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My mum's funeral.....

(32 Posts)
AmIAHorribleDaughter Tue 05-Feb-19 09:38:57

I don't know what to think on this.

My mum is very much alive (fingers crossed) but she is almost 92.
I am actually terrified that she has not given 'proper' thought to her funeral.

My dad died a few months ago at 92. he had told us specifically what he wanted- NO ONE at his cremation except family and no 'wake'- nothing. He wanted no service, no hymns (he was an atheist) and no fuss.

There were 6 of us who went to the crem - family. After , we went to mum's, had a cuppa and my DH and our kids drove home (5 hrs) and I stayed on with mum a few days longer.

My mum on the other hand , although she wants a cremation - has not specified anything further other than 'Oh EVERYONE can come to mine!'

Well yes, they can, but we could be talking of almost a hundred people. She is active in several local groups, has lived in the same town all her life and has lots of friends.

I live long distance- 5 hr drive. I have a sibling who lives on mum's doorstep but they are not the organising type.

I cannot envisage - dealing with the grief when it happens- of arranging a funeral 'party' for so many people. Mum's house is tiny, so no room there.

She appears to want a great 'send off' saying people have to wear bright clothes etc and not be sad BUT she is not taking into account the work it might involve for me (I'm mid 60s myself.)

I have no idea how to bring this up, so soon after my dad's death, but I know that I cannot face the idea of managing some social event at the same time as dealing with the grief, then there will be all the admin of the house to deal with, sell it etc.

Any ideas what to say to her?

TheABC Tue 05-Feb-19 09:45:20

Tricky one. Perhaps you could find an example of what she would like (e.g a newspaper clipping of a party -type funeral) and let the subject unfold?

The other option is just to be brutally honest and say what you said here. Explain that you do want to respect her wishes and a little planning will be very helpful.

AmIAHorribleDaughter Tue 05-Feb-19 09:55:59

Thank you.

One possible option is that some of her friends may take over and take it out of my hands. Not sure how I feel over that! She is in a local group, most of the women are younger than her, some have big houses. One offered their home to host her 90th birthday (mum declined.)

They may rally round when the time comes and suggest they put on the tea and cakes.

However, it's mum's wishes really that count.
She and dad were chalk and cheese- he was very low key whereas mum likes being in the limelight.

I can't really decide if I'm being selfish or if she is being inconsiderate.
I know when dad died a few months back, she said she was so pleased we'd not had a 'wake' for him as she'd not have coped- was exhausted.

But- if she lives a bit longer I could be pushing 70 myself and don't feel I could cope, or would want to, organise something for a huge crowd.

DorindaLestrange Tue 05-Feb-19 10:02:11

You may find that throwing yourself into organising stuff helps to distract you from the grief - but obviously you may not, and you probably know which is more likely for you personally!

I would make sure you know where her address book and Christmas card list are, so that you have the practical means of contacting people about funeral arrangements if necessary. Also you can ask people to tell each other - it sounds like many of them will know each other. And people will understand that you're bereaved and want to help you out. You will be cut a lot of slack, so don't worry about getting things 'wrong'.

You don't have to organise a big meal or party. You could just say that after the funeral you will be going to X local pub and others are welcome to join you there. You could inform the pub if you want, but you probably don't even have to do that.

The funeral company will also help guide you through many practicalities. They are used to it and it's part of their job.

BiddyPop Tue 05-Feb-19 10:25:11

It sounds daunting, but it's really not as bad as you think.

If there are lots of clubs involved, does any of them have a hall or social centre that you can use?
Is there a Parish Hall that might allow tea and sandwiches after a funeral?
Is there a hotel, where all you do is tell them to lay on sandwiches/finger food and they will do all the "minding" of people?
And that's apart from getting a caterer to do something in the house itself (which I discounted as you said it was small).

If there are a few clubs, you may well find that they each are used to catering for their own groups, and have the few stalwarts in each who are great at the sandwiches, and "Mary and Carmel make great Victoria sponges, Eileen does the apple tarts, Anne does trays of brownies and Jennifer does lovely cupcakes"...sort of thing.
There will be people used to "setting up the hall" (laying out tables and chairs, putting out milk jugs and cups and plates, ....) and putting it back again afterwards.
And there's always a few who are more there to make up the numbers and do the sitting and talking part of it.... smile

You might need to buy ingredients, or give them money to do that, or they may do it without any input from you.
A hotel will do it as well, and many pubs would too, but that would be more expensive.

Tea/coffee, sandwiches and cake is perfect. Including alcohol, or a hot meal, is good if you have the time, budget and opportunity to do that - but are not necessary.

Really, you are allowing a space to be provided for everyone to come together and remember the good things about your mum after the formal services are over. They will probably want to commiserate with you as family, but also take time together as her friends to remember her, and find out things they didn't know like the Bridge lady learning about how terrible she was at reading the books for book club, while telling everyone what a demon bridge player she was, and maybe someone else talking about her wonderful cuttings that she used to give others at the flower club......or whatever it is. Remembering funny stories of how they met, or how things were different (in whatever way) when they all started together, or other shared experiences.

Disclaimer, I come from Ireland where big funerals are very common. And many times, the family don't need to do a lot but to let people know times of services and the parish/clubs/societies/neighbours will all rally round to make it happen. And hotels and caterers are all well used to arranging these kinds of events at short notice, where all they want from you are rough ideas of numbers (and perhaps agreement on the food or a per person budget) and some general logistics, so that they will do the rest.

The nice thing if the friends do take over, is that you could go for a short while to remember your DMum and hear some of the nice things, but can slip out when you have had enough and go back to DMum's house for a smaller family gathering. I would make sure you have something in the house that you can easily cook - lasagna for the oven, pot of soup to just reheat, or a pot of curry or other sauce to serve with rice, sort of thing. You may NOT need it, but you want something that needs no thinking, can easily stretch if a few people come back with you, and that you can either use the next day/2 or transport back with you or freeze to use when you come back to clear the house (depending on your own personal logistics) or not feel guilty about discarding if need be. But you will need some substantial food at some point so do plan that ahead.

MereDintofPandiculation Tue 05-Feb-19 10:32:53

You could just say that after the funeral you will be going to X local pub and others are welcome to join you there. You could do that, but you may be judged if you don't provide refreshments. Many pubs would lay refreshments on for you.

You could have a family only cremation and a later memorial service if you felt that would ease the pressure.

Would your mother want a church service - many churches have a function room and kitchen attached. If not, you can hire a village hall or other local space - Liberal Club, RAFA etc. Then your alternatives are a) persuade her friends to do the catering b) hire a caterer c) on-line ordering of sandwiches etc from M&S or one of the big supermarkets. Would need picking up on the day.

It's not as daunting as a social event. You don't need music or flowers, you don't even need a bar if you've tea, coffee and fruit juice available. It's literally find a room and put some light refreshments in it. Get some idea from the number of people who say "let me know the funeral arrangements" of how many will turn up and adjust refreshment order accordingly. People won't expect a full meal, just something to nibble on.

Do the telling in two goes - tell everyone as soon as possible, people know it's a big job and say "can I tell X and Y for you?". And drop into conversation with likely suspects your apprehension about organising from afar - you'll get offers of help. Then the number of people who ask you to let them know about funeral arrangements will give you and idea of numbers.

Maybe someone else will know - I think there's provision to pay funeral expenses from the Estate, whether you can get this paid out before Probate I don't know.

When I was helping do my mother's funeral, the "wake" wasn't a burden, what took us the time was tracking down the particular hymn and tune combination that she wanted and the various other details of the service. You have to do that anyway, even for a small funeral.

When my grandad died, and we had nearly 100 people and the flowers went from the grave all the way down to the entrance of the graveyard, it was comforting to know how much he was loved.

BiddyPop Tue 05-Feb-19 10:33:28

Oh, and to answer your question.

No, not wanting to do it does not make you a bad daughter.

Organising what seems like a "social event" can be daunting in the first place, and even more so when you are sad, upset, angry, worried, away from home, lost, tired, emotional......etc, after losing a parent.

What you are doing now is doing some hard thinking, and planning, to try to fulfill your DM's wishes.

If anything, that makes you a GOOD DD, as you are evaluating your limits and seeing what is possible for you to fulfill those wishes.

AmIABadDaughter Tue 05-Feb-19 10:50:02

Just to say thanks and to respond...

I did a lot for dad's funeral- well, was there when the FDs came round and I put the ad in the local paper (with mum's wording.)

I don't know if she wants a church service. She seems in 2 minds last time it was mentioned and I doubt it as it would be a cremation. She/we as a family are also against the usual eulogy so that might go by the by.

I think one issue would be 'which crem'! Dad chose his in one city for various reasons but all of her family were cremated in another city! She needs to decide which; dad's crem was much nicer and easier to access.

She is a member of the local WI which has a large membership, and that's where most of her friends are, and they meet in a hall attached to the church. I suspect that if it was available, her friends would suggest they all brought something to eat and put on a spread there. OR there is a nice hotel nearby where they could do a buffet tea of some sort perhaps.

I feel slightly annoyed over it all because dad was strictly 'no fuss' yet she seems to be ignoring the fact that whatever she wants will impact on those of us left to plan it without any consideration that it 's going to be down to me to sort it all.

CMOTDibbler Tue 05-Feb-19 11:03:11

I've put a lot of thought into what my parents funerals will be like as I live a good distance from them and there will be lots of other things to sort if one of them dies. I had to ask dad explicitly (mum has dementia) which was a very difficult conversation but at least I know that he wants a woodland burial which mum had said before she'd like, I'll use the funeral director dad knows, and would do a gathering at a local pub just getting them to do food in the function room.
The trouble with getting the WI to do stuff is that you could end up with a barrage of questions, rather than making one phone call and being done.

TheABC Tue 05-Feb-19 14:22:03

Thinking out loud, would it be worth putting a funeral pre-payment plan in place? It's not so much the money as the way it concentrates the mind on the details. That way, you can be sure she gets exactly what she wants.

Nampoo Tue 05-Feb-19 14:25:38

I think your being a little selfish & you should give her the send off she would like. How many birthday's, Christmastimes, holiday's & general happy memories has she given you over a life time not to mention bringing you into this world in the first place & you don't want to organise one day?

Bittermints Tue 05-Feb-19 14:36:05

Funerals are tricky. The person whose funeral it is will never, by definition, know what it was like. So it is very largely done for the sake of the living who want a chance to say goodbye and remember the deceased. It's also done as a ritual stage in mourning and the older I get the more value I see in these conventions, as it helps other people remember that you are very recently bereaved when they hear you say something like 'And we haven't even had the funeral yet' or 'To be honest the funeral knocked me for six and that was a month ago now'.

However, a good funeral should certainly be focused on what the deceased person was like. I saw a documentary once about funerals where a young man was arranging his elderly aunt's funeral in a way that was very clearly all about him and nothing at all to do with what his aunt and her friends were like. It was a marked contrast to another family shown where two daughters were laying their father out and showing such love and devotion to his memory and all their shared memories.

One reason for making it a celebration/memorial of the person who's died is that the disparate group that comes together for the funeral may have nothing much else in common except their relationship to the deceased.

Your mum clearly has a lot of friends who will mourn her passing, not in the same way you will, but they will have a lot of shared memories and they will want to talk to you and to each other out of respect for her memory and out of consideration for her loved ones. Arranging a good send off will let them do that.

I wonder if it would help to get your mum to make a list of people who should be contacted if anything happens to her. She knows you live at a distance so won't have the contact details of her local friends. That would be a start towards starting to talk about arrangements. Also, you could ask if she has a prepaid funeral or if she has an insurance policy set aside to pay for her funeral. A lot of older people did, decades ago. Practical details might be the way in to this.

AmIAHorribleDaughter Tue 05-Feb-19 18:46:30

@Nampoo Have you lost a parent yet?
Maybe if you have it wasn't traumatic for you or someone else did the funeral stuff.

It's barely 6 months since my dad died.

It was a slow and agonising death over a week, watching him die.
Then I was living in their house for 2 weeks waiting for the funeral and helping my mum plan it all, do all the admin and so on.

The thought of going through that again and having to sort out a tea party for maybe 90 people is a stressful thought. I am not a teenager- I'm in my 60s now.

My mum has given me a lot, but I have also given her a lot too.

Yes, I will carry out her wishes. I just hope that she will bear in mind the stress her wishes may cause for the family at what will be a very difficult time.

If you have not lost a parent you can't understand. Mum's death and the funeral will only be one tiny part of what will need sorting- there will be all the handling of the estate and clearing and selling the family home etc.

Re the other suggestions...the funeral plan' (money) is not an issue. There is money to pay for that and at her age it's far too late to start a savings plan anyway- she has saved all her life for her funeral!

What I want her to decide is where she wants to be cremated, if she wants a service or not, who can come, and if she wants us to put on a 'do' afterwards.

We have never been a family to 'make a fuss' but for some reason her own funeral (and what she seems to want) seems to be out of character with how they have all been before.

I will do whatever she wants. I know her friends will want to say 'goodbye'. But at the same time I hope she might think about how we will manage to organise something. I think it will turn out to be a tea in a hotel, or similar, but maybe delaying that and having it slightly later might be better.

BiteyShark Tue 05-Feb-19 18:58:03

My DM had a lot of friends and most I didn't know because I lived miles away. As she was ill for many years we had time to discuss these things and once I did ask her if she wanted me to organise a wake/gathering to remember her or not and she said she did.

We hired a local pup and asked them to put on a buffet and we put a few hundred pounds behind the bar (it helped that it wasn't an expensive area). I asked a few people who knew her to spread the word amongst her friends that we would be remembering her at the pub after the funeral. The minister also mentioned that people were welcome to come and remember her afterwards at the pub during the service. Quite a few people attended, the pub laid on finger buffet food and had an area for us to sit in.

FadedRed Tue 05-Feb-19 19:03:58

Difficult trying to do your best for everyone, isn’t it? flowers
When my DM died, years after DF, we had the ‘after the funeral gathering’ in a hotel near the church. They were excellent, it was really no fuss for us, they just put on a nice buffet in one of the lounges, with tea and coffee, and we put some money behind the bar (nobody abused it). It wasn’t like having to organise a party IYSWIM. Wasn’t stupidly expensive either. I did think about doing it at my home, but the distance wasn’t practical and afterwards I was glad I hadn’t.
The funeral directors will have a list of places that do post-funeral catering, if that would help you.

DontCallMeCharlotte Tue 05-Feb-19 19:36:32

Hi OP. Sorry about the loss of your father but dealing with your Mum's funeral doesn't have to be as hard as you think. (I've lost both parents and more recently a sibling by the way so I do understand).

First, the funeral directors will walk you through everything. It's their job. It's what they do. They will simply recommend your Mum's nearest crematorium so that answers that question. For the wake, I would simply book either your Mum's local pub or a pub close to the crematorium and tell them you want a buffet for (roughly) x people with tea and coffee - no one will expect you to buy drinks.

Ask your Mum if there's anyone she'd like to say a few words. Ask her does she have any favourite hymns or songs she'd like. Perhaps your local sister could at least have the conversation?

Make sure you get the word out quickly so you can get an idea of numbers.

I just hope that she will bear in mind the stress her wishes may cause for the family at what will be a very difficult time.

I understand it will be a difficult time of course but I think you're being a little unfair to her there. I've been to too many funerals in my life. One or two have been desperately sad but most have been a wonderful celebration of the loved one's life - especially the older ones when they've had their their score years and ten - and then some. All their families will have gone through the same thing and when it comes to it, I'm sure you'll find the strength to step up smile

2019Dancerz Tue 05-Feb-19 19:39:13

Just throw money at it. You are overthinking, which is understandable given your recent loss. There will be hotels or bars with function rooms in the vicinity of the local crematoriums that will be used to doing this. You give rough numbers and they do the rest. You could get a funeral plan list and leave it with her to fill in.

BackforGood Tue 05-Feb-19 19:54:08

What BiddyPop and *Buttermints have said.

If she is a 'jiner' then engage the help of the organisations she belongs to. At both my Mum and my Dads funerals, clubs they belonged to asked if they could 'host' the tea after the funeral, out of respect and love for the people they knew and loved.

The funeral and tea are a really important part of the grieving process for most people.

Even if no-one will help you (which I doubt as you say she is involved with different groups) then speak to the Funeral directors - they will know of the local hotels, pubs, social clubs etc that regularly cater for funeral teas.

Bekabeech Tue 05-Feb-19 20:02:23

Some Funeral directors will organise "send offs" and it doesn't have to be in a home. My FIL's was at the local Golf Club (he had a lot of people at his). You can even talk to local funeral directors now , and they can advise you of their services - it's much easier to talk to people when not grief stricken. My DH's Aunts was at the Care home she was in at the end, and it was very nice.

DontCallMeCharlotte Tue 05-Feb-19 20:10:23

* Sorry - your local sibling. It could of course be a brother smile

AmIAHorribleDaughter Wed 06-Feb-19 09:12:49

Thanks for all the advice.

Just to clarify-

Mum lives equidistant from 2 crems. Her mum, brother, father and all her extended family were cremated in Crem A. My dad was cremated in Crem B- he had his own personal reasons for that.
So it's down to mum to decide where her 'loyalty' lies.

She should also decide if she wants a service of any kind, because Dad didn't want that at all. All we had was some music when his coffin was placed on the dias by the curtains.

Dad would have had a DIY funeral (but it became a bit too awkward to arrange all of it) but we went a lot of the way ourselves to limit the input from funeral directors, because it's easy to get swept along with things you don't want or need. As I said, there were only 6 of us at his cremation which is what he'd asked for. We had to stipulate no attendees except family.

I suppose I am comparing how it was still stressful, but would be 100x times more so if mum has zillions of friends turn up.

Getting word around will not be a problem. The announcement will be in the local paper and people will see it- as they did for dad.

There are several large hotels around where we could gather. As I said, what she needs to do is think about what she wants. Unlike my dad, she's not said anything other than she wants it to be joyful and 'everyone can come'.

ajandjjmum Wed 06-Feb-19 09:26:34

In my opinion you are over-thinking this - although as your Dad died so recently, I can understand why.

I am a similar age to you, and when Mum died (having never discussed her funeral), we cracked on with what we thought she would like - even if we made wrong decisions, it was all done from love.

Mum lived (and died) with us, and it had been a very stressful and emotional period, but organising her funeral was the last thing I could do for her, and I think it helped.

But please don't spend time worrying about this now, enjoy spending time with your Mum while you've got her. smile

MereDintofPandiculation Wed 06-Feb-19 10:30:02

Being cynical, depending on your views of the afterlife, it can make it easier if she doesn't express a preference - you can just go for Crem B, and then just do your best with the rest of it to produce something that the people attending feel she would have liked. She'll tell you the things that are really important to her. I've told my family my burial/cremation preference and one piece of music I want - the rest of it they can sort out as they wish, and I don't want people pestering me for the details. Bad enough realising what it means to be mortal.

Nobody expects anything of you on the day, just provide the room and some refreshments and let them get on with it.It really doesn't make it any more difficult that there's lots of people, as long as you have a ball-park figure of whether you need to cater for 20 or 80.

I think perhaps you should try to park this for a while. It's too close to your Dad's death, and not only are you grieving, you were working with your Mum on his, and the mere thinking of the funeral which you will arrange on your own is reminding you that you won't have your Dad's support. You don't have to pre-prepare - you can quite safely push it to the back of your mind for 6 months. People cope with unexpected deaths and produce a good funeral - it's what everyone involved (funeral directors and caterers) is set up for.

(And it might be too soon after her husband's death for your Mum to want to think about it).

AmIAHorribleDaughter Wed 06-Feb-19 11:41:10


I am sure I AM over-thinking it.
It was brought home (literally) a few weeks back when mum talked about potential plans for her estate (could involve selling land for development perhaps), and she wanted me to get the ball rolling 'to make it easier when she's not there.'

She also kept saying things like 'Every day is a bonus at my age' and 'I could be dead in a year.'

I suppose having JUST got through all the admin with dad etc it made me think 'Oh not again..'

Dad was super clear over what he wanted. It was very easy.

It's partly as I live at a distance, and I am also working (part time) and felt overwhelmed at the prospect of going through this all again.

I don't really want to involve funeral directors in much- sorry, but they are mainly about making money- we did dad's pretty much ourselves.

I'm a capable person, I just felt horrified at how different it could be compared to dad's. When mum had her 90th I put on a party for her at her home and it made me realise how it was totally unsuitable for a funeral wake- too small etc.

anniehm Wed 06-Feb-19 12:12:40

I arrange funerals at work - lots of people don't have plans but it's helpful to know their wishes. I would look for a church hall and get caterers or pub with a private room ideally, it means they take care of everything. We charge £60 for a funeral and catering is from £6/head typically.

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