Designer Alexander McQueen was once asked to name his “most terrifying fear.” He faced the questioner – his beloved mom Joyce – and told her straight: “Dying before you.”
Poignantly for McQueen that particular fear – voiced in a special piece for The Guardian newspaper – didn’t come true.
But a different, painful fear did: Facing life without Joyce after her death 10 days ago. McQueen died Thursday, the day before he and his family were set to mark his mom’s life. Even in the wake of the designer’s shocking death at age 40, his mother’s funeral went on as scheduled Friday afternoon at a cemetery in east London, PEOPLE confirmed.
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McQueen’s brother Michael, 49, told The Evening Standard the family is coping the best they can. “It is just so raw. We are grieving. Everyone is too upset to say anything. But mum’s funeral is going ahead,” he said. “It has all been arranged.”
Mother and Son’s Bond
As his family gathered at a detached home in the east London suburb of Hornchurch, friends and commentators spoke about the special bond that McQueen held with the woman who accompanied him to Buckingham Palace in 2003 when he was honored by Queen Elizabeth.
Fashion consultant Alice Smith told reporters outside his home where he was found early Thursday, “He loved his mum, going to her having tea and biscuits on the sofa.”
And leading fashion writer Hilary Alexander of The Daily Telegraph wrote, “When his adored mother, Joyce, died, leaving him so desolate that, it seems, he could not face the future.”
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Armstrong added that Joyce was one of three important women in his life who he had lost. He was crushed when his mentor, the stylist Isabella Blow, committed suicide in 2007, while another important woman in his life, his Aunt Dolly, passed away last year. Insiders say Dolly had been a fixture at his shows until her death last year.
As the windows in his store in London’s upmarket Bond Street were blacked out on Thursday evening, his friend Smith clutched some flowers. “He was very fragile and sweet and he had a wicked sense of humor but because of that people thought he was aggressive,” she said. “He was the best designer in the world. I saw him a couple of months ago last time.”
Reports say that McQueen, hanged himself but police at Scotland Yard will not confirm this. They tell PEOPLE his autopsy will take place on Monday in Westminster, London. Funeral details have not yet been released.
• With reporting by MONIQUE JESSEN and DIMI GAIDATZI