Yesterday was a sad day. I was back in the church where I once belonged as an older teenager - Arbury Rd. Baptist Church, Cambridge. It was the funeral service for one of my fellow youth group members, Les Bowyer who died very suddenly aged 71. The church was packed, for Les was deeply loved by so many - a laid-back character of humour and kindness who served his heart out in this same church for well over fifty years. Rightly, the minister asked us to celebrate his life and we did.
But my mind also went back to my first funeral service in that church when one of my best friends died. I cannot remember the medical cause but I recall the shock news when his parents found him on the kitchen floor. His name was Brin and he was Les' older brother. I recall sitting there numbed by this first experience of sudden death's brutality. Les was due to be married shortly afterwards and he asked me to step in as best-man instead of his brother. Oh, how poignant! All this came flooding back.
Further, my last funeral service in this church had been at Christmas 1979 for my mother who died aged 57 falling down the stairs. I confess that sitting there yesterday I was taken back to emotions of emptiness and sorrow in losing the most influential person in my life. I remember giving a tribute to her. Odd, isn't it how clusters like these come back so sharply to memory.
And there is no denying the deep sadness. That's not to be suppressed. But what rang out so powerfully yesterday were words from 1 Pet.3-9 praising God for the 'living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead'. The minister emphasized the last verses: although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice.... In this stirring of sadness, I hold on (and am held) by the one I do not see, and he makes all the difference, doesn't he?