A Salute to an Old Friend
One of my work colleagues died a couple of weeks ago after a short battle with a brain tumour. He was only 63. His funeral was on Thursday and was surprising conducted by his son Alex. Alex is not a celebrant or trained in any way for this sort of thing, but it was a very moving experience. Peter was an individual with very different ideas to me. We worked together, in fact job shared for a number of years when my boys were small. He was everything that I wasn’t which led to many heated discussions in the lab we shared. Yet as time went on we both mellowed, started to see the other person’s point of view and became friends.
I visited him as he was slowly deteriorating, and I was overwhelmed by the love and care his children were providing. His daughter had come back from the UK with her two young children to look after him, while his son and other daughter did as much as they could. Together with Peter’s mother who is still alive, they never left him alone or without company throughout the last months of his life.
The funeral was unique in that it never mentioned God, Jesus, or an afterlife. In fact there were no religious overtones whatsoever. There was love, laughter, a slide show, a limerick and a recognition that Peter tried very hard to make a difference in peoples lives. Even with a divorce and some separation from his children, he seems to have achieved what he set out to do.
As a person of faith I didn’t actually miss a lot of the supernatural, slightly weird stuff that can be found in many funeral services. I have helped take some myself and often feel uncomfortable with what is expected and do not go down that path. In the end however I do believe there is a divine presence in the whole of creation underpinning life, including our own. This presence is revealed in the love we show, the forgiveness we display, the compassion we feel and the joy we share. We see it revealed in Peter’s life and those around him. And I believe it is a presence he will be forever connected to.
While Peter would probably laugh at what I have just written, or we could have a bit of a heated discussion about it, maybe Rob Bell has it right when he says of our lives….
We are both large and small,
Strong and weak,
Formidable and faint,
Reflecting the image of the divine,
And formed from dust
Perhaps that’s something we could agree on!