A BRITISH woman's funeral in Cómpeta (Málaga) on the day of her 80th birthday had a bizarre twist – the 'deceased' was not dead.
“I am very happy – thank you for coming to my funeral, but I am sorry to tell you that I am still alive, and that it was all a joke,” said Eileen Bush.
She said she had deliberately organised her 80th birthday party as though it were her funeral, because she wanted to be there to hear the 'lovely things' people would say about her if it really had been her last rites.
And this unusual 'celebration' was partly driven by the fact that Mrs Bush did not expect to live beyond about the age of 50.
“She's completely mad – she's always been a person who's had a lot of health problems, since she was very young, and she never thought she'd even make it to 50, but Eileen is very lively, happy and optimistic,” says friend Natalie Brooks, who helped organise the 'funeral' and has accompanied the birthday girl to hospital on many occasions for appointments.
“Eileen could go on for another 15 years, because she's only really got the usual age-related health problems.”
A hearse, wreaths and even a coffin were included as part of the 'props' to make the 'living funeral' authentic, and this rather unconventional birthday party attracted television camera crew from all over the country.
Some of Eileen's favourite songs were played live by local singer Barry Marx, and dinner of vegetable soup, spicy loin of pork, grilled sole and fondant tart with English-style cupcakes were served, and plenty of sangría with fruit to wash it all down with.
“It's a very original idea, but I can't imagine myself organising anything like this, said Eileen's friend Pat Hampshire, 82, and her husband Ron, 83, said, “in England we see funerals differently – they're a celebration of the person's life.”
Eileen's husband Michael, with whom she moved to Cómpeta nine years ago, and the couple's 49-year-old son Hayden, were at the party.
“Michael and I came on holiday 10 years ago to this same hotel and immediately fell in love with the countryside and the views,” Eileen reveals.
“After a bit, we bought a piece of land and built a house on it, and we still live there, enjoying every minute of life and of this miracle of my reaching 80 years of age.”
She had spent nearly a year planning her 'funeral', which included 64 guests at eight tables, each of which was given the name of one of the towns Eileen had lived in over the course of her life.
“I didn't want to wait until I was dead for people to say how they really felt I'd touched their lives – I wanted to be there to hear what they'd say at my real funeral, and to be able to thank them personally for their love and kindness,” Eileen confessed.
Nearly half of Cómpeta's population of 4,000 inhabitants are foreign, and the majority of non-Spanish residents are British.
Photograph: Eileen Bush, 80, and her husband Michael, who have lived in Cómpeta for nine years