Fond farewell to Lynda Bellingham
Well-wishers gathered at a thanksgiving service to say farewell to their friend - the actress Lynda Bellingham.
Much laughter rang out in St Stephen's Church, in the heart of the City of London, during the service which had been meticulously planned by the actress before she died in October.
Lynda, 66, probably best known for her role as the mother in the Oxo TV adverts and as a Loose Women presenter, had chosen the venue as it is where she worshipped and where she married her husband Michael Pattemore.
He arrived at the service dressed in a bold blue suit, flanked by her sons Mike and Robbie.
Actors Christopher Biggins and Lesley Joseph, who read a poem Lynda had written to her husband called Remember, were among the guests.
Actors Sylvia Syms, Amanda Redman, Patricia Hodge and novelist Lynda La Plante were also among those who came to say a fond farewell.
One of the few tearful moments in the service was when Mr Pattemore told the 300-strong congregation that he clearly remembers his wedding day when "my heart was bursting with happiness and now we are here again and my heart is bursting with sadness".
He fought back tears and added: "It breaks my heart that the one thing I could not protect her from was this disease called cancer."
To warm applause Gyles Brandreth told the congregation "love, laughter and friendship, those are the gifts Lynda gave us. Haven't we been blessed?"
Lynda had colon cancer which later spread to her lungs and liver.
She died in the arms of her husband at a London hospital.
In her last few weeks, she spoke openly about her illness and its effect on her family.
She had been diagnosed last July but in late September disclosed that she had decided to end her treatment to limit the amount of suffering her family would witness.
She was remembered as a thoughtful, maternal, generous and fabulous woman who was also a natural clown.
To more laughter Mr Brandreth also insisted that she could also dance no matter what the judges on the TV show Strictly Come Dancing said.
He spoke of Lynda's career, which spanned TV and stage including Shakespeare, Calendar Girls, the sitcom Faith In The Future, All Creatures Great And Small and "16 years on the Oxo gravy train".
Despite her successful comedy roles, it should not forgotten that Lynda was a good actress and writer, he claimed.
"Her control and artistry would take your breath away," he said.
He jokingly described the bubbly actress as "so sexy that even gay men fancied her, and she fancied them too".
Mr Brandreth added: "She fancied Biggins - I think that is why Michael has come in one of Biggins's cast-offs.
"She showed us how to live and then how to die with such grace and kindness."
Her book - There's Something I've Been Dying to Tell You - discussed her illness in detail and spent weeks at the top of the best-seller lists.
Christopher Biggins said that the laughter is the thing that he would always remember about her.
He said: "She would have loved this full house and would have loved the laughter we have had. God bless you Lynda. We love you."
Peter Delaney, who conducted the service which was joking dubbed as the second meeting of the Lynda Bellingham Appreciation Society after her funeral, noted that she had handpicked the details of how the event was to play out.
He joked: "The contents of this service are Lynda's wishes because she planned her farewells. She was not a control freak but she like to know what was going on."
Lynda's charity work was recalled and there was also a call to help the oncologist who treated her.
Through the order of service the actress's family asked for donations to be made to Action Against Cancer "so the wonderful Professor Justin Stebbing, who we both admired and loved, may carry on his great work".
The tune There's No Business Like Showbusiness brought smiles to those who had come to pay their respects as it was piped out over the organ and brought the service to an end.
Friends from the world of showbusiness paid tribute to Lynda after the service.
Patricia Hodge described Lynda as "a real zonker of a tonic", adding that "she was a real vibrant presence and just lit up the room".
She said the star appealed to everybody of any age and made you feel important and now "she leaves a very very big space behind".
Amanda Redman said: "Lynda was such an extraordinary person. She truly was one of the most generous people I have ever met. She was incredibly kind, incredibly compassionate and had time for everyone, but also she was very wicked and naughty, which also appealed to me."
Christopher Biggins said he would remember her with "affection, love, gratitude, humour, laughter and everything". He had feared the thanksgiving service would not live up to the warm send-off that Lynda had been given at her funeral, but he said: "Today was really special and it is a tribute to her because she was so special. Everybody spoke from the heart and it was marvellous."