From purple glitter to bikers - why Joan Parchment enjoyed a very special send-off
When you work in the funeral business, helping families say a lasting farewell to their loved ones is part of daily life. When it is someone very personal to you however, it’s an even more precious time.
Here, Mary Tomes, founder of Colourful Coffins, talks about saying goodbye to her 96-year-old Mum, Joan Parchment, with a purple glitter casket and a motorcycle funeral.
“Every evening, she used to love hearing about the different designs and colours of coffins we produce and she was very determined and clear about what she wanted. As soon as she saw our glitter range she said that was what she wanted and she chose purple because it was her favourite colour.
“My Mum was all about shine and glitter, she loved it, her nails were always done, her hair was always immaculate and she loved her Chanel perfume, so a purple glitter coffin really summed her up!
“Whenever we work on a picture coffin, we always want to do the best possible job for the family and even though this one was for my Mum, in many ways it was just the same. It’s such a special thing to be able to do, that we take our time because we want to get it right.
“It really got me though, right at the end, when her nameplate went on – it said ‘night, night Mum, I love you, I’ll leave the light on’ – which is something I always said to her every night at home.
“Her funeral was a real family affair, and that’s how she wanted it. I gave the eulogy, my husband Kevin read a lovely tribute, full of happy memories of great days out and holidays together; her grandson Bob and his three boys read a beautiful poem and granddaughter Kate, who has trained as a celebrant and funeral director, took the service – something that was very special to her as it was her first one as a celebrant. Ian, who has worked for us for many years at Colourful Coffins, and is also a Minister, gave the graveside eulogy.
“Before the service however, we wanted to do something very special. She absolutely loved her motorbikes, something that dated back from her Army days when she and my Dad first met. We arranged for her coffin to go on a motorcycle hearse for a long ride around her favourite places in Oxfordshire, accompanied by Bob – her only grandson and the apple of her eye – she would have thought it was great fun.
“Because Mum always loved her afternoon tea and cream cakes, that’s exactly what we did for her next – we threw a tea party in our garden under a marquee and her coffin was there in pride of place. It was more like a celebration than a funeral and that’s what Mum wanted, we all left the marquee to Gracie Fields singing ‘Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye’.
“What was most amazing though was, for the final journey after the service, she was accompanied by over 100 bikers. Dell, one of Mum’s nurses knew how she liked bikes and when she visited Mum a few days before she died, she told her ‘don’t worry, you’ll have motorbikes’, and along with Lucy, another funeral director from The Individual Funeral Company, they arranged it between them.
“They got in touch with a few people and it was wonderful, when we came out of the house and looked down the road, it was just full of bikers. There were even some Hell’s Angels, bikers came from all over, some as far as London, to pay their respects and we were so touched. One bike even displayed an Army flag on the back, a memory I will always carry.
“She had her final ride around the village, then on to the A34 where her hearse and bikers reached 98 miles an hour – what a ride it was.
“Not many 96-year-olds would have a bikers’ farewell – Mum deserved every single second.”