Country music lover plans own sendoff

MAN IN BLACK: Len Cosford has made sure his country music hero Johnny Cash will play a leading role at his funeral.
MAN IN BLACK: Len Cosford has made sure his country music hero Johnny Cash will play a leading role at his funeral.

Len Cosford has his funeral planned down to the finest details - and he's going out in style.

The Hamilton country music fan, aged 67, was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in May and given six months to live.

He's outlived the prognosis and, in his own words: "I haven't got time to die".

So, to focus on living, he's organised his funeral, partly so his loved ones don't have to, and because he wanted to do it his way.

It will have a country music theme and Mr Cosford will be dressed in his black Johnny Cash coat and Johnny Cash boots.

His casket, which has already been custom built, is jet black and lined with blue country denim on the inside.

A single red rose will sit on top.

At traditional funerals "you get all the hallelujahs", he said, so he's taken care of the soundtrack, too.

"I've always liked Johnny Cash and I would like to go out with the theme, I Walk the Line.

"So that is going to be my final song going out of the church."

The lyrics are fitting. "I keep a close watch on this heart of mine," Cash sings. "I keep my eyes wide open all the time."

Despite his terminal illness, it would be hard to find anyone more alive than Mr Cosford.

He's at peace with his lot in life and chose to share his story in the hope that others will find the strength to remain optimistic in hard times.

"I always work on the theory - keep the chin up. It's so easy to turn up the toes and say, ‘Oh well, I'm going to die'. You're better to say ‘I'm going to live'.

"I've got a wicked sense of humour and over the years I've got myself into so much trouble. "With me a spade is a spade, not a shovel. And that's the way I go through life."

It's that sense of humour that has helped him through some difficult times.

When he chose the plot where his ashes will be buried, he told friends he had invested in some real estate.

"It's prime land, it's got beautiful surroundings and we're not going to have any hassles with the neighbours because they're really quiet," he said.

"We've got our own gardener and we get our lawns mowed."

When his friends asked where, he replied: "Newstead Cemetery".

He doesn't know how much longer he has left but said that in the meantime, "I've got so many people to cheese off".

"Who's saying I might be here another 12 months, I might be here another five years. I don't know.

Pointing to the sky, he said: "He [God] won't take me until he's got a bed out there and he's not going to leave me out on the street up there, or down there, or wherever I'm going."

A headrest cover on his armchair reads "Man in Black" on one side and "A Friend of Johnny Cash" on the other.

One thing Mr Cosford is sure of - he's going where Johnny is.

Waikato Times