This past week has been dominated by my uncle's funeral with its preparations, travelling and the service itself. His last instructions were clear -his funeral was 'to speak to people of God'. And so it did!
The cremation took place beforehand with the family and a few church friends present. All our grandchildren were present too. Elliot (aged 9) asked respectfully: 'Is his body in there?' as the coffin was placed at the front. Luca (aged 13) sat next to me on the front row and told me this was his first time at a funeral. Milo (aged 3) directed us all in through the main doors at the beginning, holding his fingers to his lips with a loud 'Sssshhhh'! Simply and trustingly with a powerful reading of Psalm 130 we committed John to his Lord.
When we moved to the church we found a congregation of around 60 had gathered to sing some of John's favourite hymns and to hear his chosen Scripture story of the compassionate father, as the preacher called it (rather than the prodigal son!) Again the children sat around us. It is the tradition of that church to have an open microphone for people to pay tribute. It was startling to hear a series of carefully crafted vignettes open up John's story to us in fresh ways. The first spoke of his gifts of financial book keeping, and deep love of other books too. He mentioned how John's skills with New Testament Greek enabled him to be a Wycliffe Bible translator at one period in his life. A couple of others spoke about his missionary service in Bangladesh and his bravery in the face of the savage civil war in 1971 when the British were told to leave, but he insisted on staying. A representative of the missionary society told us that when the hospital heard of his death there was acclaim for 'Mr. Davies', still remembered for his courage and love for them. Another spoke about his war service and code-breaking. Others remembered his participation in their house group, and yet others talked of the quality of his prayers. Some of the immediate family spoke too with personal memories of how he had been brother, uncle, and great uncle. We had put up some photographs tracing his life which also spurred memories.
The preaching ensured that the service certainly spoke to people of God so that John's wishes were upheld. In his modesty he would not approved of the tributes but I think we got the balance right. After all we were thanking God for John as well as for his promises to us. And we entered the victory of death vanquished. Afterwards one of my sons said to me: 'I just wish we could have sat down and spent much longer with those people who knew things about him we didn't. ' Yes, a long life well-lived. Thanks to all those kind readers who remembered us through these days.