without the worry of what I looked like or how I behaved. I was even able to quickly open her coffin lid as she was being lowered for one last look at my beautiful girl but I knew then her spirit was not in this physical form but right there beside me.