Thoughts of a funeral-goer

Charles 8 Comments

‘…she left behind small traces of her time on Earth, visible only to those who know where to look.’

(From the film Pan’s Labyrinth)

Posted by Daisy Dury

A couple of weeks ago, Lyra told me how much she was looking forward to seeing the latest Bond film. With a big smile she claimed that this was nothing to do with Daniel Craig.

‘Can you believe it? Judi Dench is older than us. Living proof that it’s never too late.’

But for Lyra, it is too late.

By the time we’d dropped Edward home from the hospital it was nearly midnight. The following day, we went round to make sure he was all right. He looked shattered but he waved away our concerns with, ‘There’s a heck of a lot to sort out. And for starters I have no idea what kind of funeral Lyra wanted. Unless there’s something on her laptop…’

With that, he went off to make us a cup of tea. He shouted back, ‘Sorry I can’t offer you a coffee. We’re out of instant and I have no idea how that wretched espresso machine works.’

We fired up the laptop and spotted it straight away: a shortcut called ‘Funeral Thoughts’. We were expecting a long list of instructions. But there were only two: a request to be buried at our local cemetery and the name and phone number of the celebrant who had officiated at Richard’s funeral. We later found out that Lyra had collared Janet outside the crematorium and asked if she’d be willing to ‘do the honours for me when the time comes’. Well the time had come and I wondered if Lyra had known it was going to be sooner rather than later.

When we told Edward that we had a few decisions to make, he said, ‘I hope this doesn’t seem too soppy but I think I’d like to release a dove.’

We briefly considered a DIY funeral. However, we knew we were out of our depth. We needed a funeral director. Edward decided on the same one my neighbour John had used for his wife Sandra.

I was pleased that the funeral arranger lady remembered Lyra. Once met never forgotten! The celebrant, remembered her too. Janet tied everything together beautifully and she wasn’t fazed by any of our ideas.

We booked the funeral for Wednesday 31st October. Hallowe’en. We were all thinking the same thing – Lyra would have been disappointed if we had chosen any other date. When Edward had once asked his wife when she was going to form her own coven, Lyra took it as a compliment. From then on, whenever she met up with Lilian and me, she would tell him she was going out for some quality cauldron time!

The grandchildren chose the coffin – a vibrant purple. Edward and I chose the floral tribute – a single white rose. The procession to the chapel was led by a piper from the Pride of Murray Pipe Band. As Lyra used to say, when it comes to lifting everyone’s spirits, you can’t beat a man in a kilt.

She was carried by her son Alex and three of the grandchildren, Seb, Chloe and Jack. Edward walked behind with his daughter Jamie and the youngest grandchild Ruby. Barry gave my hand a squeeze. Yes, I thought, I’m holding myself together really well. Then I made the mistake of looking down at Lyra’s dog Colin. He wagged his tail.

I could just imagine what Lyra would have said. ‘Daisy: get a grip and be grateful that I didn’t ask you to read anything.’

After Janet’s words of welcome, Lyra’s sister Mary read a poem called ‘Peace, My Heart’ by Rabindranath Tagore. This was one of the readings from their cousin Trevor’s funeral. Janet read the eulogy. I have no idea how she managed to make sense of our random memories but somehow she did. Lyra would have approved because Janet didn’t waffle on too much.

Lyra’s grandchildren shared some of their favourite memories. Ruby was the last to speak. ‘Grandma used to say that the real meaning of Christmas was being able to force everyone to play charades. She was very old and clever so I always wanted to be on her team. And she didn’t care how silly she looked even when Granpa gave her one of his looks. She often told us, “Normal is boring.” Well Grandma, you were never boring.’

As the applause subsided, Janet looked at me and I nodded. She smiled encouragingly as she told everyone that I was now going to say a few words. I took a deep breath. And thanked myself for remembering something Lyra had said. Never end a tribute with something emotional.

‘When Lyra and I first met, she sensed I was out of sorts. But she never let on. She pretended to need my help. She was going to get a rescue dog and asked if I would like to visit the dogs’ home with her. How could I refuse an offer like that? Several weeks later and Lyra was the proud owner of a scruffy little dog named Colin. When she saw how thin he was, she had to have him. Typical of Lyra, she gave him the nickname Mr Chunky.

When Lyra was around, anything seemed possible. She was quite a handful at times, so determined was she to lead me astray. But if it wasn’t for her, I’d never have met Barry. In fact, there are a lot of things I wouldn’t have done.

Lyra called herself an old biddy. Yet I never heard her complain about how much things had changed since we were young. She embraced the present including modern technology. However, I was still taken aback when I discovered that she was writing a weekly post for an internet blog. Strangely, for someone who had what I can only describe as a zest for life, she chose to write about funerals.

And that was Lyra: full of surprises and never afraid to take life – or death – by the scruff of its neck and give it a good shake.’

The ceremony ended with ‘Here Comes the Sun’ – Nina Simone’s version. Jamie and I chose this song because Lyra loved it and it’s gentle and reassuring.

Unfortunately, barely had it started when I realised that it is also unbearably poignant and moving.



No words were said as she was lowered into the grave. Instead the piper played a lament. Then the Dove Man stepped forward. He carefully placed the dove into Edward’s hands.

Edward gently kissed its head before letting her go.



East Sheen chapel



East Sheen lawn cemetery


  1. Charles

    Yes, Lyra, normal is boring – and very overrated. Thank you – you have been an inspiration, and I shall miss the certain frisson of a Friday morning, knowing that you will have written something pertient, enlightening and amusing for our enjoyment.

    I shall be attending my own ‘quality cauldron time’ gathering over the weekend, and we shall toast a splendid woman – much loved and much missed.

  2. Charles

    This brought a genuine tear to my eye. I felt that Lyra was a friend, a touchstone of reality in a bizarre and often backbiting world. I shall miss her. Thank you Daisy for letting us know how Lyra’s funeral went… Halloween too! I agree she would have liked that. Funny how often I hear that phrase … He would have enjoyed such and such, or I wish she could have seen that…
    I think Lyra left just enough information, with plenty of room for family input. A marvellous collaboration of Lyra, family and friends saying goodbye. I shall think of you when I wander the churchyards and cemeteries of England, imagining your keen eye, cutting observations and compassionate generosity on the funerals and memorials therein. Lyra certainly brought the sun to our Fridays.

  3. Charles

    A beautiful and fitting end to a wonderful lady.

    Lyra brought so much to the Good Funeral Guide blog. She reminded us every Friday that politics, egos, social status, grudge-bearing and all of life’s thorns and influences are irrelevant when you are in the presence of death. Her sense of balance, her earth-bound observations would bring make any spatting, niggling or outright verbal jousting on other posts look silly and childish. She would bring the reader back to earth, to a place of safety which we all need so badly.

    She reminded us what life is all about and I for one will miss her. In her honour, I too will visit a cauldron of my own this weekend and raise a glass to our beloved Lyra.

    ‘To Lyra, may your spirit live on in the GFG blog – to bring sense, order and humanity to its debate… influence balance and to remind us constantly that we only have life and death. Everything else is a side order of choice and luck. I give you Lyra Mollington ladies and gentlemen. May she rest in peace.

  4. Charles

    How strange that the reported death of someone you have never met can bring such a lump to your throat. But of course over the last months I had felt that I’d come to know Lyra, grown familiar with her world and always relished the kindness and humour she brought to those shrewd observations of the people around her and the funerals she attended. RIP Lyra – you’ll be missed.

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