Over the course of a long life Margaret Park would have attended numerous funerals of family members and friends, often in this very church. The prayers and readings of the Mass would have been very familiar to her. It might interest you to know that she had a hand in some of the aspects of the Mass today; you will notice that the hymns are bright and lively, reflecting her wish that we should be upbeat and not downhearted on this occasion. She also said that she didn’t want too much by way of eulogy, short and sweet and to the point. You can’t always get what you want in life, nor it seems at your funeral!
She kind of made me promise that I would be around to do her funeral, some of these things are not in our hands, but I is a pleasure and the delight of my own heart to be here to do this funeral too.
A reading that would have been familiar to Margaret, as it is often read on these occasions, is the first one from the prophet Isaiah. That reading would have appealed to her I am sure. It speaks not of the sadness of death, but rather people in the end being gathered and sat down by God at a great feast at the top of the mountain. She would have understood fully what the reading was saying, that it is God’s will that this is how it should be at the end, everyone gathered together at the end. Not separated, not divided, not anyone excluded, no one shut out, but everyone sat down, crammed in, squeezed together around that table. In this ending there would be joy and peace, delight and pleasure to be in God’s company and with those that we love. At this great feast the weary traveller would be sat down by God, to rest at the end of the journey.
Likewise Margaret at funerals would also often have heard that Gospel reading which we have heard this morning - the Lord promises to go ahead of us and prepare a place in the his father’s home, a home in which there are very many rooms. No sense here of it being for the few, for the worthy or for the good, only his desire that where he is we should be also. Not cast into an outer darkness, not removed from him but with him always. Just as someone who loves another could only wish that they be with them, so its God’s wish that he who loves us would not wish us to be separated from him. How consoling those words are to us with their assurance that all life heads in this direction.
As mentioned yesterday evening faith played a tremendous part in Margaret’s life from the very beginning of her life right to the very end. Right to those last moments of her life in the hospital where she died. She attended Mass here often every day, she prayed throughout the day and tried to live her life by what she believed. For her faith was not difficult, it was as easy as breathing. Everything she did was guided by faith. She was an outstanding member of our parish community, she knew her faith, loved her faith and lived by it. We remind ourselves often that the church is not a brick building but a living building made up of people. They are its foundation, the things that gives it strength.
Margaret was born in 1925, she was one of 12 children born in that family, she is one of the last of that large family, only Michael and Frances remain, both like her in that rather exclusive club of nonogenerians. The family was a strong one and close one, she was particularly close to her sister Teresa and missed her greatly when she died. She attended what was called the wee school in the Croft Rd before the new one, we should say the old one, was built in 1936. She had a sweet and pleasant voice as a young girl and woman and along with her sister Teresa and Veronica she sang in local clubs. Leaving school she left to work in the local newsagents. In the war years as a young girl she worked in the land army in fields in Ayr in the tomato-growing glass houses. She met John Park a local lad, whom she was to marry. She confessed she only married him because he was a good dancer. Later in life she always complained at parish dances or whatever Jokey danced with everyone else except her, leaving her to the last dance of the night. It all began at the Locarno, they were to be married in St David’s Dalkeith in 1948 and they were to have long and happy marriage.
They were to settle down to family life and had 2 children, Robert and Anne Marie. Margaret was a very good mother, hard working and always supportive and always on their side. She was hard working and provided a good, loving and caring home. She was delighted to see them both do well in life. Anne was to marry Andrew Gilroy in 1974 and Robert was to marry Mary in 1976. It tickled her a bit that she had lived to see her own children as retired and collecting their pensions. All through their life her children and her had very deep bonds of care and trust and love, that grew deeper as the years passed. I think that both Robert and Anne know the blessings to have had their mother and father for such a long part of their life. It makes the parting even harder.
Grandchildren came along and these 2 girls Suzanne and Alison were the apple of her eye. She was very happy in their company and they with her too. She was so happy to see them grow up and took great pride in them. She was especially pleased with the young children Jacob and Joseph and most recently Allie.
She was a woman of great routines. Going to Mass was part of her daily routine. Going to the shops and different things throughout the day. She loved her local club here at the church and had plenty of friends through it. She had many friends made through living in the neighbourhood working at Hoovers and working in the local shop a short distance from the church - but Bill and Marion, her neighbours in Westburn and Vicarland were long time friends.
She knitted but made it a rule to only knit for babies. She was very involved in things in the church, the Ogilvy Centre and other things. She was very caring to the sick and would go out of her way to visit the sick. She was always close to her own family of brothers and sisters and was very helpful towards them.
As mentioned yesterday evening she was a woman of great energy and despite being unwell for a long time she never looked not acted her 91 years, it was easy to take here for a woman much younger. She had a spark, a vitality, a great spirit within her. She was quick to laugh and always quick with a wise observation on life or a situation you might be discussing. She had strong and clear views on things and would not be scared to express them. She was also very very warm hearted.
In the end 91 years seems a long time to live but also a short time too. The more of life we get the more we would wish to hold onto it. Margaret was very aware over the years that the shadows where lengthening and especially over those weeks in hospital that she would not get better. When we spoke in those last weeks both herself and myself knew that she was carrying a very heavy cross, pain and discomfort where her daily guests. But she endured it all, bore it all with great patience that said a great deal of the kind of person she was. Strong, resolute, solid. A much stronger person would have been overcome not her.
Today Margaret returns to this church for funeral rites of the Catholic Church. This was the same Church her parents brought her to from Bridge St in 1925. Today her children bring her to this Church once again for the final prayers. In that Church in 1925 in the company of her parents the priest said to her in words that she could understand that she was to keep the flame of her baptism burning brightly. In the presence of this priest and with her son and daughter and family members around her I recall these words for you in the sense that the baptismal promise was kept. She returns to the Lord with the flame burning brightly as she was commanded to do. She goes to the Lord with talents given by him more than multiplied and more to give back and with that flame burning brightly which was never extinguished and did not go out.