Published
12 September 2023

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My fantasy funeral would be like a Viking Funeral

Viking Ship Fantasy Funeral

Our longest serving employee shares his fantasy funeral.

After more than 40 years working at a hospice, it’s perhaps not surprising that St Christopher’s Senior Maintenance Technician, Bill Punyer, is pragmatic about the end of life and is quite happy to hand over responsibility for the dramatic final journey that his wife and daughters have planned for him.

Bill Punyer

It was clear from his very first day at work, back in 1979, that Bill was at ease with death and dying.
“The very first job they gave me was to change the lightbulbs in the fridges in the morgue. It didn’t bother me at all,” he says matter of factly.

Now 67, Bill is the longest standing member of staff at St Christopher’s and is proud of his family’s deep – literally built-in – connections with the place.

I’ve always said I don’t want it to be a bleak day, but a celebration of life and once I’m gone they can do what they like.

“All my family is tied up with the place,” he says proudly. Bill’s father worked on the construction of the hospice, installing all the plumbing and a nine-year-old Bill appears in the background of a photograph from when the first shovel went in the ground. Years later, his father was cared for as an inpatient, and Dame Cicely Saunders invited his colleagues from the original build for a tea party shortly before he died.

Dame Cicely went on to become godmother to Bill’s two daughters who both attended the nursery and did work experience at the hospice.

The connections don’t stop there. Bill’s mother-in-law was a seamstress, sewing the nurses’ uniforms and his wife worked on reception for 22 years.

Incredibly, Bill finds time to run his own business renting out equipment for discos, weddings and other events. It’s this second life that gives a small clue as to the frankly inflammatory plans for his funeral.

Viking Ship Fantasy Funeral

“It’s always been a standing joke in the family, because of my connection with the discos and the hospice, that my wife and daughter will dress me in my St Christopher’s maintenance uniform. They’ll put me in the back of my van – no coffin – at the top of the hill by our house near Mottingham”.

Bill jokes that his family will then set light to it, like a Viking funeral, and take the handbrake off, with Disco Inferno playing on the stereo.

One thing is for certain though, Bill’s ashes will then be buried in the family plot in Ramsgate cemetery.

“I’ve always said I don’t want it to be a bleak day, but a celebration of life and once I’m gone they can do what they like.”

:: This story was from our Autumn/Winter 2023 issue of Connect magazine. To read the full magazine, or to sign up to receive future editions, please click here.

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