Today at Mass we hear those words of our Lord “come to me all you who labour and overburdened and I will give you rest”. Those words have a special resonance today, they speak to all who today feel themselves burdened, weighed down, made sorrowful by the loss of the person whose funeral we attend this morning, Joe Crossan. He also re-assures us that he will give us peace and strength to face the trials of the day. .
As mentioned yesterday evening Joe had a strong Catholic faith which sustained him throughout his life. That beam of light had shone out and guided him over the terrain of what was to be his life – through good days and bad, in hard days and easy days. And I suspect especially most of all in these hard last few months of his life where his strength seemed to be draining away.
Since the death of Margaret (his wife) in the early part of this year, Joe has struggled. His health problems worsened in the course of the year and he simply didn’t seem to have the strength any longer to recover. He missed Margaret very much, she had died very suddenly at the beginning of the year and so poor was his health then that he was unable even to attend her funeral, something which was a great regret for him in the months that would follow. He normally had a very positive approach to life, he had known a number of serious illnesses in his life which he had fought back from, but this seemed different, I am sure in large part to the fact that Margaret was no longer there to push and shove and keep him going.
It seems very hard to us today that this husband and wife should die in the same year, Margaret in the early part of the year and Joe in this later part. We see this over and over again in life, these strange occurrences, these strange events which seem connected, these strange coincidences. We know and often says that God works in strange ways – is his hand in this? That this couple should not be long parted from each other? Who knows? But it is easy to see his hand even here.
Joe died just a few weeks short of what would have been his 78th birthday. He was brought up in Bridgeton by his mother and father Joseph and Peggy, he has 2 brothers (John and Charlie) and 3 sisters (Ann, Ella and Rosemary). He was a very caring kid who went for the messages for his mother, whom he was very close to, and would travel round many shops to get her the best bargains for her money which in those days was in short supply. He was also very enterprising building a bogey with wheels to bring the coal for the family and neighbours from the factory close by. Growing up he would make himself available for household chores to help his mother, he even surprised her one day she went to mass and by the time she returned he had wallpapered a room. He was good with money from an early age and was able to buy a bicycle, a rare luxury, but even here set himself the task to teach others around about how to ride it.
All his life he worked: at 15 tailoring; at 18 in the army; he worked in factories and eventually in the last phase of his working life in the shipyards where he sustained a serious injury to his legs.
He married his wife Margaret 53 years ago and they upsticks and came to live in Cambuslang. He always saw himself as a provider for the family for Joseph Elaine and Bernard and did everything to make their lives good and happy. With Margaret they were grandparents to Brian, Clare, Paul, Shona and Kerri and gt grandparents to a new generation: Freya, Sophie and the latest arrival Layla. Both Margaret and himself were loving, caring and concerned parents and grandparents to all the family.
53 years is a long time to be married. Today we think of that long married life that God gave to them both – to bring forth a family, to provide a home and to work hard in life to help them get on. So much has been achieved by them both.
Family members and friends may remember that Margaret loved the Bingo, Joe was happy to let her go, it meant he got the TV to himself especially the sports. Margaret also was to develop a love for the sports, I don’ know if that meant that they were latterly fighting over the remote control for the TV. I wonder if they were like those couples later on in life who hide the remote from each other.
He liked the occasional drink and was to be seen with his friends in the pub were they would sort out the problems of the world and tell football managers were they had gone wrong and the team that they should really have picked.
Joe was no stranger to illness over a number of years: a serious injury at work and a battle with illness since 2010. He always had a positive outlook and was always determined to move forward and never look back.
Joe leaves behind a rich legacy of life and memories. His death perhaps we might say is a closing chapter, but for those who remain it is a new chapter beginning - in which they will be sustained by the memory of Joe and his life, his generous actions and all he meant to them.
God has everything in hand. He guides us through the events of our life and helps us in our needs. Today we ask him to help us in this day, to give us the strength to bear the loss and to see the way ahead.
For Joe we ask God to grant hi m peace at the end of his life. To bless and reward him for the kindness and generosity of his life. To grant him his hearts desire, peace and rest at the end, and to be united with those that he has loved here on earth.