Dawn Thewlis: We only have one life - enjoy it

Dawn Thewlis. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
Dawn Thewlis. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
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Dawn Thewlis was a mother aged 16. Almost forty years later she works as a Humanist funeral celebrant. JAYNE DAWSON reports.

Dawn Thewlis, 53, lives with her partner Dave and her grandson Scott,16. She has been married twice and her only son, Asa, died at the age of 26.

My first job was in a bakery shop. I saw it advertised in the shop window and started the next day straight from school.

The best advice I have ever received is to learn to say no. It used to be out of my vocabulary, I did everything for everybody.

I lost my son Asa in 2002. He died suddenly. I am not the person I was before he died, and I never will be. I have had to accept that.

When Asa was old enough I went to college and eventually I worked in sales and marketing. I was good at it, but I became unhappy with it.

My second marriage broke up after Asa died and eventually I met Dave. Instead of marrying, we exchanged promise rings, we wanted something personal and meaningful.

We are both cancer survivors. After my cancer, I couldn’t get a job. I had had a humanist funeral for Asa and I had always had it in mind that I would like to be a celebrant for them so I thought why wait? I trained but never expected it to become my full time job, but it quickly did.

I am always touched by the grief of the families I meet, but I remain calm and dependable for them. I was taught what to ask and how to ask it, and I try to tell the life story of the person who has died, what they achieved, what made them smile and who loved them. Sometimes I have to be diplomatic because people will tell you surprising things.

People are kind, they give me flowers and gifts and send letters. I have kept them all. I charge £165 but I suppose about ten hours work goes into each funeral, but I am not materialistic and this job is not about earning a lot of money.

My guilty pleasure is a glass of stout. Other people fancy a lovely glass of champagne, I want stout. I discovered it a year ago and I have been hooked ever since.

I can’t stand men who wear suit jackets with jeans. It’s a Jeremy Clarkson thing, and it is just wrong. And if I am being serious, arrogance and greed are my pet hates.

I would most like to meet Bob Marley, I was heartbroken when he died. I was a little bit in love with him as well as his music.

My ideal weekend would involve a lazy Sunday, a meal and drinks. I have been a vegetarian since I was 26, when I saw the inside of a slaughterhouse and that put me off for life.

My advice to that poor little girl who was my teenage self would be to always be yourself and don’t allow others to change you. I am the eldest of three, but at that time I felt very much alone.

I have a Facebook account because it is a good way of keeping in touch but the Comment and Compliment brigade drive me mad - people who are forever posting pictures of themselves and seeking a reaction.

My philosophy of life is that we only have one life so we should make the most of it and try to enjoy it. As a humanist I do not believe in God.

I couldn’t live without my Sat Nav because I have no sense of direction whatsoever. I never get angry with other drivers though because I know it is easy to make a mistake.

My most embarrassing moment happened when I got into difficulties in a swimming pool. A young male lifeguard fished me out and eventually I realised he looked ill at ease, which is when I discovered my bikini top was round my waist.

I love jokes - but within a minute of finishing laughing I can’t remember them. A friend told me three yesterday, especially for this article, but they have all gone.

It might surprise people to know that I was once chased down the street by a mounted policeman. It was in my animal rights days. Eventually I fell over and I was so scared I started laughing.

My childhood wasn’t great. We were poor and I was the scruffy, ginger kid at school. I was born in Batley and brought up in Wakefield. Eventually, I turned out to be good at netball so it got a little bit easier.

My first kiss was in the lift at the Market House In Wakefield with a boy who just leaned over and kissed me without warning. I was very shocked. We bought sweets and then he walked me to the bus station.

My first record was Let’s Dance by Chris Montez, from Boots in Wakefield.

I like Leeds because it has a good, vibrant atmosphere and lots of bars and restuarants - and I love Friends of Ham.

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