Last month I wrote about my father’s final prolonged illness and death - and the support I’ve found in our parish. Sadly sickness and bereavement are an ongoing part of pastoral life - or rather they are part of life, not something to be hidden away but taken together with life’s richness and its causes for thankfulness.
In September our congregation has had cause to mourn - first the death of Jean Burt, then Irvine Macnair, and (as we go to press) Olive Booth. These are real causes for sorrow and we share their families’ sense of loss. Each of them had been ill for a long time before they died. We have to acknowledge the reality of suffering.
But with it goes thankfulness too. Bereavement brings grief - but it’s important not to let go of all that is a cause for gratitude in the lives of our loved ones. As I stood by Olive’s bedside just a couple of days before she died, I was struck by the memory of how she had gone with me to sit by the bedside of another parishioner month by month as we had shared in Holy Communion - and how that went along with healthy doses of laughter enriched by her particular sense of humour. So much she had brought into the lives of other through the long years of her life - we mustn’t let it go when our loved ones need all our care and caring, and seem to recede from us.
So too with Irvine. The last time I spent with him was not only a time for prayer but an occasion for a quick check on the practicalities of getting the Parish Magazine distributed! We know how much he brought into the life of our church from being Treasurer to mowing the grass through organising after-church coffee - and much more, but above all by being there. His life in the community touched so many - professional work as an anaesthetist but also voluntary work for hospital and hospice, enjoyment of music with the Gramophone Society - or just being out and about with the dogs! Most of us knew less about his army service, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel; that he had his “wings” as someone who could parachute in to give aid as needed - or his gift for improvising in the field.
At a funeral I’m always aware there’s so much more we could say. We need to be in touch with the richness of life - and that includes our own. When things seem bleak, we need to recognise the cause for gratitude. Then we might see life as a gift - and the Giver is God.
From the October issue of our Parish Magazine - find all its content here