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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 April 2004, 21:23 GMT 22:23 UK
'Music and laughter' for Keating
By Caroline Briggs
BBC News Online in Kent

For a woman who believed in guardian angels, her funeral was a fitting ending to a "short, but complete" life.

Warm spring sunshine shone down on the family and friends of Caron Keating who congregated in the tiny Kent hamlet of Hever to celebrate her life on Tuesday.

Keating was laid to rest a week after losing her seven-year battle with breast cancer.

The order of service lies within a floral tribute outside the church
Caron Keating's funeral was held at the same church as her wedding

The mourners, lead by her mother Gloria Hunniford, included former colleagues of the television presenter and celebrities who had become close friends with the "charming and inspirational" Keating.

Sir Cliff Richard, Cilla Black, Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan joined presenters Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, Peter Duncan, Anthea Turner and John Leslie to pay their respects.

Keating's coffin, swathed in cream flowers and draping foliage, was carried into the 12th Century church to the haunting strains of a Tibetan mantra.

As the spring sunlight dappled the pretty churchyard, members of the public who had gathered outside bowed their heads in hushed respect as the silent procession passed.

'Bewitchingly beautiful'

Garlands of roses, vibrant bouquets of gerberas and a simple posy of yellow primroses, lay among the scores of floral tributes that lined the short path to St Peter's Church.

A bouquet from Madeley and Finnigan read: "Good night, sweet Caron and may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. With all our love in the world".

Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan
Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan were close friends of Keating's
Madeley, who was a close friend of Keating's, helped her brothers Paul and Michael, her step-father Stephen, and two friends, carry her coffin into the church for the two-and-a-half hour service - which had been scheduled to last just 40 minutes.

The whole service, complete with music and laughter, was relayed to the churchyard outside through loud speakers, broken only by the singing of the birds.

Among the speakers was Russ Lindsay, Keating's husband of almost 13 years, who paid tribute to his "bewitchingly beautiful" wife, describing her as a "wonderful, brave and courageous".

His voice cracked with emotion as he described their "idyllic" life together and the "special" moments they shared during her final hours as they drove across Europe so she could die at her mother's home in Sevenoaks.

He said: "It was a beautiful amount of time that I was able to spend with her. It was just right that we could spend that day together."

Lindsay repeated the words of their close friends, Madeley and Finnegan, who told him he was not to think of his wife as a life cut short, but a life completely lived.

You always did believe in angels and now you are one of God's brightest and most beautiful
Gloria Hunniford

He also spoke of his pride at the bravery of their two sons, Charlie, nine, and Gabriel, seven, during Keating's final moments, saying: "The way that they held her hand and kissed her is a memory that I will keep with me forever."

The congregation broke into a spontaneous applause after his speech and the voice of Van Morrison resonated around the churchyard with Have I Told You Lately That I Love You.

The song was the first Keating and Lindsay's danced to after they were married at the same church in 1991.

Live music during the ceremony also came from Keating's friends Miten and Deva Premal and Sir Cliff Richard, who sang Miss You Nights.

Open letters from Keating's brothers, who spoke of their love for their sister, were read out by family friends Roy Heayberd and John Comerford.

Mr Comerford, who knew Keating from her student days at Bristol University, remembered her as the girl who wore "Doc Marten boots with a pink tutu" and still looked sophisticated.

Keating's coffin being carried into church
Keating's coffin was swathed in flowers
The sun continued to shine on the cherry-blossomed churchyard as the congregation filed out of the service and made the short walk up to Hever Castle for Keating's wake.

Presenter Philip Schofield said of the service: "There were a lot of laughs and Caron would have loved that... never in my life have I seen anything like it."

Close family and friends held a private burial in a quiet corner of the churchyard before heading to the castle where Keating and Lindsay held their wedding reception 13 years ago.

During the funeral, Lindsay had read out a heartfelt letter penned by Hunniford, in which she spoke of her "spirited and caring" daughter, who had left her with "millions of exquisite thoughts and memories".

She said: "You always did believe in angels and now you are one of God's brightest and most beautiful.

"So fly freely, my darling Caron, in your release from pain and know that every second I will carry you in my heart."



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