A GUISELEY woman will finally get to oversee the funeral plan that she first started writing more than 40 years ago, as she approaches the end of her life and strives to ensure that she creates the perfect send off for herself.

Muriel Thomas and her husband David were left devastated last summer when they were both diagnosed with cancer during a routine health check and blood test. David discovered he had liver cancer, which had already spread to his bones, and the former District Judge died shortly afterwards at St James’s Hospital.

At the same time, Muriel was diagnosed with terminal bowel and liver cancer, and following chemotherapy treatment at Spire Leeds Hospital in Roundhay and support from Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice, the 76-year-old is determined to make the most of the time she has left.

After David’s death she contacted Full Circle Funerals in Guiseley. The company guided Muriel through every aspect of his funeral and were also in email contact with David’s three adult children from his previous marriage who live outside the area. This involved a cremation at Rawdon, followed by a Service of Remembrance at Ilkley Baptist Church, where he was a deacon, followed by a reception at Ilkley Rugby Club.

Muriel has now already organised her entire funeral with the firm. This includes everything from selecting hymns and creating an order of service through to making her final journey in the company’s electric eco-hearse, which is based on a specially adapted Nissan Leaf, and selecting what she would like to wear for her cremation. Guests will also be encouraged to wear bright colours for the funeral, which will also be held at Rawdon Crematorium and Ilkley’s Baptist Church and Rugby Club.

Muriel said: “I used to work for Barnardo's rehoming vulnerable children all over the UK, so I was regularly on the motorway, often at night or in poor weather conditions. I always thought this was a bit risky, so when I was in my 30s, I wrote a plan about what I’d like to happen at my funeral should the worst ever happen. It’s evolved over the years, eventually being typed up on the computer and I’ve often updated it as my tastes have changed. I knew it would make life easier for my family and friends whenever the time might come.

“Then last summer David and I received the shocking news that we both had cancer. Neither of us had any symptoms and we were both completely shocked by it. Within six weeks David had died, and although he had never wanted to talk about death, a few days later I found a plan that he had written about what he’d like to happen at his funeral. This one sheet of paper turned out to be a huge help at such a dreadful time.

“I was able to work with Full Circle Funerals to organise it and they really went the extra mile for me. We had time to spare on the morning of the funeral so the hearse drove via the Cow and Calf, which was one of David’s favourite places, and they even helped me to organise bereavement counselling and have also kept in touch since.”

Muriel added: “I don’t have children, so I’d spoken to my sister and friends about what I wanted at my funeral and my plan, but they found it very hard to talk about. During a conversation with Full Circle some months later I mentioned that I had this plan on the computer and how it was a pity I couldn’t arrange it formally. They said ‘why not’ and so I did! The hardest and most upsetting part was definitely choosing the coffin, but ultimately it makes sense to do it all now, because it removes the uncertainty that often surrounds a funeral. I’m also relieved it’s done, because now I can enjoy the rest of my time without thinking about it all. As a result of my decision to take control of my own funeral, both my sister and friend have since spoken to Full Circle about planning their funerals.”

Sarah Jones of Full Circle Funerals said: “Unfortunately death is still a taboo subject that so many people are not comfortable dealing with or even talking about, which is understandable. However, talking about death, as well as planning for it, usually gives people peace of mind. It also helps them to support their loved ones and means that peoples’ specific wishes are much more likely to be met.”

Muriel is currently knitting and selling toys to raise money for Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice, which provides holistic and personalised end of life care for people in Leeds. Anyone wanting to make a donation to the hospice should visit www.sueryder.org. Further information about Full Circle Funerals is available at www.fullcirclefunerals.co.uk