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Grim Reaper arrives at woman’s funeral as part of dying wish

The Grim Reaper at Mrs Taffs’ funeral service (Provided)
The Grim Reaper at Mrs Taffs’ funeral service (Provided)

With a Grim Reaper and a congregation of people dressed in white, those who saw Sharon Taffs’ funeral would be forgiven for thinking the ceremony resembled a Halloween party, not a memorial service.

But then not every knew the 68-year-old, who retained her sense of humour to the end of her life.

The eccentric mother-of-four decided she was going to plan her departure down to every last detail - including her funeral at Broad Street Green Chapel in Maldon in Essex.

The Grim Reaper attended Sharon Taffs funeral to honour her dying wish (Provided)
The Grim Reaper attended Sharon Taffs funeral to honour her dying wish (Provided)

Mrs Taffs, who died after breast cancer diagnosed in 2022 spread to her lungs, had a dying wish for the “Grim Reaper” to be at her funeral, and her daughter Louise Miller, 49, made it a reality.

Six months before her death on 7 December, the idea came up when Ms Taffs’ daughter’s best friend Kenny Rossington, 59, was discussing her funeral arrangements.

Kenny  stayed in role until the end of the service and made some guests jump (Provided)
Kenny stayed in role until the end of the service and made some guests jump (Provided)

Mr Rossington joked he would attend the service dressed as the “Grim Reaper” and announce to guests “you’re next”.

Ms Miller, from  Witham, Essex told the Independent: “Mum thought it was a really good idea.

Sharon and Louise were close and the daughter cared for her sick mother in her final days (Provided)
Sharon and Louise were close and the daughter cared for her sick mother in her final days (Provided)

“He played the part perfectly, he did not speak a single word and stood at the back of the church- he did make a few people jump but guests were forewarned.”

The masked robed figure boldly stood out against the backdrop of guests who were instructed to dress in white rather than black.

Grandson Connor, 31, Husband Tony, 59 and Grandson Asa, 23, dressed in white in memory of Sharon (Provides)
Grandson Connor, 31, Husband Tony, 59 and Grandson Asa, 23, dressed in white in memory of Sharon (Provides)

Before her illness, Sharon worked as a machine setter in a factory which made chairs and tables for schools. In a free time she had creative hobbies including sewing, painting, knitting and crochet.

She turned to Christianity later in life joining the church where her funeral was hosted, and took her death in a stride as she was sure she was going to meet Jesus when her time came to an end.

Sharon picking strawberries (Provided)
Sharon picking strawberries (Provided)
Sharon had lots of hobbies including sewing, painting, darts and cards (Provided)
Sharon had lots of hobbies including sewing, painting, darts and cards (Provided)

Mrs Taffs even opted to have her cremation before the service so her ashes could be on display at the front of the church.

Ms Miller said: “She was just an amazing person, when you think of funerals you think of sadness and people weeping. So many people said they really enjoyed it, people were footstomping to the lively music - it was the best funeral I’ve ever been to.”

Lively religious songs played throughout the funeral and Ms Taffs made another unusual request- to play Dominick the Italian Donkey, an Italian Christmas song, in honour of her close Italian friend Maria.

Sharon’s Act of Service for her ‘thanksgiving’ celebration (Provided)
Sharon’s Act of Service for her ‘thanksgiving’ celebration (Provided)

The chapel was filled souvenirs from Mrs Taff’s existence including sewing machines, dart boards, photographs, birthday cards and old school reports.

Guests then went to the local pub, the Heybridge Inn, where Ms Taffs played cards.

Ms Miller said: “It’s helped my grieving process because when I look back at her funeral I don’t remember it as a sad occasion, it makes me smile.”

Next in Mrs Taffs’ dying request is that her grandson’s and husband, Tony Taffs, 59, scatter her ashes off Ben Nevis.