Saturday, June 20, 2015

Death vanquished!

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.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Death interrupts

It's an obvious fact.  Death interrupts.  My last blog rejoiced in a family holiday. On our journeys home I went to see my 91 year old uncle (with his hymnbook at the beside -see earlier posting) as did my son and grandson the following day.  We found him alert and (as always) incredibly tuned into our family details.  Though single, he really took such knowledgeable family interest in us all. We all remarked how well he seemed to be adjusting to his nursing home environment.

Early, on June 4th. he died during the night.  Suddenly, as his next-of-kin, we were thrust into bereavement with its web of practical issues, returning immediately to Bristol to start funeral and legal processes.  With his death Carol and I are now the oldest members of our tribe and as we sorted out his few possessions and looked through his funeral wishes Carol really didn't need to say: 'You realize the next time this happens in our family it will be us!'

So, these last few days have been tiring with emotions (that can surprise), travelling, emptying his room, appointments, signings, and mounting paperwork.  I had plans to work hard on a book and had set stiff targets after our holiday.  But death interrupts...and how!

Wonderfully, John had deep Christian faith.  He left instructions that his service was to show people God, and he chose old hymns with such positive choruses.  I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene....with the chorus:  How marvelous!  How wonderful! my Saviour's love to me!   And, When we walk with the Lord, in the light of his word....with the chorus: Trust and obey for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.  When we share in his service next Thursday we shall rightly be positive too because of the resurrected Savior!