Deborah James funeral: Coffin of cancer campaigner carried by her husband and son as loved ones say goodbye

·3-min read
Deborah James funeral: Coffin of cancer campaigner carried by her husband and son as loved ones say goodbye

The coffin of Dame Deborah James was carried by loved ones into the church at her funeral in west London.

Dame Deborah’s husband Sebastien and son Hugo were among those who carried the wicker coffin, adorned with the rose that bears her name, into St Mary’s Church in Barnes on Wednesday afternoon as close friends and family gathered to bid farewell to the inspirational cancer campaigner.

The podcast host and mother of two, who became known as Bowelbabe, her social media handle, died last month aged 40 after being diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016.

Dame Deborah James Funeral

Her coffin arrived in a vintage Rolls-Royce hearse as more than a dozen members of family walked in procession behind.

The family, all dressed in black, were greeted by the reverend of the Anglican church before making their way inside.

Her brother Benjamin paid tribute online to his “big sis” before the funeral.

He said: “Big sis, Debs. Thank you for teaching me how to live life to the full since the day I was born — you made me find that life worth enjoying!

“Saying bye is never going to be easy, but knowing you achieved more than any of us could ever dream of…and so, so much more…makes it that little bit more bearable.

“Your legacy will go on forever and we’ll do our very best to make you proud.“Take it easy up there. Here’s to you x.”

Earlier this year, Dame Deborah had a rose named in her honour, and it went on display at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Ahead of the private service, family members carried a wreath of white flowers into the church.

An attached note said: “Deborah, thank you to our extraordinary friend. You together with Seb, Eloise and Hugo are such an important part of our family, we will love and miss you forever.”

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

The church bells chimed at 12.30pm ahead of the service, which began at 1pm and is featuring readings and music from relatives.

Lorraine Kelly, Gaby Roslin, McFly star Tom Fletcher and his podcaster wife Giovanna were among the attendees

Husband Sebastien delivered a eulogy while their children Hugo and Eloise both read poems.

Family friend and classically trained jazz singer Natalie Rushdie, who is married to novelist Salman Rushdie’s son Zafar, sang Tell Me It’s Not True from the musical Blood Brothers.

Deborah James aka the Bowel Babe

Cellist Charles Watt played music from Gabriel Faure, while family friend Sarah Mountford read an extract from Ecclesiastes.

After the service, the family left the church with bowed heads for a private wake, while Dame Deborah’s coffin was carried away by car.The Rev David Cooke stood at the gates to wish the mourners farewell.

Dame Deborah, a former deputy headteacher, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016 and subsequently kept her nearly one million Instagram followers up to date with her treatments.

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

Her candid posts about her progress and diagnosis, including videos of her dancing her way through treatment, won praise from the public and media alike.

Dame Deborah revealed in early May that she had stopped active treatment and was seeing out her final days at her parents’ home in Woking, Surrey.

 (@bowelbabe / Twitter)
(@bowelbabe / Twitter)

She received end-of-life care with her husband, Sebastien, and their two children, 14-year-old Hugo and 12-year-old Eloise, by her side.

In her final months, the presenter of the BBC podcast You, Me And The Big C raised almost £7 million for cancer research, with the amount climbing further following her death.

She was made a dame for her “tireless” work improving awareness of the disease, with the honour conferred by the Duke of Cambridge, who joined her family for afternoon tea and champagne at home.

Her death was announced on June 28 with a message saying she had died peacefully, surrounded by her family.

William and Kate, charities, celebrities and many whose lives have been affected by cancer shared tributes.

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