Three Funerals and a reflection

To have attended three funerals within one week is perhaps rather unusual.  Though not family or very close friends, it was really important for me to be there, with respect and appreciation of the reality that our lives had intertwined.  Each experience moved me deeply and for special, distinctive reasons.

The first was a long time neighbor whose children were of similar age to our youngest and the boys had lots of memorable times together.  As families, we were all on friendly chatting terms; and then we moved house and life moved on for everyone.

George, a physics and maths lecturer, retired from teaching and became a successful hire car operator.  He was a friendly man, generous and respected, with an exceptionally kind and positive attitude.  He didn’t simply drive people from place to place but he cared for his passengers.  It was nothing at all to George to carry your bags – not just help carry your bags, but actually take charge of them.  To him, his passengers’ luggage was as important as those to whom it belonged.  And even more, he would come to the terminal carousel to personally assist – or meet you in the lobby of a function centre to lead you to his car and safely home after a great night out.  Kindness and care surrounded this man.

The service at his funeral in an elegant Greek church was brief, dignified and meaningful.  There was chanting, prayers and a short eulogy delivered by the priest – and then quietly each member of the congregation filed to place a hand on his coffin, to embrace his family and then leave the church to await, with stately presence and silent tears, the departure of the hearse.  He was merely 71.

The following day I attended the chapel funeral service for Vere Eileen Florence Langley.  Many followers of our website will remember Vere Langley for the very important role she played in supporting Dr Ainslie Meares firstly as his personal assistant, and for many years later, caring for his patients after his unexpected death.  She and I shared a professional association and many sparkling conversations.

With the gift of 90 years, Vere had enjoyed a full and colorful life based on her philosophy of giving 120% to anything in which she was involved.  There was an obvious peacefulness in this service too, though sprinkled with gentle humour as her gifts and strengths were recalled.  Her coffin, massed with yellow roses, symbolic of joy, reflected the presence of a gentlewoman, calm, confident, maybe occasionally feisty – but kind and caring at all times.  Prior to her work with Dr Meares, Vere had contributed significantly to other notable organizations including the Red Cross and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.  Yes, there was sadness at this service though consoled by the gorgeous music of Mozart and the reading of the Epilogue from The Wealth Within by Ainslie Meares.  But a sense of happiness prevailed – at her achievements, her contribution to the world and indeed, her longevity.

And so three days later with my husband we drove to a small Catholic church at a seaside resort to farewell the brother of Don’s late brother’s best friend.   This man, Neil, I did not know well.  And yet, being there in the calm of the church, learning a little of his life and sharing communally in the sacred music and readings, once more I was in the presence of another truly kind and caring person.  Here was another family man, respected by all who knew him, successful in business and generous to his community and beyond.  He also lived a long life.  His Christian faith supported his trust that he and those he loved so dearly would, in time, be reunited in the manner of hope within the beautifully read New Testament passage: “Happy are those who die in the Lord! Happy indeed, the Spirit says; now they can rest forever after their work, since their good deeds go with them”. 

For me, these three funerals reaffirmed for me the powerful feeling of hope for all humanity.   Yes, there is tragedy in loss; yes there is anger and animosity between people and between races; yes there are those who are lonely, disadvantaged, marginalized, depressed, fearful or desperate and there are those who lack respect and would take from others through dishonourable behavior.  But basic goodness, kindness and care, as demonstrated in the lives of the three diverse people whose lives I encountered this week, are truly the balm to soothe all concerns. 

Notably, on each Order of Service distributed at these funerals, words of gratitude for care and support offered to the bereaved were expressed.  What goes around comes around indeed?  So here’s my thought for the month:

When dark feelings obscure the light, a moment of care for someone – a moment of care that goes beyond oneself – will lift the shadows to reveal the power of love.