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Celebrating Every Life

by Michael Ford last modified 07 Mar, 2019 10:02 AM

The Amesbury community turned out in force to say goodbye to a local resident after a Twitter appeal by the local curate.

Celebrating Every Life

The Revd Heather Brearey - original photo by Gerry Lynch

Over 100 people came to the funeral service for 89 year old Joan McDonough, following the appeal by the Revd Heather Brearey from St Mary and St Melor for people to attend after she discovered Mrs McDonough had no family or friends left alive.

View the original tweet here

Heather said:
"Joan passed away at the Camelot Nursing Home in Amesbury, having been a resident there for five years and her husband Gerald died some years ago, she didn't have any other family.

"I originally tweeted because I felt that Joan's story needed to be heard by a congregation, her funeral service should not just be the clergy and people from the nursing home. Every life should be celebrated."

But despite the tweet being publicised by local Radio Spire FM, receiving 291 likes and 379 retweets, Heather was still surprised by the response:
"As I arrived very early at the church our choir and musical director were already practising, our verger was lighting candles and people were arriving and as I was getting ready there was still a steady stream of people arriving.

"I went outside to wait with the funeral directors and the hearse and watched people continuing to stream in. Some carrying flowers.

"I couldn't stop smiling, people had come, people who genuinely wanted to hear about Joan, to celebrate and give thanks for her life. People who did not know her, it was just beautiful!"

Heather led in the coffin to 'Nimrod', which had been used at Joan's husbands funeral, one of the many personal touches.

"I began by saying 'Good morning and welcome, thank you for coming, many - in fact most - of us here today did not know Joan, and yet we gather together to celebrate her life and give thanks for who she was."

The gathered congregation sang two hymns and listened to Revd Heather, the Assistant Curate at the Abbey Church give the tribute to the former BBC make up artist, who came from Willesden in north London and was the sister of film actor John Neville.

"I was a police officer for 30 years and so I used my investigation skills to find out as much as I could about Joan."

The gathered community heard that Joan had lived in Gillingham, Dorset, in Shaftesbury, and more recently in Salisbury and was a vegetarian who did not own a TV despite working in the industry.

Heather told the congregation, many of whom had never met the deceased:
"Joan requested a church service for her funeral, she had a faith and only God knows what that faith meant to her.

"Joan’s earthly life has ended, but she and we are promised eternal life with God."

Commenting on the day, Heather said:
"I had so many comments and messages afterwards and I am still getting DM's on Twitter.

"I believe that I should do my very best for every funeral that I take and I believe that I did my very best for Joan. One of her old neighbours said that Joan would have been tickled pink, and so was I."

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