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Close to my heart

I’m often asked… ‘Do you have a favourite funeral?’ Followed by the statement ‘I bet it was the big West Ham one?’ I certainly don’t ever like using the term “favourite”, because let’s face it, we are conducting loved ones farewells and that’s always going to be really sad.

As a funeral director though, I certainly have my proudest moments. Each service we conduct holds a unique place in our hearts, but there are always those funerals, or celebrations of life, that stand out. I am extremely proud to be in this business and everyone at Udens treats every person that we look after as if they are a member of our own family. We do our utmost to orchestrate a funeral that honours the person being remembered. I’ve been very privileged to be able to conduct send offs for some truly amazing people; the loved ones of both family and friends, and indeed some of my own heroes. There are several people and funerals that will stick with me until I leave this earth, and Mr. David Gold – DG – The West Ham United chairman was certainly one of those. Today marks the first anniversary of the day of his funeral.

As a huge West Ham fan, organising his send off was very humbling and an absolute honour. I spent lots of time with David’s family and have since become very good friends with his daughter @Vanessagold, whose friendship I truly cherish. Unfortunately, one of David’s daughters, Jacqueline Gold, sadly passed away shortly after her father, and so our services were called on once again, far too soon.

David made a huge impact on those around him; including his family, friends and indeed the wider West Ham community, and being present to hear his eulogy and memories of him was an indelible honour. The process of planning and executing this particular service, alongside his family, was a journey, and a very emotional one at that.

Understanding the essence of this great man allowed us to be able to put together a ceremony that not only celebrated a life well-lived, but also offered comfort to those left behind. We started David’s send off outside The Boleyn, the previous location of West Ham’s Stadium to lay a flag and tribute outside the old ground. We then paused outside DG’s old home situated just a stone’s throw away from The Boleyn, where we laid another flag and tribute.

The actual service was held on the pitch at The London Stadium, where else! Driving our Bentleys into the stadium with David and his family was a beautiful moment. But for me personally, the moment we carried him out onto the pitch was probably the most amazing moment of the day. The emotions that filled that whole stadium, which would usually be buzzing with 60,000 fans on a match day, were deeply felt. As the funeral director, and as a West Ham fan, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride in being able to facilitate such a moment.

I’m an incredibly passionate person in every sense. Call me sad if you will, but I even start to well up when I sing Bubbles on a match day, that’s how much I love my West Ham! So for me, to be walking out of the West Ham tunnel directing the West Ham chairman’s final journey, onto the West Ham pitch, with his West Ham family and the West Ham players (who I cheer on every match) all paying their respects whilst listening to I’m forever blowing bubbles, doing the profession I love and was born to do, was the without doubt the most humbling and special moment of my working life.

The little details on this funeral were perfect. David’s car joined us on the journey, his West Ham shirt was placed over his seat in the box at The London Stadium, and I laid two claret roses in the iconic West Ham Irons position just in front of the dug out, naming just a few of the special touches on that day. The flowers on the day could have their own blog, they were just so spectacular!

So in answer to the question that so many people have asked me, it wasn’t my “favourite” but it was certainly the proudest of my career. So far…..!

Matthew

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