This was only the sixth funeral I've done, and was for my husband's uncle. I felt some anxiety about doing it but also worried that nobody else would know the family like I do. I'm not very good at doing practical things for people, but this is one thing that I can offer to people whom I love. There were added complications due to some difficulties between some members of the family.
Auntie G chose the reading because they had it at their wedding and Uncle R had bought a card with the verses on for Auntie G some years ago, which has remained in her handbag ever since.
Here's my talk:
The words from the Bible which M read for us are printed on a card which R bought for G around 30 years ago, and which has been in her handbag since then, going with her, wherever she has been. It’s a gift which was bought as a reminder of the reading from their wedding day, and more importantly, because these words express the love that they experienced with each other. Patience, kindness, generosity, protection, trust, forgiveness. Love which I’m led to believe meant they never had a full-blown argument. I'll let you decide whether that's true!
In another part of the Bible it says this ‘let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.’
God is love. Love itself, the source of all love, its realization and its perfection. All those words and phrases from our reading: patience, kindness, without envy, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeping no record of wrongs, but always protecting, and always persevering. So, if you were lucky enough to have been part of R’s family or one of his friends, colleagues, or trainees, and experienced his patience, generosity and kindness, experienced his love, you experienced something of God through him, and something of God in your response which has brought you here today.
And so, it is right to mourn his death, to grieve that R is no longer with us because, in the words of Jamie Anderson, “Grief is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”
Death doesn’t mean that love disappears. As the Bible reading says, love always perseveres, it endures, it goes on beyond death. Although R is no longer with us, our love for him perseveres and his love is felt by those left behind. His love is his enduring legacy.
But it’s not just R’s love that perseveres, it’s God’s love too. God loves each and every one of us with such ferocity that through Jesus’ death and resurrection, he has overcome death itself. Death is no longer the end of our stories because he offers us the hope and joy of healing and a future, an eternal future. This is not a fool’s hope, a desperate wish for something better, but a promise made by the one who knows us and loves us from before we were born to the last breath we take and beyond.
This love is always carried around with us, like the card in G’s handbag with this Bible reading on. God’s love is always with us, and it is patient, and kind, it keeps no record of wrongs, and it always perseveres. It’s waiting for you, even if you’ve never reached out to God before, to be with you in all the highs and all the lows. So, even though things might feel difficult now, know that you are not on your own, that God is love, love for you, whenever and wherever you are, to be with you in these feelings of grief, until you too go to be with God in eternity.