As mentioned yesterday evening, James had a great will and desire to live. The last months of his life but particularly the last weeks showed this. There was a steely resolve in him not to be overcome by the weakness and not to be drowned by the medicines that sought to sedate and calm him. It was as if he was fighting to hold onto ever hour, every minute and every second of life. He didn’t want to die but he simply wanted to hold onto the life that God had given him. He was greatly comforted by family and friends who came to see him over the period of his illness and greatly comforted to be in his sister Janice’s home where he received great care and attention. Janice didn’t spare herself in the care of her much loved younger brother.
The end of James’ life came quietly after a mighty struggle over a few days to keep going. When that hour came there was peace for him, no more pain, no more struggling to hold onto life, no more discomfort or anxiety. He went to God who is all love, all mercy and all kindness.
James was only 50 years of age when he died, such a short life in many respects. In today’s world he could have expected to have lived much longer, but it was to prove to be a short life, strangely it was to be short like his own father who died early and of course his nephew Stephen who died very young indeed, today would have been Stephen's birthday. Long life or short life as the first reading reminds. Grey hairs is not what makes us venerable, and it has to be said he had no grey hairs but rich dark hair, but what makes us venerable is what we do with our life. From an early age till the end of his life he touched people’s lives by his gentleness and kindness. For him family and friends were always important and they remained so all of his life.
James was the third member of his family, Patrick and Janice being his elder brother and sister, Patrick was the singer and Janice was the talker, its no surprise he grew up as a quiet child, he couldn’t get a word in edgeways, Patrick did all the singing, Janice did all the talking. He had great parents and we remember them especially today, he was very close to his mother May. The family stayed in different places, a house off the Main street in the same place where his life was to end, where Rosebank Tower now stands. He also stayed at Halfway and Whitlawburn. He attended St Cadoc’s and Trinity High School. He left school to join the army - he had been in TA and was to serve in Kosovo and Germany, the experiences of those years deeply affected him and he would suffer from them in years to come. He did a number of jobs, down south he worked as caretaker for a number of years, but the job he best liked was being an actor and played small parts in series and films. He rubbed shoulders with the stars and liked the life very much.
He was very devoted to his children and was very happy to see them each grow up, he loved each of them very much and perhaps that was part of that will to keep going for them as long as he could. As mentioned before, family was always important to him: his parents, his brother and sister, their families, his aunts and uncles and his cousins. All were important to him and all played a big part in his life.
He was one of those people who was blessed with a very nice nature in life. He made friends easily and kept them. He was very respectful of people and treated people well. He had a wry sense of humour. He had an easy going way about him and little seemed to trouble him. He was greatly liked in his family and friends.
We wouldn’t like to give the impression that James’ life was plain sailing because it wasn’t. He had his challenges and times when he was tossed and turned by the storms of life. Not every day was a sunny day for him.
Life can be all too short. Even when life is long it seems all too short. There is something about the gift of life, the more we have it the more we want more, and in the end we don’t want it to end. But we have our faith too which is a light to light up the way through life and to carry us through illness and death. We believe in a loving God who has created us for this life and much more. And to this much more we look today for James and for ourselves when it comes our turn.
We say that God knows everything, he searches the depths of our hearts, that he is rich in his consolation. We ask him to console all who feel deeply the loss of James today. To give us the strength to carry the cross. To console us with the knowledge that he is now at peace, with God and far from suffering, worry fear and trouble. Not cast out in the seas but reached safe lodgings and secure harbor and at rest.
We often think of death as the breaking of things, bonds of family, binds of friendship. But in God those things do not break or fade but remain. Love never ends.