I would like to share with you here the beautiful words of remembrance of Tiu de Haan, the celebrant at Deb’s funeral which took place at Lytham Park Crematorium on Wednesday 10th June, 2015. I will also share the other contributions to the service in celebration of Debbie’s life in future blog posts. Nic
Welcome to this, the funeral of Debbie Wells.
We are here to celebrate a woman whose glamour, courage and indomitable spirit is absolutely vivid to all who knew her and loved her, even to those who, like me, never met her but who know with absolute certainty that, today of all days, it is appropriate to wear the sparkliest high heels available.
In the weeks before her death, Debbie, or Dolly as many knew her, sent a gift to her dear friend, Lynsey. A package arrived in the post containing a slender, silver bracelet, engraved with the letters “WWDD” which stand for the words: “what would Dolly do?”
It’s an excellent question.
Luckily, today we don’t have to guess at the answer. Debbie, or Dolly, wrote to me in the days just before she died to make sure we knew exactly how she wanted to be celebrated and mourned, from her favourite quotes to the music she loved. Debbie and I struck up an instant friendship in our all too brief correspondence, one full of humour, honesty and the courage that I now know goes right along with her penchant for fabulous footwear and the finest champagne. In the last email she sent to me, she wrote the following words, which I know she would be happy for me to share with you. She wrote:
“Tiu, during this process, something wonderful has happened. Not only have friends and family rallied round, with my bestie Beverly flying in from the Cayman Islands to stay with me and Nicki unflinchingly holding my hand and getting me to my appointments, and my brother Andy, who lost him Mum and now his kid sister, travelling down from the Midlands to help – and who still has a sense of humour, but also strangers have come into my life, my two carers who have turned into dear friends, and now you, thanks to my darling Half Pint” (our mutual friend Heather).
To find such cause for wonder, for gratitude and for such deep appreciation even in such adversity, is a perfect answer to the question What Would Dolly Do. As she wrote in her notes, quoting Dr Zeuss:
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
Debbie also wanted me to share a brief biography. She was born on the 4th May 1961 to Fred and Betty Wells, the little sister to her dear brother Andy who was four years older, She grew up here in Lancashire in a close, maternal family. Her mother Betty sadly died of asthma in 1970 and had her funeral right here in this very crematorium, as did Debbie’s maternal grandmother. When Fred married, his new wife Jill expanded the family to include Debbie’s step siblings, Paul, Chris and Wendy, and they all moved to the Midlands when Debbie was ten years old. When she grew up, she had various jobs in the hotel industry and moved to London in the 80s, where she met Nick Carnell whom she married in 1992 and divorced in 2012. Diagnosed with cancer in 2011, Debbie documented the process of her relationship with the disease she called her “alien” in her brilliant, funny and beautifully written blog, Not Quite Ripley, until her death almost two weeks ago.
She wrote, she sang and perhaps her proudest achievement was attaining her BA Honours degree in humanities, specialising in the History of Art and graduating in 2009.
But while her life can be described in facts, what really matters is the love. When I met with her best friends and her brother and niece, or Team Dolly as they are rightfully known, they told me that Debbie was the lynchpin of an extended family encompassing Bev and Nicki’s children as well as her own nieces. Even though she didn’t physically give birth, they told me, Debbie had six children. Andy’s daughters, Becca and Rachel, Nicki’s daughters Celeste and Tasha – who Debbie called Elmo – and Beverly’s daughters Grace and Emily, known to Debbie as Mimi. She considered herself their great aunt – with the emphasis on GREAT, as in fabulous, to Becca’s children, Darcy and Charlie, and she was incredibly excited about the new arrival who is due in 8 more weeks.
There is a particular poem she wanted to pass on to all the children, big and small. It is by Gina Hanson and it is this:
“There is a freedom waiting for you
On the breezes of the sky
And you ask, what if I fall
Oh my darling, what if you fly?”
She also wanted to remind them all of the words of Winnie the Pooh:
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”
On that note, I would like to invite her dear friend Nicki Cottham to say a few words and to share a poem for Debbie.
[Nicki’s contribution will be shared in a future blog post.]
Thank you Nicki.
Debbie was also very clear that she wanted everyone here to be free to honour her memory in their own way. She wanted there to be an opportunity for those who pray to do so and for those who want to reflect on her life and her death to be able to do just that in whatever way is meaningful to each and every person here. So although this funeral service is too small a container to do justice to all aspects of Debbie’s life or to encompass all the emotions we might feel, this is an opportunity to take a moment to hold Debbie in our thoughts, and in our hearts, as we listen to the music she chose for this very purpose, which comes from the movie “Up”.
[‘The Ellie Badge’ by Michael Giacchino from the original score to the film ‘Up’.]
I would now like to welcome Beverly Edgington to read Debbie’s eulogy.
[Beverly’s eulogy will be shared in a future blog post.]
Thank you Beverly.
Now, before we head on our way and go and raise a glass of champagne to Debbie, there is one last piece of music which she felt very strongly about and which she had specially prepared for today. And as you listen to it, perhaps we can all ponder the last quote she wanted me to share with you all, which also comes from the movie “Up”:
“I’ve had my adventure, now go and have yours.”
Tiu de Haan