The New Year brought me a funeral per week, perhaps not unusual for a priest, perhaps not unusual for the time of year. Too much loss can feel overwhelming and leave you feeling winded. The four people who died were all much-loved, faithful, church-going people who left directions or suggestions for their funerals, making them an affirmation of their faith.
Often it’s at funerals or memorial services that we discover how much a person has done in their life; we’re left wishing we’d spent more time with them, given them more attention. What we didn’t know about them may indicate their humility. (I didn’t know that Z was a titled ‘Lady’ until I saw her service sheet!)
These four people had all accepted the fact of their approaching death, something we all have to work towards. Their understandings of an ‘afterlife’ may have differed but their Christian faith gave them an assurance of it.
Nowadays funerals are most often truly joyful celebrations of life; we are left feeling grateful and privileged that we have been touched by those lives. Our tears are often for ourselves in our own loss(es). It’s wonderful when we are given an example of a life well-lived and of a faith that has weathered the storms. That can only be an encouragement to us.
Last Sunday the Church celebrated Candlemas (Luke 2: 22-38). It’s a poignant story as two of the central characters are elderly; Simeon assumed to be so and Anna aged 84. Both have great expectations, believing that God will show them salvation and redemption before they die. This is fulfilled when they encounter the Christ child. The poet Ann Lewin writes:
‘For once old people
Had the best lines.
Space and time for patient
Prayerful growth to
Positive senior moments!
Revd Colin Midlane