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Campervan hearse and stars ease grief at funeral of teen
IT WAS a white Volkswagen Camper Van rather than the traditional hearse that carried tragic schoolgirl Martha Fernback to her funeral.
The van just seemed more apt for her mother Anne-Marie Cockburn, given that the last time she saw her 15-year-old daughter was at the end of a trip to the seaside at Sandbanks in Dorset, the day before Martha collapsed in Oxford’s Hinksey Park and died in July.
It was one of several touches – including a wicker casket with wild flowers and moss and silver stars poured into her grave as Disney’s When You Wish Upon A Star played – that Miss Cockburn wanted to say farewell to her only child with.
Sixty people attended the funeral on Wednesday, with about 90 at a tea party afterwards.
Last night Miss Cockburn, who lives in North Oxford, said: “I was dreading (her funeral) and I have thought about nothing else for weeks but I felt very peaceful. Everyone was very surprised just how beautiful all the little touches were.
“Hearses fill me with foreboding, especially for a teenager who lived her life in the way Martha did.
“When I saw the VW Camper Van, instead of feeling distressed that my child is in the back in a coffin, it was able to introduce a bit of light and humour into that difficult moment.
“The day before she died we went to Sandbanks and it was the perfect day on the beach. It was idyllic and we got home at 10pm that night – which was the last time I saw her. That was a very important day to me.”
Martha was buried during a humanist ceremony in a wicker coffin that was covered in moss, blackberries, daisies, wild grasses and small pink roses to capture her love of the outdoors.
Miss Cockburn also decided to have the Disney song playing after finding it starred as a favourite in Martha’s Spotify account, with mourners able to pour silver stars into the grave.
She added: “It was a beautiful sunny day so the stars glistened as they went into her grave.
“You can find false hope in things or a little bit of comfort in pieces of nature. I have found nature to be comforting over the past seven weeks and this was just a homage to that little bit of symbolism.”
Videos, photo montages and all the cards and tributes left in Hinksey Park by Martha’s friends were placed in a memory room at the party at Wytham Village Hall.
Miss Cockburn said: “I feel there was a sense of relief that she’s at peace for the first time since she died.
“It was a very honourable day and she was surrounded by everyone who loved her.”
Martha, a pupil at The Cherwell School, collapsed in Hinksey Park, South Oxford, on July 20 and died at the John Radcliffe Hospital.
Police are still investigating the death and said Martha took a pill that she believed was MDMA before her death. A 17-year-old boy arrested following her death remains on police bail.
Miss Cockburn is also planning to hold a concert in celebration of Martha’s life.
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