Life After Germany

Leaving the ClinicIt has been a difficult, but busy week since returning from Germany on Monday – was it really only Monday?  That feels a much more distant memory than only 3 days ago.  It was a very emotional time when I left the clinic as it had been a hugely positive place as well as our home for over 2 months.  Since returning home I have felt quite in control (with only the odd “wobble”) and have spent a lot of time with Gemma & Cathy organising the usual (and not so usual) arrangements.  I thought it may take me a while to adjust to being back in Liverpool, but it was like I’d never been away – how weird.  All the organising has kept us all busy for the last few days and has helped somewhat – I presume it will all start to sink in once this busy period draws to a close.  I have received so many messages about my blog over the last 3 months which have fed back to me, how and why, individuals read my daily ramblings, with a multitude of reasons being apparent.  One of which is information about the clinic and the “workings” of a situation like ours and how the blog has helped quite a few people over that period.  Because of this I’ve decided to continue writing when I can and try to convey not just the emotional element of the situation I find myself in, but also the logistical / organisational issues we, as a family now have to contend with over the next couple of weeks.

It may seem a little strange that I can relay this information in such a way under the circumstances (rest assured it’s not easy) but one of the aims of the blog was, and still is, to inform others of the processes, and procedures, we have gone through whilst in Germany and I don’t see how this part doesn’t fall into that category, especially as it happened abroad and I knew very little about the process until this week.  Therefore I have written this post for 3 reasons.  Firstly, in the hope that the information may help anyone else who finds themselves in the unfortunate situation I did last weekend, secondly because I think it’s the right thing to do, and thirdly because it has helped me.  No-one ever wanted this to be the outcome of our efforts to battle this disease, but as time went on we knew it could eventually be a very real possibility.  It may come across macabre, or clinical, but it is a very real part of the amazing journey we have undertaken together over the last few months, so I’m quite comfortable writing about it and I hope you are relatively comfortable reading it.  However, I appreciate some people may not be, as it is a very personal thing, so I have added a page break to allow anyone to choose whether to continue reading…

Once Jenny had passed away we were put in touch with the clinic’s preferred undertaker who was well versed in international repatriation.  This is crucial as the nearest undertaker to the clinic may not be experienced in repatriation and the process has some significant differences to a normal death which require the correct knowledge in order for things to run smoothly.  The undertaker was called Mr. Sekman and even though his English wasn’t very good, he did bring an interpreter with him to ensure communication accuracy between us all was maintained.  We met the same evening as jenny had died (that was our choice) and it was explained that Jenny would be transferred to Frankfurt that same night (because of clinic policy) and they would prepare and submit all the required paperwork at the German end.  They would also liaise with our preferred funeral directors in the UK meaning we had very little to worry about in terms of the actual travel arrangements for Jenny and this in turn allowed us to tie up any loose ends in Germany and organise getting ourselves home to the UK.  We had to provide Jenny’s passport and also select a suitable coffin / casket, from a photo album, in order to allow the repatriation to be completed.  We chose an American style casket (which is very “Jenny”) that would see her right through to burial as we didn’t see the point in selecting a simple transportation coffin, to then select a second one back in the UK.  There were also a variety of other options such as how we wanted Jenny dressed etc all of which we could choose to have done in Germany, or back in the UK by our undertaker.  We opted for the simplest transportation method, with minimal German input, which looks to have worked out for the best, as firstly, we didn’t  have the correct clothes etc for Jenny with us in Germany, and secondly we weren’t sure if the UK coroner would require a post-mortem (highly unlikely but we had been advised that it could be a possibility).  I need to provide our original marriage certificate (no copies allowed) in order to obtain a formal, international death certificate, but this doesn’t need to be done straight away as a death certificate is only required for things such as bank account issues, financial affairs and insurance etc.  The clinic provided us with a copy of the medical report which states cause of death etc and this is something you should keep very safe.  Try to get as much information translated (it cost us some additional fees) but we were advised to do this to try to alleviate any delays with a UK coroner.

In terms of arrangements back here in Liverpool everything has been organised and provisionally booked – I say provisionally, as we still can’t set a concrete date for the funeral because of some of the issues we have encountered which are associated with repatriation.  As Jenny died on a Saturday, it meant that paperwork etc couldn’t be completed until the Monday and therefore a flight would need to be scheduled for Tuesday.  There were some availability issues with some carriers and Jenny was eventually flown back to the UK yesterday (Wednesday), to Manchester, where she was collected and brought to Liverpool by our funeral directors, who had been liaising directly with Mr. Sekman in Germany.  Once back in the UK, Jenny’s case needs to be assessed by a local coroner (in our case Chester) who in most cases would confirm the reason for death and release the body for burial / cremation.  Depending on the circumstances they could also order a post-mortem which could delay things, but this would usually only be if the cause of death hadn’t been established.

St. Peter's ChurchSo, what does all this mean for Jenny’s funeral?  We have been working flat-out here to organise everything as much as we can, but ultimately nothing can click into place until the coroner presents their verdict.  Once this happens I’ll be able to officially announce the date and time of arrangements but we are expecting the funeral to be held around the middle of next week.  We appreciate that this isn’t ideal but at the moment our hands our tied but the coroner is due to review Jenny’s case tomorrow afternoon (Friday) at 3pm.  In the meantime I can reveal how we have organised the structure of the day, based on Jenny’s wishes, which were discussed with her a while back in Germany with Gemma and I.

Following clearance from the coroner, Jenny will lie in rest at our house until the day of the funeral when she will be collected by horse-drawn carriage (4 horses) and taken to St. Peter’s Church in Woolton for the service, which is not only the highest point in Liverpool, but also has large Beatles connections.  We are meeting with the vicar tomorrow morning (Friday) to discuss the order of service etc.  Jenny wished for the service to be held in Woolton as that is where we set up home together and she had come to love the village over the small number of years we lived here together.  Following the service, Jenny will be driven to Landican Cemetery, near Arrowe Park, on the Wirral, for a short burial service as the Wirral was where she was born and grew up and therefore befitting as her final resting place.  Following the burial, the wake will be held at Brook Meadow Hotel, near Childer Thornton, which was the same venue we got married at in 2009, where there will be a book of condolences available for guests to pay their respects if they wish.  The hotel has a number of rooms available which can be booked if anyone is travelling.  I’m sorry we can’t confirm a specific time and date but as soon as we know I will post a blog with the details, but as I say we are hoping for around the middle of next week.

The day will be an all black affair and everyone is welcome to the service , the burial and the wake, with no restrictions on numbers etc – even our dogs will be in attendance!  During the wake the hotel will play some background music and we have decided that in order to allow everyone to have a small involvement in the day the song choices will be a compilation of suggestions from friends, family and guests.  Therefore if you have an idea for a song, or piece of music, which you would like to be included in the playlist, then please email me the artist and title of the song (together with a copy in MP3 format if you have it) so I can add it to my iPod.

I speak on behalf of all the family in thanking everyone who has shown support, not just over the last week, or the last 3 months , but also over the last 4 years following Jenny’s original diagnosis.  Jenny refused to give up and continued to fight with everything she had, right up until the end, refusing to accept that this would beat her.  People’s support, encouragement and strength played a massive role in maintaining her motivation and commitment throughout her battle and for that my family and I will be eternally grateful and I hope to see as many of you as possible next week.

From a heart-broken “Jock-Strap” x

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