Fiona wanted her funeral to be ‘a good bash’

Fiona flowers

Fiona wanted her funeral to be “a good bash” according to her husband Neale, and one thing she knew for sure, she didn’t want Kylie Minogue to be the musical choice.

Fiona died at home in Hillesden, Buckinghamshire on the 10th June 2023 when she was 66. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 and initially treated at Milton Keynes Hospital. After being discharged from Hospital, Fiona was cared for at home by a district nurse who recommended that the Florence Nightingale at Home Team (FNH@Home) should also become involved.

The team from FNH@Home administered drugs and washed and cared for Fiona, initially daily, moving to twice daily and finally three times a day to make sure that Fiona’s needs were met.  The nurses checked in with Neale as well as Fiona, to make sure that they were both ok.

“They listened and worked with Fiona and me, they were always so adaptable and flexible. They provided personal care to Fiona, gave her choices and plenty of time. They never looked at their watches, they never rushed, I don’t know how they did it,” Neale said. The team worked seamlessly with the district nurse and the doctors at the Florence Nightingale Hospice.

Fiona was born in Yorkshire, moving to Scotland, and then settling in Buckinghamshire after marrying Neale. Neale says that she was very creative, enjoying gardening and painting, and that flowers were her passion. She worked for a while as a florist and the couple enjoyed their holidays, especially the seaside, and spending time together. “We did everything together”, Neale said.

Fiona tried a number of treatments for her breast cancer but, in November 2022 she had a fungating wound as the tumour growing under the skin broke through the skin’s surface, creating a wound. She started on a trial drug, but the side effects were awful and she stopped treatment.

One of the FNH@Home nurses, Jessica, helped Fiona manage her pain, gradually increasing her dosage to make sure that Fiona was comfortable and also looking out for Neale. “I was in awe,” Neale said. “I hadn’t even known that care at home existed. It gave us an element of choice. It was a sad time, but there was also a lot of laughter, getting to know the nurses and getting used to this new routine.”

The Hospice team provided a hospital bed and various gadgets to help Fiona in bed, as well as a wheelchair. Neale took her downstairs into the garden and she watched from her wheelchair as he planted all her bedding plants according to her instructions. “They had to be right,” Neale said. And she was the same with the Christmas tree, searching high and low for the best one. And last year was one of the best trees according to Neale.

Towards the end, on a Friday in June, one of the nurses told Neale that Fiona didn’t have long as her breathing had changed. Nurse Liz came back on the Saturday night and said to Neale “You need to give her permission to go.” Neale told Fiona this and she died about 30 minutes later.

With encouragement, Fiona had spoken about her wishes for her funeral. She wanted a service with a celebrant, a big party afterwards and she didn’t want people to wear black. Fiona chose ‘Heroes’ by David Bowie, alongside Pink Floyd and Alice Cooper and she definitely didn’t want Kylie! She loved flowers and wanted lots at her funeral, and afterwards these were taken to the patients at Florence Nightingale Hospice. Fiona’s nephews were asked to read Jabberwocky. Neale found a turquoise wicker coffin, as turquoise was her favourite colour. “Everyone was in big bold colours which summed Fiona up,” Neale said, adding “She got the funeral she wanted”.

Neale and Fiona were together for 35 years. After Fiona died, Neale used our bereavement listening service and has talked regularly to one of our bereavement listening volunteers, Heidi, at the Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity shop in Buckingham. Talking has helped Neale, he says “I put a lot into it, and got a lot out of it. The experience of talking about and reliving the past has really helped, and I feel in a different place now.” Neale recently stopped the listening service, though he knows that he can talk to Heidi again if he needs to. He’s also considering becoming a volunteer bereavement listener, but not yet.

Their wedding anniversary in October was hard and he knows that the first Christmas without Fiona will be difficult. He feels close to her at home and will be staying local this Christmas Day.

Neale says that Fiona wanted him to talk about the care that she received from Florence Nightingale Hospice. He describes it as very personal, offering them choices, bringing laughter into their home, caring for Fiona and supporting him through one of the worst times of his life.

Contact us if you would like to find out about our bereavement support. 

If you would like to find out more about supporting the Charity and our Christmas appeal, please click here.

Fiona and Neale in their garden

Fiona loved the sea and spending time by the seaside

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