Tag Archive | diy funerals

Easter Sunday

Another first for our family without órla, I try to carry on the day as normal preparing the turkey & ham, oh how órla loved her turkey and roast potatoes. I go to mass and see all the pretty children dressed in their smart clothes and the odd Easter bonnet.  I’m trying to concentrate on the true meaning of Easter, of Christ suffering on the cross for our sins, of his resurrection on the third day but all I seem to be able to focus on is the little girl sitting across from me in her mother’s arms.  She offers me a shy smile then cuddles into her mummy for reassurance and security and it dawns on me that I will never cuddle órla in my arms again, never being able to offer her that comfort and security that every child deserves.

I’m aware of the complete irony of that statement as I’m sitting here in God’s house and worrying about my child feeling insecure when I know deep down that she is free from pain and any other physical emotions that are negative.  Of course she misses me but she is with our Lord, our saviour how could she ever feel unsafe or insecure again with God’s arms wrapped around her.

Maybe its my selfishness that I won’t get to cuddle my baby girl again that I can’t give the comfort I so desperately need to give again.  I have to accept that this Easter there will be no Easter egg hunt, there will be no Easter egg buying and there will be no Easter hugs from my ÓrlaRose.  This is my new world.  This is the world I have no choice but to accept from now on.

Happy Easter my brave & beautiful girl.  Mummy misses you so much. Xxx


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The perfect coffin

The title itself is an oxymoron , these two words just don’t go together each fighting against each other. The reality is that when your part of this horrible group that we didn’t choose to join of bereaved parents, we have no choice but to choose a coffin for our child whether they are being buried or cremated.

when my dad passed away two months before Órla, I had the horrible task of going to the local funeral parlour with my mum and arranging my dads funeral.  The lovely lady behind the desk showed us a book of a selection of coffins and caskets all of which were  grouped into price categories starting from around 2000 euros.  We scanned the pages hoping that we would see some name or description that might stand out at us as if dad was giving us a sign to say ‘this is the one’ and sure enough there was The Tara, one of the names of the Stanley cookers my dads company made. We were sure this was the one he would have wanted.

When it came to choosing for Órla I was adamant that it was going to be a lot more personal and not just a spur of the moment choice. We were fortunate to have time on our side as Órla had a terminal illness we knew she was on a downward path. I searched online for my options. I know white coffins are usually used for young children or babies but I didn’t like the idea of her being in a wooden box. I’d also considered the many different natural leaf/grass types which I initially Thought I would choose but I felt that Órla would think I’m putting her into a laundry basket just a bit bigger. I then found a company in England that made bespoke cardboard coffins. This seemed to be my answer but on enquiring I found out that these types of cardboard coffins took 3 -5 days to make and deliver to Northern Ireland where I lived. It meant that if I was to choose this bespoke design I would have to order and pay for it in advance of my daughters death and of course I would also need somewhere to store it. Now I knew Órla’s passing was coming quicker than I had anticipated but there was no way I was going to tempt faith even more by having my child’s coffin stored ‘ready & waiting’. By this time I was getting very frustrated. I realised that to get a coffin within a day or two it would need to originate from Ireland and cardboard coffins were still not allowed to be used in the south for cremation purposes. I searched the Internet and came across a company called greencoffinsireland and a kindly gentleman Colin McAteer who not only arranged for a white cardboard coffin which could be hand decorated by ourselves to be left with a local funeral home who would store it for me until I needed it but also refused any payment. The local funeral director rang immediately and wanted to arrange a meet up. I wasn’t too happy to involve a funeral home as I was very keen to keep this a low key intimate affair but I couldn’t have been more wrong about Paul McEvoy & Sons of Newry not only did he agree to store the coffin and deliver it when needed but he helped me with just about every aspect of arranging a funeral with total compassion and respect and completely out of his own pocket. By the end of that day I really felt God had sent me these two men (Colin McAteer and Paul McEvoy) to help lift my worries, I felt an instant bond with both as if my dad was reaching down from heaven hugging me and saying ‘I’m here’.

Paul walked me through all the details of what was needed, took control of all the necessary forms etc which have to be filled in so I could concentrate on grieving. He agreed to be at my beck and call, night or day.

When the afternoon of the 16th June came órla passed away peacefully at home. Paul as promised dropped the coffin up to the house that evening.

My mum, my other daughter Zoey and myself spent the next day decorating the coffin with special pictures/drawings and words that were important to órla. It was as I imagined very therapeutic, we laughed, we cried remembering the funny things órla would do & say and boy did this child have things to say. At the end we all stood back very proud of the vessel that would take my baby on her last journey, knowing that she would have loved it.






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.