This morning Nancy Lee’s funeral takes place on the feast of St(s) Peter and Paul. This feast looks back to the beginnings of the Church. These two men who should not be remembered by us. Two men who were regarded as trouble makers and who were put to death in obscurity by the authorities of the day - Peter in Circus games and Paul outside the city gates of Rome in the year 63. Similar deaths like theirs occurred in the years to follow and the centuries that would come after as people tried to snuff out the Gospel. The deaths of Peter and Paul, came in one of the first waves of persecutions, if history were to remember them it should only remember them as troublemakers, dissenters, members of small religious sect. But today that is not how we remember them. We remember them as Peter who was an apostle, Peter who took up an authority to lead and serve in the Church and the encourage his brothers and sisters and Paul who carried the Gospel into the world and who was a great teacher. They are not forgotten, they don’t fall out of history, they don’t disappear from our midst but this humble fisherman from the 1st Century and this tentmaker and religious teacher from Israel rise up and stand tall, they have a part in God’s plan that is important for all times and every age.
Today in this Church we keep their feast day. It gives us the opportunity to link, to join up, to be united with that faith in its original and pure form which was taught by these men and this living faith that has been kept, preserved and held since then. It is a living faith which is held by us.
Today we come to the funeral mass of one who held that faith all her life, Nancy Lees. All through her life she would have been at Mass to mark this feast>All through her life she was at Mass every day. All through her life she prayed each day and believed. In her that living faith which Peter and Paul had taught and died for was kept alive. Finally it was kept alive by this woman 20 centuries later, through her long, long life. It was the same faith that had come down to her from Peter and Paul and had been given to her by her parents and which took root in her life and bore great fruit over a lifetime. The faith of Peter and Paul was kept alive in her heart and home. That precious faith for which they had shed their life for was a valuable, was a treasure, was a peril of great price. That love of Jesus Christ which they had died for was kept alive in her heart.
Nancy lived a long life, well into her 90s. She never moved very far in life. She lived in Westburn, Halfway and Cambuslang. She had great affection for the parishes of St Charles’ and St Cadoc’s which she belonged to over a lifetime and also this parish. She was a very strong member of each of these parishes, attending Mass and any of the services that were on through the day or in the evening. She was born in 1922, her parents were John & Catherine McDonald, she had 3 brothers Sandy John & Robert. She attended the local school of St Charles but as the only girl in the family was a great support to her mother in the house a role which would continue right up to her mother’s death. She worked at the munitions factory in Hallside during the War and was to meet her future husband Andrew at a local dance when he was on eave from the army, they married in the middle of the war in 1942, for those of you who have a booklet they will see how handsome a couple they were. A kinder and gentler man than Andrew Lees it would be difficult to imagine – they were to have a long and happy marriage together. I used often to say to Nancy that man is a saint Nancy, she would always fire back it is me that is the saint, Father. Their first home was in prefabs in Halfway and then to a house opposite the newly built St Cadoc’s. During the course of their married life hey were to have 2 children David and Kathleen, whom they loved very much, sadly David was to pass away early in life some 30 years ago, which was a great sadness and blow for both Nancy and Andrew. In later life 4 grandchildren were to come along and 1 great grandchild Rachel – all these brought her great joy. She worked at different times; McNeil’s Bakery and Hastie’s and looked after very conscientiously her elderly mother and brothers in Westburn, very often walking there and back again, she had great energy. She was a prolific shopper and would trawl the shops, sometimes poor Andrew would trail behind her patiently, but she often would go alone. Throughout her life she was to enjoy times away with Andrew – many holiday breaks and also pilgrimages to Lourdes and Rome. She was absolutely immaculate, she dressed as if she had just walked from the shop window and her hair was perfect. She enjoyed the most robust health all her days and was never known to be ill, if she was ill it never stopped her. It was only in the last years of her life that age began to catch up, the gradual process of slowing down began,, her sight began to fail and that energy began to seep away. She was taken care of at Flemington Care Home in the last months of her life.
How to describe Nancy in nature? Best said she was a powerful woman. She was a straight shooter and often told you what she thought. She always like to get the last word. She was a great support to the parish and was often here at everything, bit she was a bit of a loner. For mischief I would often ask her, knowing exactly the answer, why she wouldn’t join any clubs….that would be the occasion for her to go off, I would feign surprise. She had opinions in all sorts of things and would tell you them unasked for. She had a list of things she would tell you and it was often like a fencing, jousting for position. She would go away happy if she had caught you out: not opened the church in time, not put the heating on, forgot to put the lights on. She was one of those people who couldn’t hide things it was in her face, she would sigh, tut, raise her eyes, a scowl, she couldn’t hide it. She also was not one to easily back down. But she was quick to laugh to at things and things she would be saying. She was very endearing, very humorous and very warm.
Nancy is part of unique group of people. Of all her generation she is part of a small group of people who have lived the longest. The people in her family, the people she grew up with, the people she knew, she has outlived them all with a few exceptions. She had that quality of the long distance runner. She was good over the harsh train of life, the crests and troughs of life she overcame, the long and relentless road of life she kept going. Something in the genes that made her keep going but also something in the spirit of the person that kept her going too. She had indomitable spirit, a clear purpose in life, eyes the focused on the horizon that on the short term, a real drive to do things well in life. She stands tall amongst her peers as living well in her life.
On that journey of life se was not alone. Faith was he companion, her teacher and guide. Faith was alive in her heart as it has been in the heart of Peter and Paul. Their journey took them to Rome and their deaths. Her journey was different from theirs but the same too. We can only Peter and perhaps too Paul ready at the gates to welcome her home.
Such a long, long life. There was as un any life human weakness, but we can only imagine a life that God will be well pleased with, the talents are multiplied and she has much to give back from the gifts that she was given.