The last years of Jim Hennan’s life were blighted with illness. It was a chronic illness which made him both weak and breathless. Like most people he would have wanted to be as independent as he could, but he realised that he was in need of help. He turned to Helen and found all that help that he needed in a most generous person who shared his life for the last 25 years. He showed great courage in those last weeks and months which those around him admired. The end came there at his home in Carmyle, very gently indeed, he simply and quietly left this world to meet his Maker. I am sure for those who looked on at him knew that the moment they had dreaded had now come. But it was a moment of peace for him when God call him to himself and the weariness of his life was set to the one side.
Today the prayer of the Mass is offered for Jim. It had always been his great desire at the end of his life that he would lie in church overnight and have the Mass said over his mortal remains. He knew the power of this prayer and he wished to pass from this life with the words ringing in his ears and the awareness of blessings and prayers he would receive, to speed him on his way. It is our pleasure and privilege to offer the Mass for him today.
One of things that Jim and all of us have known growing up, is about God’s mercy. It’s to this same mercy that we turn at the end of our life. We know God is generous and merciful and kind. There is no other place that he would wish us to be than in heaven with him. He never created us to be parted from him, never created us to reject us, never shaped us in order to disown us. There is no other place he wishes us to be than to be with him. We leave this Church with confidence for ourselves and for Jim too.
Jim had an extraordinary life. He grew up with his family in Coatbridge. But while there he befriended another family who came also to be his family, the McGuigan family. They were a family of travellers, a large family of 11 brothers and 3 sisters, many of them are with us here today. They came to live in Newton and he simply followed them and was part of their family. What was it he liked about the travellers life? Its freedom? Its great traditions? That sense of not being tied down to place? That resourcefulness, being able to turn their hand to basic and any tasks? Whatever it was he was part of it. He loved this family, they loved him and he especially loved their parents. He stayed with them at Newton and travelled with them at harvest times and on their journeys throughout the lands.
In time he settled at Westburn He always worked - at an early part of his life in heavy industry, also latterly in a garage owned by the family, worked as a care assistant and as a security officer. He had finally to give up his work because of the debilitating illness.
He always knew he was lucky in his life to find great happiness and love with Helen Ward and over 25 years of being together they were very contented. He was close to Helen’s family Yvonne, Frank Barry and especially Pamela and very close to the numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren. He followed his football team, we can name them here …. Celtic FC. So passionate was he, so obsessed by them was he, so blind to their faults that he became known as Jimmy Celtic. I am not sure he was too unhappy about that. In nature he was a very private man not disclosing too much about his thoughts or feelings.. But despite that diffidence and reticence he was a great friend to many and had a very rich and varied life.
For many years he was involved through the McGuigan family in the travelling life. I think there was something in their life that appealed to him very much. It was more than just a way of life, it was something in their blood, their strength of character, their resilience, their closeness that he admired. Not for him to shun them, as sadly many have done over the years, he embraced them.
It was a hard illness that he received in the end and one that brought him great physical and mental hardship. But he had learned a few tricks along the road, he had resilience and endurance and strength of character to bear the cross as others could see who saw him over the years.
We believe that after the cross there is the resurrection. After the darkness is the light. After the sadness there is the joy. May God bless Jim at his ending with endless joy. If throughout his life he had so admired the way of life of the traveller in the end he was the weary traveller. In the end God invited him to rest from his journey, to sit down and take his ease in the knowledge that his life’s work had ended and he had seen it all right through to the end.