We began the funeral planning and I was keen to have it before Christmas. It felt heavy, like something hanging over us, so I wanted to just get it done.
The only date avail was Christmas Eve. Not exactly how I imagined my Christmas Eve to be. We were all supposed to be skiing in the French Alps.
At first we hated the idea of a funeral on Christmas Eve, but we began to see the positive. It's not a date we would forget (not that there would be much chance of that), the children wouldn't need to ever be at school, or us at work, and it could always be a day that we could be together as a family.
It became apparent, or rather friends highlighted to us, that the funeral would be busy. We had originally planed a few drinks afterwards in the local pub, but we changed to a function room at the "Insti". With is being Christmas eve we were lucky to find somewhere available at such sort notice. Catering also became an issue, you can't order food to collect at M&S (or any other supermarket) at Christmas time unless you've booked it about 3 months in advance. We did toy with the idea of making a load of sandwiches ourselves, but one of my friends with a Costco card came to the rescue.
With the food sorted we began considering other issues. If we had to have a funeral I wanted it to be the kind that Lauren would have liked. She loved a party and enjoyed nothing less than getting friends and family round for food, drinks and games. I knew that if we put our friends and family in a room with a bar that they would be happy. But obviously this is less fun from a child's point of view. We would be there with Lauren's siblings, their first ever funeral, and I knew friends were taking their children, plus Lauren's school friends which may be there. I wanted it to be an environment that they would, if not enjoy, then certainly not hate. I spoke to friends with the idea of games on hand for the kids. Giant cards and board games were swiftly acquired from the local primary school. One of my amazing friends did a whole kids pick and mix sweets table, balloons were organised and a large A frame with photos of Lauren was created.
We definitely have the most amazing friends.
We discussed with the celebrant that we wanted the funeral to be a celebration of Lauren's life, to be as fun as possible. We spoke with her a length about Lauren's personality and told funny family stories. We also wanted someone who actually knew Lauren to speak at the funeral. I asked her school if someone would like to say a few words and my sister very bravely volunteered to also speak.
The thought of the funeral hung over us like a cloud. I didn't want to go, wanted to hide away from the prying eyes and sympathetic stares. I tried to explain to the youngest two what it would be like, in the hope of setting their minds at rest in someway. I filled the time wrapping Christmas presents (I'd bought everything but not wrapped it) and drinking lots of wine.
On the morning of the funeral I spent ages getting ready, it seemed important to look my best for Lauren. When we drove up in the funeral cars we could see the crowd was huge. Luckily we didn't have to walk past everyone, as I don't think I was mentally strong enough to deal with it. Heads down we took our seats whilst everyone filed in behind, around, to the side and outside. The service was sad, but funny. Both speeches were filled with emotion and really caught the essence of Lauren. The celebrant did just as we asked, and may have even managed to raise a smile or too...no mean feat with a funeral crowd
There was just too many people at the funeral service to even contemplate speaking too. I saw lots of Lauren's friends, our friends, teachers, acquaintances and I was touched that they had taken the time out of their festive planning to say their goodbyes. I wish I had been strong enough to say that to them ar the time, but hopefully they know. Lauren certainly had made an impact in her short life.
Afterwards we went to "Lauren's party", I'm not sure if it was the relief of having the funeral service done or the fact that so many of our close friends and family were in the same place, or the wine that was flowing, but we had a really good time. I know that sound's weird, but it felt like I could breathe for the first time in weeks. It really was a party atmosphere. We stayed for hours, sharing our stories and beginning to make plans for fundraising... I believe the shaving of heads was discussed after a few vino's!!
The party carried on at ours.... a decision I regretted when the kids got us up at 6am on Christmas day.
The funeral was a day that I was definitely not looking forward to. But it ended up being just what we needed. I'm not saying that would be the same for everyone, but for us it was a cleansing and cathartic day. I understood the reason for the ritual when I hadn't before.