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Ashes to Fishes



Most people wish upon a star. Ron Hopper from Hull wished upon a fish. He was a keen angler and after a fishing holiday in Thailand last year with his friends Paul Fairbrass and Cliff Dale, he made plans for a return trip. Sadly, he couldn’t fulfil them, because he died of cancer in December 2015.

But he and his friends decided that something of his would go after all: his ashes. When his friends visited him in hospital during his final illness, he asked them to take his ashes to Thailand and scatter them around the lake where they had all fished for carp. Paul Fairbrass said he had a better idea: he would put Ron’s ashes into bait and use them to catch a big fish.

The suggestion appealed to Ron’s sense of humour and he heartily agreed. You could say it became part of his funeral plan. His wife Judith would take half of his ashes and scatter them at the scene of another happy holiday: a beach on the Caribbean island of Grenada. His fishing buddies, Paul and Cliff, would take the other half of his ashes to Thailand and put them into “boilies”, or the balls of bait-mix used to catch carp.

But there were things to arrange first. Paul and Cliff had to ask permission from the airline that would take them to Thailand, because they would be carrying human remains. But that’s one of the advantages of being cremated: the ashes it leaves are clean, light and take up little space. The airline said yes, it was happy for Paul and Cliff to take the ashes if they were in a sealed container. They flew to Thailand and mixed the ashes into special boilies that they called “Purple Ronnies”.

Then they began fishing in the lake. The boilies proved attractive and they landed some carp and catfish. But none of the fish was very big, so they tried again from the same spot as Ron himself had used the year before. This time they struck gold: something big took the bait and they spent three hours carefully reeling it in. It proved to be a giant Siamese carp that tipped the scales at a staggering 180 pounds. After it had been weighed and photographed, it was returned alive to the lake with something new: a name.

Because the giant carp hadn’t been caught before, it was given the name “Ronnie” in Ron’s honour. Paul and Cliff then returned to England, happy and proud that they had fulfilled Ron’s dying wishes to the letter. The story must have touched and amused fishermen right around the world, but it has a message for all of us. Sooner or later we all have to pass away, leaving friends and relatives to grieve. If we have a funeral plan ready, we can lighten that burden, making sure that everything is arranged and that all costs are covered.

Ron Hopper proved that we can go one better:  we can make our passing a source of happy memories, not just a time of mourning. He loved fishing with his mates while he was alive and after he passed away he ensured that he could take one last trip with them. We’ve all got a passion and while we’ve still got time we can think of ways to incorporate it into our funeral plan. Whatever kind of funeral we have, we can make it a unique occasion that reflects our personality and interests, helping our loved ones to smile and begin the return to normal life.

National Federation of Funeral Directors