Many months have passed since John’s death. Despite the passage of those weeks and months both the suddenness and the circumstances of his death continue to deeply affect all of us.
He was a young man who died with so much more to live for, so many more things to do, so much more to achieve. His death feels like an arrow that wounds the human heart. That sense of a life too short, ended before its time, cut off in its prime prevails and sticks with us - we are all of us moved by the loss.
We think today of a mother who son is taken from her, family robbed of one of its own, friendship which ends, a moment in which a person is there and then they are no longer with us - we have to say it deeply affects us.
Speaking to his mum, Julie, a few weeks ago about how she was coping and managing with things, I found very moving what she was able to tell me the following. Often, she told me, by way of consolation, she finds herself near the river walking. Being near the water where he might be, brings her consolation. She searches and scans the water in the hope seeing John.
That image of mother searching for her lost son is timeless. That longing of a mother to find her son carried away by strong waters has been lived out out in many times. That sense of searching and longing and grief which cannot be consoled is very touching and moving.
We think of that picture when Jesus is taken from the cross and put into the arms of his mother. Returned and given back to her. It is such a poignant scene. He is given back, embraced and held. How we have longed that it should be so for John’s mother.
I would like you to think about this today that the beauty of one single life is immense. To see a child born into the world, to witness him or her grow up is a great thing. To hear the voice that is theirs, to recognise a face that is theirs alone, to know someone’s personality, to see what they are able to do is immense and brings great pleasure. This is something we hold in mind for John today. Although there s sadness today for his loss, let there also be joy in the life that was his, uniquely his.
Rejoice today for what John has been to you. Rejoice because he as been your son, your grandchild, your brother and your friend. Rejoice at what he has brought in your life. A treasure and a gift of 1000 unspeakable surprises. Many unspeakable joys.
There were many hardships and difficulties that John faced along the way. But they didn’t take away the love that people had for him and the respect they had for him. We could wish that in life he had seen the respect and care that people had for him today as they crowd into this Church today.
Our town and all its peoples have been brought together in a way that John would never have thought possible and certainly not be himself. His death has brought sadness to our hearts He is was one of us, a son of our town, he walked our streets and grew up in our midst, he was one of us.
Today I bring to this family the good wishes and prayers of the people of the parish community of St Bride’s. But I am able to add to that to, to speak for all of the people of our town, our streets and every home and beyond. And what is it we would want to say to this family, we would want to say that you are not alone but we are united with you, we stand shoulder to shoulder with you, you are not alone in this moment of sorrow.
Mikey goes to our school at St Bride’s and I bring him the good wishes and prayers of his teacher, his class mates and his head teacher and all associated with his school. I know that John loved you very much Mikey, you loved your walks with him and he was a good big brother to you, but what I know was that you were a good wee brother to him too. I know that you will not forget him and the memory of a brother who loved you very much will stay with you always. Tomorrow is your birthday, today might be a sad day for you but we wish you a happy day and a happy birthday….. with many cards and presents and sweets.
I hope that all leave this service today with wings that lift us up. I hope that all of you who are here at this service don’t leave with eyes cast down but with eyes raised to the skies. I hope that you leave this service lifted up rather than cast down. I hope that you leave this service with a renewed sense of purpose and a desire to look out for your fellow traveller along the way. I hope that what you hear in this church today and what you have felt in your heart over these many months and in this day will change how you see things . In the end the one important thing is to love, the days are short and the measure of life sometimes seems all too little, in the time that is given to us we should love one another.
Just a prayer at the end
May He support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in His mercy may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest and peace at the last.