I got to indulge in one of life's simple treats this morning, a look around a decent swap meet. I bought a few stuffed toys to use as mascots on the camp, a couple of prints of Melbourne, a toy train engine, and some KNex, but the bargain of the day was a toy helicopter. I had seen the exact same thing in the puzzle shop on Friday night for $25, and I got this one for 3 bucks! Yeah! Betty Bargain Hunter strikes again.
I caught up with my brother Bruce this morning which was really good, we don't see one another very often so it was good to spend some time with him, and to drop off a 21st birthday present to my nephew Adam, we weren't able to make it to his party a few months back. He plays State League baseball; the gift was a blockmounted b/w poster of Wrigley Field under lights which I knew he would like and appreciate, and he did.
A couple of quick stops to set up some check points for the camp and then I hit the road for Busselton, arriving home at 4.30. Just enough time to prepare my talk for tonight's memorial service put on by the Busselton Hospice. In fact, I've just gotten home from said event which was very well attended and my talk seemed to be well received, several people complimented me on it and one asked for a copy.
If they wanted it, I figured you should have the chance to read it too! So here it is!
Message for Hospice Memorial Service
We have one thing in common, we have experienced loss and the pain of grief. Grief can be an over-whelming sadness that accompanies loss but what isn’t always understood is that grief is not restricted to death and bereavement.
While it is most often associated with death, it can be as a result of a lost job, a missing person, moving away from a house or losing a valued possession, or the end of a significant relationship.
In fact I experienced strong grief recently while talking to a mate who divulged to me that his marriage has just broken up. I found myself in tears as I listened to his story, sharing his pain, feeling his shock and bewilderment and trying to adjust to this radical and sad development in his life.
When you first found out that the person you loved had died you were no doubt flooded with these same sorts of thoughts and feelings, and more besides.
Death is one of the hardest things in life to handle, perhaps because there is no second chance, no more opportunities to see/speak to/farewell the person, the love and feelings remain but there is no longer any way to express them in person.
I am not trying to create a hierarchy of grief or to diminish anybody’s individual experience of loss, I know from my own encounter this morning how painful grief can be, but in the end, to lose someone, through sickness, accident, crime or at their own hand is the worst type of loss. Other hurts can be reduced or healed but death is final.
The pain is intense, almost palpable, the disbelief and numbness can send you into a swirling haze of unreality from which you believe you will surely emerge dream-like to find your loved one alive and well.
The finality of death takes some time to accept and we are none too keen to accept it regardless of the facts.
In some cases there can be regrets and if-onlys, we know it’s true and begin to accept it but we wish it could have ended differently, that we’d seen them one more time, that we’d told them how much we loved them, or perhaps been able to undo and un-say things that were said and done before they died.
There is a lot of business to attend to when someone dies. Informing family and friends, holding a funeral, the many visitors and cards expressing sympathy and concluding a person’s affairs all take up time and attention and serve to keep us busy and thus a little bit innoculated against the deepest feelings of loss and grief.
As I say to families after a funeral, they should expect a crash of some sort as the emotions catch up with the activity, and the emptiness and void in their lives become more apparent.
There is no avoiding the reality, the person we loved is gone and we can’t bring them back.
Life of course goes on and while people care and feel sad with us, they too have to return to “normal” life.
It’s in the weeks and months after the funeral that grief can hit hardest.
The common experience of families is that funerals offer a positive opportunity to honour and farewell people, that there is a great outpouring of love and support and that this gives strength to the grieving, enabling them to get through it one day at a time, sometimes just an hour at a time.
At the funeral we are able to tell a person’s story, recognise their achievements, celebrate their lives and express our feelings about them. In a strange sort of way there can be good funerals; in spite of the sadness we can enjoy the experience of honouring the life of our loved one.
The biggest pity about that is that the star of the show doesn’t get to hear and experience it for themselves. How good would it be to be able to say and express all those things while they were still alive rather than after they’re gone? To honour and affirm someone’s life while they’re still alive.
My challenge to you tonight is to recognise these inescapable and eternal truths, that we will all die. None of us is immune. None of us has the money, or the resources, or the power or the authority to beat death, it will come to us all one day, welcome or unwelcome.
In light of this, surely we can be better prepared. We may not be able to anticipate death’s arrival, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do things now to make it less painful when it eventually comes.
How? You may ask?
To borrow a phrase from Robin Williams. Carpe Deum, “Seize the day”.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to do the things you’d like to do, to say the things you’d like to say.
Act now, while you have the time and the facilities and the opportunity.
There are people you love and who love you. Tell them.
Tell the people in your life who matter that you love them.
For many people that’s not that hard to do and yet for too many of us we neglect to say it, we get too busy or self-absorbed to say I love you.
If it’s hard to physically say the words, find another way, whatever it takes, but find a way.
Buy flowers, or chocolates, send a card, or an email or an sms, prepare a special meal, go for a walk on the beach at sunset, buy a surprise gift, lash out on something impractical that you know they’d love, give them a hug, hold their hand, or just look them in the eyes and say I love you.
By the way, I’m not just talking about romantic love between husbands and wives, I’m talking about the love you feel for your kids, or your parents, for your family, for your friends, for your mates. When we take the time to reflect and think about who and how many people are important to us and that we love, there are lots of them, and each of them would be blessed by hearing it, just as we ourselves would be to receive it.
There are two incredibly powerful forces at work in our world, Life and Love and we need to affirm both of them. They may have been neglected or even abused, but it is in seizing life and affirming love that the true joy and purpose of life is revealed.
I picked up a hitchhiker on the way to Perth on Friday. They are rare now but when I was younger, hitchhiking was common and I myself hitched around and across Australia many times and around America twice. I know and appreciate the value of an offer of a lift and some friendly hospitality.
Mick and I talked about our shared interest in art and hitch-hiking and travelling and youthwork and the meaning of life and God. I recounted to him an incident from a youthwork conference I attended some 15 years ago in which the concerns and problems of working with teenagers were discussed and how the conclusion that was reached was that a primary problem with kids is “Purposelessness”. That they don’t know why they’re here, they don’t know what their mission in life is, they don’t realise they were made to a plan and put on earth for a purpose. Because of this ignorance they tend to grab whatever’s going, looking for something without understanding what or who it is they’re looking for, and often looking in the wrong places, places that are risky or dangerous or even fatal. They take risks, they experiment, and they push the boundaries, all in an attempt to find meaning and purpose and understanding in their lives. This lack of purpose means they sometimes don’t value life as highly as they should, they don’t respect others as much as they deserve and they take risks with the gift of life. (Some of them aren’t that young either!)
So what is this mysterious purpose? What are we here for?
For part two of the plan, we are here to love.
We find our meaning and reason for existence in relationships. We achieve fulfilment when we give and receive love. It is love that makes life worth living.
Nobody ever got to the end of their lives and said “If I’d just made another thousand dollars I’d have been happy” or “Life was worth it for that car/boat/house etc” All possessions and wealth will fade away and disappear, it is relationships that we value and that will endure.
It is because of your love for your son or daughter or mum or dad or brother or sister or friend that has brought you here tonight.
It is love and the memory of having loved them and been loved in return that makes you want to come and remember them tonight.
Your love is powerful. Continue to love those who have died, definitely, but don’t neglect the relationships you still have, the people who matter, the family and friends who remain. Affirm your love for the living. Tell them. Show them.
This love that we human beings share is a mirror of the love of God, our Father, our parent, the one who formed us and nurtured us, who knew us from the beginning of time and at the moment of our creation breathed life into us and continues to sustain us to this very day. It is by the grace and power of God that we live and breathe and have our being.
Not content with that, God gave us love as well and even when we rebelled in disobedience his love never faltered or failed and in the coming of Jesus and the events we celebrate at Christmas and Easter he proved his love for us. He calls us to love. To love him and to love one another.
I know that if I asked who would be willing, many of you would trade your life for the life of the one you lost. You would make that sacrifice because of your love.
The Bible says, Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friends.
Just as many of you would be prepared to pay that price for the ones you love, God was prepared to do the same for us.
It is this supreme act of love, for all mankind, that inspires us to live and to love.
And in remembering and honouring the life and memory of our departed family and friends, we echo back to heaven the joy of love for people who are gone but not forgotten.
Living is not easy at times and loving costs, but in my opinion, they are worth the priceLet your lives be renewed and recharged by loving.