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A Children's Funeral | 500 Words

A Children's Funeral

with images by Tyler Cooper & Alastair Thompson

When a parent dies a child loses part of their sky.

The funeral I attended yesterday for Sheena Louise Wright was not the funeral of a child. Rather it was a children's funeral.

It was also the most beautiful funeral I have ever witnessed.

Sheena died in the early hours of February 16th in tragic circumstances when hit by a train in Christchurch.

She is survived by her children Bailey 9, Tyler 15 and Ivon 17, and by their two father's - her ex's- Tyler and Ivon's dad Daniel (her separated husband and my brother-in-Law), and Bailey's dad Lee. She is also survived by parents Barry and Melody, and brothers Alastair and Ewen.

The funeral for Sheena Louise Wright was not at all religious though it was deeply spiritual. It was held by the water. In a traditionally Celtic fashion. Which is appropriate as Sheena was Celtic, and probably also Anglo-Saxon and a bit Viking.

Before the casket arrived Tyler and Bailey played on the swings….

… and Tyler asked to borrow my camera. She took a picture of her brother.

The family gathered by the water around the coffin and wrote messages to Sheena.

Bailey wrote:

"best wishes
I hope you
have a good sleep
in heaven
love bailey".

Friends came forward and added their messages to the lid of the casket.

At 11am Pink's "Let's get the party started" was played. Remembering Sheena everybody smiled.

Sheena's mum Melody spoke.

Sheena's ex-husband Daniel spoke.

Sheena's brother Alastair spoke.

And Sheena's 9-year-old son Bailey Spoke (you will need to turn up the volume).

Enya's Orinoco Flow was played. And the pall bearers came forward….

..picked Sheena up and carried her to the hearse.

We stood in lines and groups. We watched, cried….

… and released balloons.

And then us old folk had a cup of tea while the yoof went off to smoke and talk by the children's playground. And Tyler took some more pictures, this time of herself (and later that evening made it her facebook profile image).


When a parent dies a child loses part of their sky. This is true of all children no matter how old they are. In some things we are all the same. [*]

But fortunately death is like a giant shaking a tree. Family members, out on different limbs of the tree - but all of whom love the departed - fall out of the tree and into each other's arms, where - if they are blessed - they find joy, belonging, grace and an opportunity to heal. And as families we then rebuild the missing pieces of each others' sky.

* NOTE: Friend and colleague Julie Starr wrote an article about death of her brother which includes the following quote:

" Death sucks. It hurts. It takes ages to get over. It’s unbeatable and frightening. But it just is, so we may as well get used to it."

In 2009 my father died. Julie's word's resonated with me. Julie then told me something very wise, when someone dies it doesn't matter how they die - but just that they aren't there any more. This is the nature of grief. A hole.

- Alastair Thompson - 500 Words - Tuesday, 26 February 2013 11.32am

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