“I got my ticket for the long way round, two bottles of whiskey for the way… And I sure would like some sweet company, and I’m leaving tomorrow what do you say..?
When I’m gone, when I’m gone… You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone… You’re gonna miss me by my hair, you’re gonna miss me everywhere… You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone…”
The Cup Song, Performed by Anna Kendrick in the film Pitch Perfect… I’ve played this song endlessly for about a year now, in what I thought was preparation for last Friday, 23rd September 201 My baby sister’s funeral. She always said she wanted this song played at her funeral. Most of us have that one song that we say we’d like played when we go. This was her song. I wasn’t prepared…
Anna Louise Swabey 25.07.1991 – 16.09.2016
I wanted to update Anna’s blog following her death on Friday, 16th September 2016 (eleven whole days ago), to continue her journey mostly, but also for us as a family to be able to look back at this and remember the small details that we are likely to forget amongst the blur that has been our lives for the past few weeks.
Anna passed away peacefully at around 4.30am, with our mum and dad by her side. I last sat with her that night until about 2.30am, sharing the time with our brother, Matt, Anna’s fiancé, Andy, and my partner, Lee, having railroaded mum and dad into getting some very much needed sleep. We had all been holed up in Anna and Andy’s house for almost two weeks by this point, sharing as much time as we possibly could with her; some lucid, mostly not, but all precious nonetheless. Despite the impending loss, heartbreak and sadness we were all feeling, we did manage to enjoy our time with Anna and with each other, having not been in the same space together for that length of time since we were kids!
There was a thunder storm on the morning that Anna died. It continued for hours… We were waiting to see who was going to be the first to say she went out with a bang! I still can’t remember which one of us was the first to make the joke (had Anna been there it would’ve been her without a shadow of a doubt!) but we said it anyway, as she knew we would. We took it in turns to sit with her for a few hours before she was taken to the chapel of rest. It was such a peaceful time and, again, something we are very grateful for.
It may seem strange to read but I know I can speak for my family when I say we were lucky to have had the time we did with Anna, and that her tumour progressed in such a way that meant we didn’t lose her sooner than we had to. Even during her final weeks, Anna was still her usual blunt, funny self. Brain tumours affect people in so many ways and had her tumour progressed differently or her surgeries not been as successful as they were, the side effects for Anna and for us could have been so very different. What we all had however, was precious time together where Anna’s strength, bravery and dry wit kept us all going and inspired us to be as strong, brave and equally dry about it all. It is what it is, as both Anna and I would frequently say.. I think it’s now our family motto!
Anna and Andy were due to marry the day after Anna passed away. We knew a couple of weeks before, that Anna wouldn’t be well enough for their wedding to go ahead, and we had to make the very tough decision to cancel the wedding plans. However, we all made a promise to Anna some time ago, that if the wedding didn’t go ahead, we would all go and spend the weekend at the wedding venue in Richmond regardless. It was such a difficult weekend but a very lovely one also.. We spent time together in the glorious sunshine, had a family meal and sat round the fire sharing memories. My youngest son Theo pointed at the brightest star and said that it was Anna shining down on us. We all like to think it was.
Anna’s funeral was held at Wear Valley Crematorium on what was to be yet another beautiful day. Her coffin was white, and her flowers were red, white and green to reflect her beloved Leicester Tigers! Simple, elegant and very Anna… We were amazed at how many people came to pay their respects to our beautiful girl; the room was packed with family and friends from every part of her life.
Andy carried Anna’s coffin, alongside Matt and 3 of our cousins, Ian, James and Johnathan. We are a very large and very close family, and while we know they were very honoured to be asked, we knew it would be Anna’s choice also. We chose a humanist minister, Roger McAdam, for the service, who genuinely captured the essence of Anna. We wanted the service to be a celebration of Anna’s life, and at her request we all wore bright colours. I read a poem called Sometimes by Frank Brown, her bridesmaids and bridesman shared some beautiful and funny anecdotes, and Anna’s dad, Keith, ended with a moving and uplifting eulogy. In amongst this were some of Anna’s favourite and most meaningful songs, including Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple (Leicester Tigers opening song), The Cup Song from Pitch Perfect (our favourite film!), The One by Kodaline (Anna and Andy’s first dance at their wedding), Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison (this was Anna and her dad’s song), Ho Hey by Lennon and Maisy (one of Anna’s favourite songs and to be played at her wedding to Andy), and Klingande (Instrumental version) by Jubel (this was played at the Cinderella Charity Ball organised by Anna in May 2015). Anna and I are very similar in so many ways.. Practical being one of them.. Hence our family choice not to have flowers at the funeral, but instead to request donations to both Brain Tumour Research Campaign and Marie Curie, raising a total in excess of £1200 on the day.
After the service we moved on to Woodham Golf Club in Newton Aycliffe to continue our celebration of Anna’s life, where her nephew, Theo, took a leaf out of Anna’s book and sold BTRC wristbands to the guests. He is 8 years old and raised £173 in 2 hours! Anna would be so proud. We asked guests to bring a photograph for our memory board, and to write a few words for our memory tree because we wanted to capture everyone’s own memories of Anna that we can look back on and remind ourselves of how full her life was in just 25 years. Anna’s attitude was to make the most of the time she had rather than dwell on the time she didn’t and we want to always remind ourselves of that.
We are completely humbled by what an impact Anna has had, not only on her family and friends, but on the people she has met in passing, those she knew at different points in her life and even those she simply spoke to through writing her blog. In just 25 short years Anna has made a difference. Not only has she shared a very full and happy life with her precious family and friends, but in just 20 months she has reached her fundraising target of £100,000, she has raised awareness of a terribly under-researched, under-funded, but all too common, disease, and has inspired, not only a nation, but people across the world by her bravery, determination and positivity. What a legacy to leave behind!
With much love and sincere gratitude to everyone who has supported Anna and our family from a very humbled sister,
For anyone wishing to donate towards Anna’s running total for Brain Tumour Research Campaign you can do so via her Justgiving page.