“Nagging and grumpy” – how Lizbeth raised a smile by writing her own death notice


A TERMINAL cancer patient decided to have a laugh from beyond the grave  – by writing her own death notice branding herself “nagging”.

Courageous mother of one Elizabeth Duncan – who died earlier this month aged 59 –  also posthumously described herself as “demanding” and “grumpy”.

Elizabeth’s husband, David, 53, said it was typical of his late wife always to look for the humour in a bad situation.

The clerical assistant, from Stockbridge, Edinburgh, died on March 13 after a long and gruelling battle with the disease.

Lizbeth, as she was known to friends, could always find the humour in a bad situation
Lizbeth, as she was known to friends, could always find the humour in a bad situation


Known as Lizbeth to friends and colleagues, she also wrote a moving poem from her hospital death bed which was read at her funeral.

Her self-penned death notice read: “Blissfully, on Wednesday March 13, at St Columba’s Hospice, Edinburgh, Lizbeth demanding and grumpy wide of David, and nagging mother to Iain. The silence will be deafening.”

David, an engineering inspector, said: “Lizbeth was always looking for the humour in any situation.

“When people came to the hospital it would often be them who left feeling cheered up.

“I laughed when she showed me the notice and said ‘but you know I don’t think of you like that’, she said she still thought it was funny.”

He added: “We also let our son, Iain, who is 20, see it. I was a little concerned that some people may take it the wrong way, but everyone seems to have taken it in the spirit intended.

“She always wanted to look after everyone else. She made sure she had everything in order before she died and was even very involved in arranging her own funeral.”

David said the notice summed up his wife’s sense of humour well.

He added: “She was a very talented poet and also loved motorbiking.

Husband David: "She wanted to look after everyone...she organised her own funeral."
Husband David: “She wanted to look after everyone…she organised her own funeral.”


“One day in the late 70s she apparently left the bike in St Andrew Square and got a ticket. She felt it was undeserved so wrote a funny poem explaining why to the then assistant chief constable. To her amazement, he wrote her a poem back and did cancel it.”

Lizbeth was born in Glasgow in 1954 and moved to Edinburgh to attend James Gillespie’s School.

She met David, who grew up in Zimbabwe, when he was visiting the Capital en route to America in the 1980s.

She loved her local community and organised local Girl Guides, Scouts and Beaver groups.

Lizbeth worked as a clerical assistant at Flora Stevenson Primary School until she was admitted to hospital in 2011, where she was diagnosed with Ovarian and peritoneal cancer.

Despite her devastating diagnosis, Elizabeth raised £1,500 two months later, for Red Dot charity radio station at the Western General by having her head shaved.

Speaking at the time, she joked: “It feels great, and I wish that I’d let my hairdresser have his way with me sooner.”

Last summer, after being told she could only be offered palliative care, Lizbeth renewed her vows to husband David on a Norwegian cruise.

David said: “I remember asking her if she was frightened of dying. She immediately said ‘no’, she was going on a new adventure to somewhere she’d never been before. That’s how she was, she would never shrink in the face of a challenge.”

On her hospital bed, Lizbeth wrote a moving poem called Somewhere Else, that was read out at her funeral.

Reverend John Combe, who conducted the Warriston Crematorium service, said: “The first time I met her she was wearing a hat – she removed her hat to show was completely bald. She then produced a wig. I was so surprised – so many women in her situation would have never let anyone see them like that.

“But that’s the kind of person she was – a unique lady.”