Having arrived into this world in 1939, two months before World War Two began, I can remember ration books and gas masks! As a very sensitive child I cried bitterly when flowers in a vase died, not to mention the anguish of losing my darling Dad. The war years were lean; if we didn’t have it, my Dad would make it, he was a master of ‘make do and mend’.
I grew up with my brother and sister in the countryside, and our greatest treat was to go for walks with our Dad. He taught us the names of the wild flowers, butterflies, birds and trees, instilling in me a deep love and respect for nature that would stay with me always. It now gives me great pleasure to share this knowledge with my three grandchildren.
My first educational achievement was to be accepted into Epsom School of Arts and Crafts; this is when my life really began.
My first place of employment was at The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, embellishing costumes for the Royal Opera and Ballet. That is where my love of ‘the glitz’ was born.
Marriage and two children later I made celebration cakes from my cottage kitchen, which eventually developed into an outside catering business. This led me into wedding and party planning for the next 36 years. Within this time I became chef in a private hospital and ran my own restaurant.
My darling Dad always said ‘When I can no longer pull up my trousers that will be it!’ He was true to his word. Shortly after his death I had several momentous experiences which turned my fear of death into the passion that drives me today.
Having attended two funerals, both of elderly gentlemen who had pre-planned their departure, I was blown away by the beauty and originality of each occasion; such experiences coloured my future and led me to write the first of my four books.
It was a ‘light bulb moment,’ when I realised that my party and wedding planning could lend itself perfectly to arranging unique funerals!
Synchronicity led me to meet two wonderful women who opened ARKA Original funerals in Brighton. ARKA was probably the first company to focus on environmentally friendly funerals. I feel privileged to have worked as a funeral arranger alongside these special people for 10 years and my dog always came with me!!
I signed up to the OneSpirit training programme and was ordained on my 73rd birthday in 2012.
Since, I have run Death Cafés and taken ceremonies that celebrate the many milestones of life including funerals for my two ex-husbands. I continue to work on developing Last Wishes Workshops now, with the support of a wonderful team of beautiful and inspiring people.
I have had crazy moments too:
My Dad said there is no such thing as the word ‘can’t.’ As a child my soul ambition was to fly like a bird. On my 60th birthday I went paragliding – my dream came true, I actually flew through the sky like a bird.
I have walked on fire. This moment of bravery gave me the courage to have a serious eye operation under local anaesthetic.
My only close brush with royalty was dropping a Brussel sprout on the Duke of Windsor’s lap, while serving a meal at the Mayor’s Parlour; how very embarrassing!
As well as running Last Wishes Workshops and hosting Last Wishes Tea Rooms. I am deeply involved in local community groups; Climate and Repair Cafés, where we re-use, re-cycle and re-make. This takes me comfortably back to my youth.
Ozzie, my elderly golden retriever and I visited local rest homes where he offered ‘fur therapy’ to the elderly residents. Ozzie was a rescue dog and died at the age of 15. He was my 9th Goldie and the most amenable companion imaginable; I miss him terribly.
I am sitting by the grave of my mum and dad with tree blossoms tumbling from the skies.
The blossoms dancing in the wind making me reflect on my life and feel so blessed at what an enriched life I have lived thus far.
For more than 30 years I have been an owner of multiple award-winning successful businesses that have bought me great material wealth but the focus on wealth…
…So, over the past 10 years I have been discovering and using tools and techniques to get me from Business burn out and wasting fortunes to finding fun, freedom and fulfilment. I offer the tools and techniques I discovered in motivational talks and workshops…
I was inspired to be a part of the Last Wishes-Live Your Legacy vision because of my very dear friend Anna. I attended her eco-friendly alternative funeral and it was so beautiful, personal and full of love.
I am the Founder of Ancient and Sacred Trees. AST promotes health and wellbeing of people and planet through cultural change, tree protection and tree planting.
BA Hons, PGCE, Teacher and Artist, as well as healer, writer, historian, story teller, blessing giver, sound healer, forest guide and tree temple keeper. I am passionate about creativity, ecology and social justice.
The happiness and wellbeing of people and the planet have informed my career for nearly thirty years...
Nicole Van Zommeren
I grew up in Australia and after 15 years in the UK, I have recently returned to the wide spaces and endless skies.
A few years before leaving Australia on my round-the-world adventure, my father died after 6 months of fighting cancer. He was strong in body and mind, and he was determined to fight this illness, until the final few days when he surrendered and said goodbye to us.
Our family created a very memorable celebration of his life; we sang around his coffin at the funeral, just like we had in the hospital for the weeks and months he was ill; I hung the positive affirmation posters that had brightened his stark hospital walls on fabric for all to see at his wake. Little did I know that years later these experiences would form the cornerstone of my future work...
My name is Jo Nicoles and I operate Three Shires Independent Funeral Services based in Congleton Cheshire.
My father died when I was just 10 years old and my mother followed when I was only 29. Through seeing their funeral services first-hand, I felt there was something missing that made me think I could do it better. That was in 2004 and it made me determined that I could and should look to do this as a career path.
A friend’s father was a funeral director and I asked him for help. He gave me some work experience which I then used to acquire work with larger funeral homes. After 14 years of this... in 2018 I set up my own business and have taken pride in giving people the send-off they deserve, whilst offering the families the facilities, service, and value they need...
News and Information Blog
Dawn de Vivre, In Loving Memory On the day my beautiful friend Dawn De Vivre (formerly Dr Dawn Gibbins MBE) died, in the early hours I awoke to hear a bird singing extraordinarily loudly outside my window. As morning broke after her death, the day dawned bright and...
In loving remembrance of Dawn de Vivre, Last Wishes Live Your Legacy co-founder.
Planning my wedding I realised how similar to planning a funeral it is. Ideas for a family friendly perfect day.
Here is What our Community is Saying About Us
Jean leaves no stone unturned, no aspect unexplained – and I had no idea it would be such fun. Under her sensitive guidance and with her extensive knowledge of what is possible… Thank you Jean, for your inspired, humorous and down to earth approach to a subject that is so often considered taboo.
It was a wonderfully inspiring day, that taught me so much. I would recomend it to anyone. It was a real fun day. And at the end of it you come out with something of real value for your loved ones, when they will need it most… If you get the chance to… attend… !
It was an utter joy to meet you on Saturday and benefit from your knowledge and wisdom...
End-Of-Life Planning Courses & Workshops
Last Wishes provides face to face or online training that covers the importance of and options around planning the end of your life.
For peace of mind, for yourself and your loved ones, we've created easy to follow courses that take you by the hand to look at your end of life considerations. We help you understand the options available and the impact those choices have on your family, friends, community and the environment.
Last Wishes Tea Rooms
Our Last Wishes Tea Rooms are free community events in a safe space for anyone to talk about anything related to death and dying.
They provide support for anyone who would like to talk about anything coming up for them, or indeed any curiosity or end of life concern. Currently our Last Wishes Tea Rooms are online. With safe distancing measures anyone can join us by logging in from around the globe.