Gillian Kennedy, 48, was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in April – with medics telling her at best she could extend her life for 12 months
A dying mum held her own funeral after doctors told her she has just months to live
Gillian Kennedy, 48, was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in April – with medics telling her at best, if she tolerated 72 hours of chemo every two weeks and completed the 12 gruelling rounds of additional chemotherapy she could extend her life for 12 months.
The mum-of-one then made the radical decision to host her own funeral surrounded by her closest family and friends.
Gill, who worked as a supervisor in a legal office for 30 years, was given the crushing news that the cancer had spread to 14 parts of her body.
She did not see a doctor face to face during the pandemic period and when her cancer was found following a private MRI scan, it was already active in 14 places in her abdomen, reports the Daily Record.
Gill, from Perth, Scotland, said she has spent around 800 hours having chemo but following her last treatment – on Wednesday, the day after her living funeral – she will now take things as they come.
She told the Perthshire Advertiser she had worried about how her son of 12 and her husband would cope with organising her funeral after she passed away so decided to take an unconventional route.
Gill said: “I started to plan my funeral myself. I discovered you could have an option described as ‘direct to ashes’. I did not want my son Ryan faced with a cremation service and a coffin.
“Funnily enough, at first I planned a lunch at The Royal George, but I did not like the cake choice, meringues, they offered on the menu. Then I thought, ‘but I won’t be there, so it won’t matter!’
“That set me thinking: what if I was there, what if I could enjoy the gathering of the people who mattered? It was not as though I had lost my capacity to enjoy life as yet, but I had to act fast.
“I brought in Maggie Robertson, a celebrant and so began the process of this living funeral.”
It was held at Craigie Hill Golf Club on Tuesday and Perth City celebrant Dr Maggie Robertson gave an eulogy.
Gill’s childhood friend Susan – who she met aged three – flew in from Texas and pals from Bannatyne’s gym danced in matching t-shirts and masks with Gill’s face on to a live version of the Dolly Parton hit 9 to 5, which was sung live by friend Veronica.
There were balloons, a special cake and cousin Kerri arranged a specially-made slide projection of favourite photo moments from her life.
A raffle fixed up by fellow cancer sufferer Sandra raised £800 for Gill and Robbie to make some memories together in the coming weeks. They plan to go for a break at Gleneagles.
To huge applause and cheers, Gill got up and danced herself. The track was Staying Alive. She had saved her energy for this, her big day, attending her own funeral party.
There was a meal, laughter and tears and husband Robbie stole the show with a wise-cracking stand-up comedy routine that made light of the very serious situation.
A written farewell message from each person there was collected to be put into an album.
Celebrant Dr Maggie Robertson (61), a member of the Good Life, Good Death group, had cancer herself, opting for a double mastectomy.
She said: “It was truly amazing what happened for Gill on Tuesday.
“She had everything you could wish for and she was on her feet, even having a bit of a boogie.
“It was an inspiring occasion, filled with much happiness and unique moments that will live on in everybody’s memory. I feel honoured to have been a part of Gill’s day.”
The cake on Tuesday was an imaginative model of Gill, Ryan and Robbie all sat on a bench. Like they often are, as Gill loves a walk up Kinnoull Hill.
Celebration Station in Perth had made the couple’s wedding cake so it was poignant that they also made this one for Gill’s living funeral.
A generous group of Fair City and Perthshire businesses donated fabulous prizes to Sandra’s raffle which ensured a fund for Gill’s future happy times was made possible.
They were Lorna Davies Florist, KL Nails, The Bulldog Frog, Delicious, Murrayshall House Hotel, Pit Stop Cafe, Donna’s Harbour Cafe, King James pub, Alex Cairncross Jewellers, Taylor’s Hair Luncarty, Willows Coffee Shop, Macrotrition, Latchbrand Domestic Cleaning, cleaning products from Rachael Rush, plus champagne, vodka and various other gifts donated from friends and family.
Another friend, Leigh-Ann Neave, started an online fund to help boost family morale by buying a bench, for which nearly £3000 has been pledged.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.