This was the message I gave at the funeral this afternoon.
I did not expect to be here. The news of Vicki’s death came as a terrible shock. As I said to Jason and Miranda when we met yesterday, this news felt personal. I didn’t know Vicki as well as you did, but I knew her and cared about her. I knew her husband Max when he was a teacher at Carine High School. As the school chaplain I walked beside him and his family as he battled and eventually succumbed to cancer. I had the honour of conducting Max’s funeral and many if not all of you were there on that sad occasion. A few years later I had the special joy and privilege of marrying Jason and Olga and rejoiced in the news of the births of their two little boys. And today I come to serve the Greive family again in their time of need. I think you’ll understand me when I say I wish I wasn’t here. I wish I didn’t need to be here. But, death is a harsh reality, it touches us all in the end and so, in another way, it is an honour to be here, to celebrate Vicki’s life and honour her memory.
My over-riding impression at the time of Max’s death was the depth and strength of the love he and Vicki shared for each other. It was obvious to all. It had been the sustaining power of their long and happy relationship and the foundation for their family, helping Jason and Miranda grow up into the special people they have become. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that when Max died, part of Vicki died too. Life was never the same. How could it be? The loss of a love that strong was always going to be a heavy burden and Vicki has had many struggles and difficult times since then. Never-the-less, there have also been good times, the arrival of new family members as their kids got married and then that most special of all blessings, grandchildren. Vicki loved her three little grandsons and they loved her very much as well.
The family are keen that we not dwell on the sadness of Vicki’s passing, but rather that we celebrate the good times and remember the special moments and events of her life.
I want to acknowledge the love that was so evident in Vicki’s life, for Max and for her family.
What I’m about to say may sound a little odd, but bear with me and hopefully the context will make sense. I am not the first person to make the observation that the world is in a bit of a mess. On a global scale the economy is teetering on the brink of collapse, terrorism threatens the lives of innocent people in countless countries and global warming has altered the world’s climate with potentially catastrophic impact. Violence, crime and drug related incidents affect our lives and safety. There is a lot of bad news in the world, so much so that some people refuse to watch the news or read the paper because it is too depressing.
Against this backdrop of doom and gloom I want to offer two pictures of hope and light.
First is the love and commitment of family, and friends, the bond that ties people together through all of the ups and downs of life. It is love that provides us with the strength to survive even the worst of times. It is love that gives us reason to hope that things will get better. Love that allows us to get back up when we fall or get knocked down. Love that gives us the courage to seek forgiveness when we fail and grace to enable us to forgive when others fail us.
There is no magic formula for love, no secret ingredient we can buy to obtain or create it. The key to love is hard work, toughness and commitment. Love requires effort and perseverance.
In their marriage and their family, Vicki and Max had that sort of love.
The second ray of light that can overcome the darkness of the world and it’s troubles is faith.
As I observe the world and people I see time and time again the impact of lack of faith. Without faith and belief in a higher power where do people turn to find meaning and purpose? What is the point of life and existence unless we live in relationship, firstly to others, our family and friends, and then to God our maker. I believe it is God’s love that empowers our love. I believe it is God’s calling that gives our lives meaning, lifting us above the empty pursuit of material gain and mindless pleasure. I believe that it is discovering and seeking to live out God’s purpose for us that completes us. Faith and trust in the love and mercy of God will carry us through life no matter what may beset or derail us. By contrast, I believe it is the absence of faith meaning and purpose that has led to a generation of lost and hurting young people who don’t respect themselves or other people and who live purely for the moment without consideration for the needs of others or for the impact and consequences of their actions and choices.
There is within every one of us, a yearning for truth and love and meaning and purpose.
I encourage you to acknowledge and recognise it within your own life and to pause and reflect on what it is that gives your life meaning. What is it that you most value and cherish?
What do you want your life to be remembered for? Who are the people you want to invest your time and love in to make the world a better place?
Just in case you haven’t worked it out, people will not praise you for the size of your house but for the love that dwells in your home.
They will not celebrate the value of your car or the power of your home cinema, they will talk about your character, the way you treated people, the love and respect you showed to others.
People won’t care how much you know, but they’ll know how much you care.
I urge you then to work out what is most important in your life and then pour your energy into that,
to recognise the people who need your love and to pour your heart into them,
to discern the spiritual truths of life and to pour your spirit into their pursuit.
Life is too short and love matters too much to do otherwise.