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A Quiet Farewell



Why do people want to be famous? There are many reasons. Some want riches and luxury. Some want to exercise their talents or please their parents. Some just like attention and being in the public eye. They want to live in the glare of publicity – and often they want to die there too. The thought of a big funeral and crowds of mourners is a comfort to many celebrities in their declining years.

But some famous people are the opposite: they don’t want public attention when they’re off-stage. Victoria Wood, the Lancashire comedian who has just passed away at the age of sixty-two, was like that. She became famous because she wanted to exercise her talent and bring more laughter into the world. But she wanted a private life too, where she could raise her children to be as normal as possible. She knew that being the son or daughter of a famous mother or father can be a difficult – and even dangerous – thing. Some film-stars and pop-stars have undergone the worst tragedy in a parent’s life: seeing their children pass away before they do.

Victoria Wood avoided that. She died in the natural order, before her children, but she didn’t die at the natural time, because she went too soon. She had much more to give and should have enjoyed many more years of acting and writing. The illness that cut her life short deprived her of that, and she knew it. When she was diagnosed with cancer, she had time to face her passing and realize what she was going to lose. It was a tragic story, but that’s precisely why the media would have been very interested in it. If she had told the world that she was going to die, she would have had headlines across the country and the sympathy of millions of people.

But she didn’t want that. She had performed in the spotlight but lived well away from it. She was determined to pass away in the same style: privately. Her funeral will pbey the same rule. It will be small and quiet, attended only by her closest family, with no cameras and no crowds of fans outside. That will suit her personality, but it could be a wise choice for anyone. A quiet funeral is easier to plan and organize. You don’t need to rack your brains thinking of clever or entertaining ways to create lasting memories for those who attend. Victoria Wood could certainly have done that: she had a very inventive comic brain, able to create laughter out of the unlikeliest things and the unlikeliest settings, and she could easily have made her funeral an occasion to fill newspapers and television screens.

She didn’t, although we can be sure that her quiet funeral won’t be dark and gloomy. While she was dying she kept the spirits of her family high with her jokes, and her funeral won’t be a completely sad occasion. Her friends and relatives will remember her as she wanted them to: with a smile even amid their grief.

National Federation of Funeral Directors