Belfast mum Jennifer Nicholl kept cancer from daughters until days before death
Tributes have been paid to a well-known north Belfast mum who has passed away after a battle with cancer.
Jennifer Nicholl (54) from Newtownabbey died peacefully on Saturday morning surrounded by her loved ones in Belfast's Mater Hospital.
She had been suffering from liver cancer but had kept her illness a secret from her family.
Her daughters Alice (25), a dentist, and Connie (21), a veterinary student, only learned of their mother's illness a few days before her death.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Connie said she had lost "the greatest woman I've ever known" and "the light of my life".
She added: "Mum went into hospital only last Monday and that's when we first found out about her illness.
"In a way we are glad that she kept it from us, as it would have been terrible if she had been unwell for a very long time.
"She just didn't want anyone to pity her or see her sick".
Alice added: "Connie is at university in Grenada in the West Indies and I've just started working in England, so mum didn't want us to put our lives on hold to worry about her. She was very much focused on us both following our dreams and being successful.
"Everything she did, she did for the two of us. We're just relieved that she is at peace now and in a better place."
Jennifer grew up in Carnmoney and attended Cliftonville Primary School and Belfast Royal Academy.
She initially worked as a dental nurse and later became a child chaperone for various film and TV studios and Belfast's Grand Opera House.
She also volunteered with a number of charities, including the Royal British Legion.
A quiet cremation service for Jennifer will be held today while Alice and Connie plan to travel to the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan to scatter her ashes at a later date.
Alice said: "Mum was so selfless and caring. She was always laughing and had a smile on her face.
"In typical fashion, she always said she didn't want a funeral, but instead wanted her body to be 'left in a forest and eaten by foxes'.
"Unfortunately, she was also aware this was illegal and so agreed to settle for a quiet cremation with her ashes being scattered in the Wadi Rum desert," Alice added.
"Mum and I travelled there last year and she absolutely loved it. She told me at the time that she thought it would be a lovely place to scatter her ashes. Anywhere hot and sunny is where she loved to be, as travelling was one of her great passions."
"She also didn't want a big, sad funeral service, but instead for people to honour her memory by getting together, having a drink, reminiscing about funny moments they had with her and playing some David Bowie tracks, as he was her favourite artist.
"She will be missed by so many people but we know she will still be with us as we go on."
The Nicholl family have requested that donations in lieu of flowers in Jennifer's memory be made to charities close to her heart, the Simon Community, Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary in Antrim or Barnardo's, c/o Wray's Funeral Directors, 558-564 Shore Road, Belfast, BT15 4HE.