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Navigate:  Pamela's picture coffin was a real work of art

Pamela's picture coffin was a real work of art

For Pamela Barton, painting was a lifelong passion and when the great grandmother died in March 2010, she was determined to have a very special farewell which celebrated her love of art.

Having been ill for several months before she passed away, she had used the time to talk to her daughter Anne Barber about the type of funeral she wanted and when the time came, Anne and her family worked hard to make sure the day was everything she would have wished for.

“Mum always loved to paint throughout her life, her little summerhouse at the bottom of the garden was a real joy for her, where she would sit in the sun and paint.  She loved to do personal cards for all her friends and family, they gave her such pleasure and even when she was bedridden, it was something she could do,” said Anne, who lives near Cambridge.

High on the list of her funeral arrangements was a cardboard picture coffin and Pamela had gone to great lengths to describe how she would like her favourite painting of snowdrops and aconites to be reflected in the design.  

“I hadn’t realised it was her favourite painting until she told me, but mum described to me how she wanted a picture coffin with her painting on it,” said Anne, who is founder and managing director of Civil Ceremonies.  “It made such a difference, she wrote down her wishes and I really believe there is nothing people can do which is kinder for their family than telling them what they would like at their funeral.”

Through her own work, which includes training celebrants for civil funerals, Anne was already familiar with Colourful Coffins and knew its design team would do its best to make the coffin as perfect as possible.

“When mum died, I collected the original painting off her wall and my daughter Gemma, who’s a graphic designer, took it to the Colourful Coffins office,” said Anne.  “I managed to get inside Gemma’s head with the design that mum had talked to me about and she sat down with them to talk about it.

“Mum died on the Wednesday, and by the Friday afternoon Gemma was in the office with Mary Tomes at Colourful Coffins and they were emailing me photographs of what the coffin would look like.  The result was amazing.”

Pamela’s funeral service was held at West Suffolk Crematorium just two weeks short of her 74th birthday, followed by a reception in the village of Barking, near Needham Market, where she had been born and lived most of her life.

“It was such a difficult day, but when the coffin arrived, it was absolutely perfect – exactly what she would have wanted,” said Anne.  “People came forward to say they were astonished by how beautiful it was and how it really captured the essence of her.  Knowing we had fulfilled mum’s wishes made it a little easier for us and we were eternally grateful to Colourful Coffins for all the help they gave us, and especially Gemma when she visited.”

The snowdrops and aconites theme of the painting was carried through onto the Order of Service and all the mourners were given a little pot of yellow flowers to take away in Pamela’s memory.  At the woodland burial site chosen by the family, flowers were planted around the burial spot and Anne chose the same design from the picture coffin for an ashes casket.