Jenny Ireland: An Open Invitation

I am the Queen of health scares. I recently attended the GP with abdominal pain, which had been coming and going since I had surgery in May. She suggested a scan and some bloods. Grand. Nothing to worry about. Or so I thought. Then the doctor phoned me about my blood results. She told me that my CA125 was raised.

‘Oh, what’s that?’ I said.

‘The tumour marker for ovarian cancer,’ she said.


Luckily, it turns out I’m fine. I don’t have cancer, and the pain is probably a complication of previous surgery. And I can now add Ovarian Cancer to the list of Cancer Scares which previously just included the very lonely Blood Cancer. But it did get me thinking, about funerals. My funeral. Given the weird health issues that have plagued me thus far, it’s unlikely I’ll reach any great age and I figured that it would be best to be prepared.

I suspect most people don’t put a great deal of thought into how they’d like their big day to go. Not me. I’m going to put more effort into planning this thing than I did my wedding. It will be my day after all and, unlike my wedding, my husband won’t be trying to steal half the thunder.

I want it in a church. I’m not religious but I always thought that, if there did happen to be an afterlife and my final goodbye took place in one of God’s many houses, then I might be taken pity upon and invited to the afterlife party. That’s not to say I want to be buried. I don’t. I want to burn. I’ve always found cremation quite dramatic and I’d like to go out with a bang. This way, someone – my husband maybe – can collect me in tiny vials to be worn around the necks of the guests forever more. Funeral favours should definitely be a thing – they shouldn’t just be reserved for happy occasions. In fact, surely it actually makes more sense to have them at a funeral? Presents take the sting out of death.

There will be a strict dress code. Everything must be black – bonus points if a veil is part of the ensemble. Tissues will be banned. This isn’t a day where sadness should be pacified. No, it should be amplified, which leads me nicely to the matter of the soundtrack. Most funerals I’ve attended have done quite a good job of this, tugging at the heartstrings through music selection. I want to make sure there isn’t a dry eye in the house. Choices include ‘Tears in Heaven’, ‘ Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ and, a recent favourite, Phoebe Bridger’s ‘Funeral’. I’d like home movies to be played from huge screens around the church featuring me as a child – happy, carefree, before my fate befell.

There should be photos of me everywhere. I’m not necessarily saying my husband should make photo books for everyone (he should), but it might be a nice gesture. I won’t suggest that he puts in those sexy pictures I sent him once (although I do look really good in those).

I struggled with how my kids should be occupied during the day. As much as I welcome everybody else’s sobbing, I think their tears might unnerve me even in death. So I suggest some earphones for them during the ceremony with Taylor Swift at full volume, followed by a no-budget trip to Smyths Toy Superstore and dinner at McDonald’s Drive-Thru. They’ll have forgotten me in no time.

Food has always been one of my favourite things at funerals. It just seems to taste better when someone has died. Especially the biscuits. This is why, at my funeral, there will be no food. Just water (tap water from the bathroom). You will be there to mourn my life, not to enjoy biscuits and tea under the pretence of grief. I think this is where a lot of funerals go wrong – they focus too much on the guests and not enough on the person who has died. The guests should not be comfortable, sated and hydrated. If they are not already feeling physical pain from the monumental devastation that my death has created, it should be forced upon them through hunger. You might wonder why I believe that I deserve this funeral. If you do, you’re not invited.

I can’t help wondering what people will remember about me. My sparkling wit? My very under-average height? Probably not. It’ll most likely be that one time I cut off the bottom of my trousers, made a ninja head band and wore it in public. But, just to be clear, here’s a list of things I would like everyone to remember about me:

Attributes of the Dearly Departed:

  • Super Smart
  • Super good looking
  • Super funny
  • An excellent parent
  • The best wife ever. (And on the subject of wives, by attending this funeral, the husband of the departed hereby agrees to never remarry, or have another relationship.)
  • A top class daughter/ family member
  • An all-round good egg

And if everyone who is privileged enough to receive this open invitation for the big day follows these instructions, then I might just be remembered for longer than an afternoon of tea and custard creams.

Jenny Ireland lives just outside Belfast with her husband, two children and cat Batman. She has completed a Middle Grade novel called Demon(ish) featuring a 12 year old girl who makes a deal with a demon to bring her mother back from the dead. She spends her time procrastinating on twitter @IdreamofNarnia, staring at the sea from her window and answering to the five and six year old dictators who inhabit her house.