It seems strange to say it, but my friend Anne’s funeral yesterday was probably the best funeral I had been to or taken as a priest. The church had over 500 people and there was hardly room to stand. It was as if we were all one family saying out goodbyes and sharing communion together. Yes, we shall miss Anne but we all knew that she was now with her heavenly Father and at peace.
Driving back home yesterday evening, I was listening to the news on the car radio and it talked about a fighter jet crashing in Spain with 10 people dead. It reminded me of other sad things I had heard this past week. The 18 year old son of my local parish priest who died suddenly a week ago, possibly from a heart attack. My friend rang to say she would soon have to have her second dog put to sleep because of a cancer tumour, but had only just had her much older dog put to sleep three weeks ago. Another church member from Plymouth also had died a few days ago following a cancer illness.
It reminded me that our family and friends are very precious to us, but sometimes we just expect life to be the same and for them to always be there. But we see in the news and know from our friends and own experience, we do not always have time to say ‘goodbye’ to our friends before they die. It made we realise how important it is to tell those we love, that we love them. To say, ‘I love you’ every time we say goodbye – even if they are just going to school or off to work. Never let a friendship get spoiled because we did not put enough love into it.
One of the hymns at the funeral yesterday was called ‘In heavenly love abiding’ a very old hymn written over 150 years ago. In the first verse the words read
‘the storm may roar around me, my heart may low be laid, but God is round about me, and I cannot be dismayed.
The words remind us that however bad life might seem at times, God is always close to us, he never leaves us and that just as others are precious to us, so we are precious to him. Whenever we look at Jesus on the cross – we see God telling us ‘I love you’. Remember to tell those you love the same.