Yesterday I had the privilege of leading the funeral service for Carolyn's Dad.
Everything went beautifully and Carolyn's comment at the end of the day was that if she could have picked what she wanted to happen through the process of her Dad dying and the funeral, she wouldn't change a thing from how it actually happened.
She delivered one of the tributes and did a wonderful job, despite all her apprehension and nervous trips to the toilet beforehand!
This is the reflection with which I concluded the service.
The first time I met Alan was the night Carolyn and I told him and her Mum we were planning to get married.
We had flown over from WA for the weekend to tell her parents and mine.
The only prior knowledge they had of my existence was a letter sent home by Carolyn the previous week laden with coded references to Marcus. To put that in context, I had proposed three weeks after we started going out.
We arrived on a Saturday evening and spent an anxious couple of hours watching television with them before building up the courage to say there was something we wanted to talk to them about. Carolyn had inspired sufficient fear in me that I wasn’t game to “ask for her hand” in the traditional way in case he refused.
With genuine nervousness I said “Carolyn and I are going to get married”
Alan’s immediate reply floored both of us.
“That’s wonderful” and as easy as that we had their blessing and support.
Throughout our marriage we have been on the receiving end of Alan and Mary’s generosity and blessing. We have never doubted that they wanted the best for us and our children.
Many years later, following the sad passing of Carolyn’s Mum Mary, we made a significant decision to move back to
in order to be closer to her Dad. Victoria
With both his eyesight and hearing mostly gone and on his own for the first time in his life, we felt we needed to be closer in order to give him the support and care he would need. It was not an easy decision and once again there was a fair bit of anxiety on Carolyn’s part before we told him we were moving.
Nervous that he wouldn’t approve we were again surprised and delighted when he said it was wonderful news.
For a man not given to spontaneity these reactions were unexpected but very pleasantly so. It caused me to ponder the meaning behind these responses, just as I have reflected on Alan’s long life these last few days.
What was at the heart of his life? What motivated and inspired him?
What was most important to Alan ?
His love for his family.
His delight at our marriage plans I’m sure was based on the realisation that we loved one another and this is what his daughter wanted. How else would he respond other than to want the best for his children?
He had devoted his whole life to providing for his family through hard work, commitment, perseverance, reliability and faithfulness. His love for Mary was the light of his life, his constant north star. He said many times “Your mother could do no wrong in my eyes”.
By virtue of his generous gifts Alan showed his willingness to support and encourage his children, to help them on the road to security. I know we were not the only recipients of his generosity. Alan had worked hard and done well but was always willing to share what he had whether it was with his family or his church or other charitable groups.
Prior to his passing and in the days since, his children have spent a lot of time together and when the discussion turned to meaning and purpose in their Dad’s life, there was unanimous agreement that his family were what mattered most to him and that he had devoted his life to providing for them, looking after them and caring about their welfare.
Funerals are sometimes guilty of presenting a rose-coloured view of the departed. In that light, it is appropriate to acknowledge that Alan was sometimes challenging, even difficult to get along with. He and I did not always see eye to eye. But in everything he did there was one constant: love for his family. He wanted the best for them, even if his view and theirs of what was best weren’t necessarily the same.
In the last few years of his life Alan found himself alone, lonely and broken-hearted. It was time for his family return the favour, to gather around him and to give back. The time attention and care of Charles, Ray, Trevor and Carolyn over the last few years have been a source of great joy and comfort for Alan and without them I’m sure this day would have come much sooner.
You have done your father and mother proud. You have risen to the challenge and done all that needed to be done and then gone beyond. You have loved your Dad. You have cared for him. You have been here for him. You have nursed him and tenderly met his needs. And as his days came to a close and he knew his time was nearly up you gathered around him to make that final journey as comfortable and peaceful as possible. You repaid the love he had given you and became in the process the proof in the pudding of your Mum and Dad’s lives. They loved one another. They loved you. What else could you do but love them in return to the very end of their lives.
You have all made important contributions but, even though I may be accused of bias, I do want to especially acknowledge the part Carolyn has played in the last three years. She left the place she loved and with some reluctance came back to
. She became her dad’s driver and companion, his
confidante and encourager, his eyes and ears, his carer and friend. Geelong
Her patience and commitment I believe extended her Dad’s life not just in time but most importantly in quality.
Carolyn your faithful love and care for your Dad on a daily basis was an enormous blessing to him and a great credit to you. I know your dad appreciated all you did for him. On his behalf I say Thank You.
Charles, Ray, Trevor and Carolyn, as your Dad is laid to rest you can take comfort in his life and legacy and pride in your own actions and responses. Well done. God bless you for your faithfulness.