I made her coffin..now I’m building bird tables for Elaine

Peter Donaldson, who is making bird tables to raise money for the Marie Curie Hospice, where his wife Elaine died.
Peter Donaldson, who is making bird tables to raise money for the Marie Curie Hospice, where his wife Elaine died.
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SHE planned her funeral, asked her cabinet-maker husband to build her coffin, and even wrote birthday cards for her young son ahead of the special occasions she knew she would miss.

Despite passing away two years ago, Elaine Donaldson is still leaving her mark on her family and others who are battling the illness that killed her.

Now her husband Peter is giving something back to the hospice where she spent her final days.

Mr Donaldson, who owns Donaldson Woodwork, will tomorrow sell bespoke bird tables at a fundraising event for the city’s Marie Curie Hospice.

The 40-year-old said: “It’s nice to give something back and I’ve really enjoyed making the bird tables.

“My wife spent eight weeks in the hospice, even though the average time people spend there is between three and five days.

“Elaine was young and actually very fit, despite being terminally ill.

“She had a very strong heart and the doctors said she wasn’t supposed to still be here, but she was.”

Mrs Donaldson was only 40 when she lost her fight with renal cancer. Because she had known for a while she was terminally ill, she ensured she was involved in planning her funeral and making arrangements for her son’s future, including writing out cards for his special birthdays, including his 16th, 18th and 21st.

She asked her husband to make her coffin and chose the design she wanted in ivory – the same colour as her wedding dress.

She picked out exactly where her ashes would be buried, in Inveresk Cemetery, and planned what music would be played at her funeral.

Mr Donaldson, from The Braids, said: “We ended up making the coffin for her to her exact design and it was lovely. We made the box for the ashes too.

“She was very organised and wrote Mark’s birthday cards out for the poignant ones.

“We’re still finding little messages she left for us, which can be nice but also very hard.”

Mr Donaldson will be taking his prototype bird table along to the hospice’s Christmas fair tomorrow at Frogston Road West, which starts at 10am, and will make the items to order.

Made from reclaimed timber in varying styles, he hopes to sell them for between £40 and £50 each to raise as much as he can for the centre.

Along with his 14-year-old son Mark, he will also help with Marie Curie’s summer fundraising event by running the raffle. Each year the pair supply a giant six-litre bottle of Mrs Donaldson’s favourite Lanson Black label champagne for the event.

Mr Donaldson admitted he did not know much about the Marie Curie Hospice until his wife was admitted. He said: “Having to prepare for your death must be the hardest thing you ever have to do.”