The Irish have a saying about funerals, they call them walking the last mile with the person. We can imagine them to be literally that - walking the last mile from home, church and then to the green blades of the cemetery . We think of many people who have made that journey through wind and rain, that brief journey, taking family and friends to their lasting resting place. But it comes to mean more than just a measurement of distance, ground covered, it means walking the last mile, taking the last part of the journey, doing the last important and necessary things with the person.
Today we are walking this last mile with Alan, the last part of his journey, taking these final steps with him, seeing things right through to the end. What a hard thing that is for mother and father, siblings and family and people who were his companions through life to do. In your mind’s eye today there will be happy and sunny days, joyful days which you spent and look back at, the memory of those days will put to flight the scudding black clouds of today that hold back the light.
In this last mile let your minds be filled with the sense of blessings that you received through his life, not the sadness of his injury, not the time of his illness not his untimely death.
Let there be light are the words of God in Genesis and the light filled the darkness. Let there be light are the words of the book of Genesis these words have a special resonance for that dark tomb of Jesus that was filled with darkness and the also there was light.
Let there be light in the darkness of this moment, in the sadness of our hearts – let there be light and there is and will be light.
I carry with me to this church the prayers and good wishes of a whole community of people at St Bride’s. They too have been deeply affected by the death of your son and wish you to know that you have a special place in their prayers and they wish you to know that if they can lift you up in this moment of sadness they would do it. If they could lighten your load they would do it. If they could speak any words of consolation to you they would speak them. Most of all they wish you to know that they stand with you.
As human beings we can do great and mighty things, but we are also frail and weak and illness shows that to us. We can climb the highest mountains, soar into space, invent the greatest things, build the mightiest things, but yet we are frail too. We break easily. We find ourselves sinking when we think we are strong.
In these moments of need our eyes are opened to the one who knows us as no other, to the one who loves us like no other, to the one who strengthens us and gives us consolation like no other. I think that Alan felt this comfort and consolation in his own heart.
Today we wish that Alan could have lived on. We wish that he had many more years with his family. We wish that he had found strength and that the waves had not covered him. But we know that he is at peace. He is sat down in peace with God away from the fear of the illness, away from the confusion of it all, away from any darkness and trouble. He is being consoled by God, he is wrapped in his garments and warmed by them, no chill winds blow over him.
And for us, this is not our last mile there are many more miles left for us. The journey continues, not filled with regrets or what ifs but for those who were his parents and siblings, family and friends Alan has and always will be a big part of their journey. But most of all in the end he would simply wish that we journey on.