Celebrating Cat

On the morning of Friday 22 April, and still with a distinct sense of disbelief,  Jamie, Chris, Sarah, Bryony, Stephen, Sang, Fran and I gathered at Manchester Piccadilly station, ready to attend Cat’s funeral and wake.

Arrangements for the funeral had been co-ordinated by Cat’s husband Martyn and friends through Facebook. We were invited to wear whatever we felt appropriate, including sparkles, to remember Cat.  We had several different touches of colour and bling in our outfits, but Bryony excelled in a subtle sparkly dress, slightly less subtle sparkly tights and The Purple Boots, complete with tassels, which Cat would surely have loved.

We made our way downstairs from the station to the tram stop for our onward journey to Sale, and here was where we heard Cat laughing at us for the first, although not the last, time that day.  It really shouldn’t be that difficult for a group of professional and educated grown-ups to extract four return tram tickets from a machine, but trams came and went as we battled this Krypton-Factor-esque challenge and wondered whether Cat was perhaps pressing some of the buttons on the ticket machine for us.

Finally with tickets in hand we were able to get the tram to Sale and to walk through pretty sunlit streets to St Anne’s church.  We were, perhaps surprisingly after the ticketing drama, in good time for the service, but the church was already full.  We were sent up to the front to sit in the choir stalls and a “Dodsworth moment” ensued as Sang tripped over the edge of the pew on the way in, luckily averting a full-on sprawl in front of the whole congregation.

The funeral service was led by Father Julian Heaton, who knew Cat very well as she was a regular churchgoer and Sunday school teacher.  Her boys also attend the church primary school.   Cat’s mother, Barbara, and Martyn had each written a part of Cat’s life story and these were beautifully read by family members.  Fr Heaton then spoke very movingly of the shock everyone felt at losing Cat, and reminded us that we could learn from the way she chose to live her life “gently, graciously and generously”.  He mentioned Cat’s love of Forgotten80s and commented how she could bring people together, not just in the real world but in the virtual world too. Finally, looking at the many different groups of people who had gathered in the church, who knew Cat from a variety of places, school, university, work, running club or through their children, he drew the analogy to a diamond, which has many different facets.  We all have different aspects to our lives, and it is rarely all so visible at once.  It was a lovely analogy – after all, what could be sparklier than a diamond?  If anyone would like to read the full sermon, you can see it here.

With the service complete, Fran summoned the only Uber car in Sale to take us to the wake at the Ashton under Mersey rugby club.  A venue of that size should not be hard to find, you would think, but like the end of a rainbow, the Ashton under Mersey rugby club seemed to shift elusively behind hedges, hotels and dual carriageways.  Our driver apologised profusely, turned round, turned again. Finally, optimistically following another car down a seemingly uninhabited back road, we found… the Mersey Valley Sports Club.  Could we really have gone to the wrong club and be required to get a taxi back to the right one??  

(More laughter from Cat.)  Happily Bryony then spotted a set of rugby goalposts in the field behind, and it was just around the corner.

As we arrived, Duran Duran were already playing (on CD, rather than in person, unfortunately) and a huge spread of sandwiches and cakes all supplied by Cat’s family and friends was being set out.  The theme of sparkles continued here with deely boppers on the table – although Bryony had brought her own! – and many of the cakes had beautiful glittery frosting.  We were particularly taken with the star-shaped “sparkle” cookies, which Sarah described as “going to be the most tweeted biscuit in the world”.  Of course, we had to have a gin or two to mark the occasion and help the cakes down.

    SparkleForCat    SparkleForCat 

The wake was packed, just as the church had been, and the atmosphere was lively with Cat’s 80s CDs piled up on the DJ’s table.  At Martyn’s request, we had also been thinking of suitable songs, which Alan collated and Jamie put on to CD for the event.

You can listen to Cat’s playlist here:

Mid-way through the afternoon, Cat’s friend Sue came over to our table to introduce herself.   Sue is a Forgotten80s listener though not, so far, a tweeter.  “Are you the people from Twitter?” she asked, slightly wide-eyed.  Yes, that’s right, we said.  “Ooh!” said Sue, “It’s like meeting celebrities!”.  We enjoyed that and could definitely hear Cat laughing again.

With long train journeys ahead, we had to leave mid-afternoon.  There was just time for some of our group (no names) to fit in one last gin for the road at Manchester Piccadilly before we went our separate ways.  It was naturally a very emotional day and a tiring one, but a fitting commemoration and celebration of Cat’s too-short life.

At the same time as the funeral and the early part of the wake, the children at St. Anne’s primary school were having a sparkly own-clothes day – also under the tagline Sparkle For Cat – to raise money for MIND.  During the afternoon the school tweeted that £700 had been raised. This is in addition to the £4000, before Gift Aid, which a group of mums at the school raised through participating in the Manchester marathon at the beginning of April (Cat was to have been on their team).  There is more about MIND here: www.mind.org.uk

Alison Melling
April 2016