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In honour of Catherine

Please could you tell me a bit about Catherine?

Catherine was wife, mum, nanny, auntie, GG, friend. She was the heart of our family. I am finding it difficult to put her into words but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to say about her. We were so lucky to have her, the most uncomplicated lovely mum, who always loved us and put us first no matter what, and who made sure we were never in doubt about that love for a second. I can’t remember her ever not letting us know we were loved. She supported everything we did and always saw the good in us. She was one of the kindest people I know.

I used to find it a pressure sometimes to feel that we were the centre of her world and that she worried about us all the time, now I miss the fact that no one will worry about us again in that same way!

How did you find out about Hand in Hand?

I had spotted a review of Kerry on Facebook by a friend last summer. I thought if my friend was saying these things there must be something special about Kerry. I wasn’t wrong. I made a mental note of Kerry’s details and am so glad I did.

Why did you choose Hand in Hand?

I’m sure I’m not alone in really not liking funerals. I couldn’t really face the thought of one for mum but generally the consensus was that there should be one. When I looked on the internet for a funeral director, I looked at Kerry first because of my friend’s recommendation, then looked at many others. I just kept coming back to Hand in Hand as I could see that we could maybe make something more bearable than a usual service, and that was what I wanted to achieve. With Kerry’s help I think we did this with bells on! As soon as I spoke to Kerry I knew we didn’t need to call anyone else, and my brother felt the same.

What choices did you make to personalise Catherine’s ceremony?

For a start we chose a venue other than the crematorium. We thought if we chose somewhere more beautiful and more gentle it would make the day less scary and less something to dread, and we were lucky to find the perfect venue. We booked it for the whole day and decorated the room ourselves the day before with flowers in jam jars on the tables and storm lanterns with candles and it looked absolutely beautiful. We were also able to take my dad to look at it the day before so it would feel more familiar, and I could see him relax a little when he saw how lovely it looked ready for the next day. I think we all slept better that night knowing the setting was so perfect.

We had a memory table full of little things that represented mum best, some silly, some sad, and some things that made it feel she was in the room with us. We had a little tree for people to hang their written memories on. We gave out ribbons for people to tie on the coffin handles when they went to say their goodbyes so they wouldn’t feel awkward or not know what to do with themselves but would still have chance to ‘have a minute’ with her. My niece prepared a slide show of our favourite photos of mum and she sang some of mum’s favourite songs for us to listen to when the slide show was played. Our celebrant Louisa was lovely and prepared a very personal goodbye service after spending time with us. Kerry recommended a wonderful caterer Sue, who was so kind and understanding and made an absolutely beautiful afternoon tea for after the ceremony, which it felt she had put her heart into because it was so important to her that it was right.

I didn’t want to see mum’s coffin arriving in a big black car and for her to be driven and accompanied that day by people who didn’t know her, so Kerry was very happy to arrange for me to pick her up myself from the funeral director and I drove her to the service, and then later on to the crematorium, just so we knew she was safely there.

She has kept me company in the car on so many shopping trips and holidays and for the last few years during covid I wouldn’t let her go with anyone else so it seemed bizarre to let a stranger drive her now. It just felt the right thing to do, and it was lovely to have her in the car with me. I was able to spend a bit of time on the morning decorating the coffin which looked pretty, and Kerry tucked some flowers and letters into the coffin for us. We carried her into the barn ourselves and although it was a squeeze getting us in and out through the door it felt that we were looking after her and keeping her safe ourselves, which was really important.

Please could you say a little about the support Kerry provided during the process.

Kerry was and continues to be amazing. She gently and kindly helped us find our way through creating the least bleak, most beautiful farewell for our beloved mum, which was the best it could have been. Bizarre as it may sound, especially coming from someone who will do anything possible to avoid attending a funeral, we actually were able to enjoy the day which made a warm and beautiful and comforting memory for us to look back on.

Kerry was very professional, but also it felt as though she was a great friend, who just happened to know all about the procedures and what needed to be done. Beyond this she has a list of tried and tested contacts who all help in other ways to make the day so special (thank you Louisa, Sue, Ruth and Kathrine), and she intuitively supported us to make things exactly as we wanted, from our starting point of knowing just what we didn't want. When we without warning changed the venue to somewhere that felt more right for us all, after Kerry already had put a number of arrangements in place for our initial choice, she took it in her stride and it felt that it was as important to her as it was to us, and she shared our excitement (which might seem like a strange choice of word), when we were able to make it all happen just as we wanted.

It was also so important for us to know at all times that mum was being looked after by someone who really cared about her and us. Thank you so much Kerry you have really made a difference to the last few months for us all. xx

What 3 words would you use to describe your experience of Hand in Hand?

1. KindIntuitiveCaring.

2. WarmThoughtfulSupportive.

3. ProfessionalWonderfulPassionate.