So we held a service of Thanksgiving for Janet’s life and Faith on Friday 21st, attended by nearly 100 people. A committal at the local Crematorium took place beforehand, with just members of her families, about 30, when we said goodbye to her earthly body, which was held in a lovely white coffin with a floral cross on it.
The thanksgiving service began with the hymn “The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want”, by Stuart Townend, well known, and well sung, accompanied by a music group. Then we heard tributes to Janet; Peter read a poem written about their wedding, 47 years ago, then his bother Phil read two more poems, “Janet at 70” and “Uphill”:
Our Wedding day
Our wedding day in January, nineteen seventy-one
was cold, and bright, and frost was on the ground.
You wore a slender gown in white; my tail coat was hired.
You had beautiful bouffant black hair;
I wore glasses, thick rimmed and round.
The minister preached on the twenty-third psalm:
how goodness and mercy, like faithful sheepdogs,
would follow us all our days. How memorable!
How deep. How un-complicated. How calm!
Janet at seventy
You’re how old? Surely not! I am surprised.
While year succeeds to year predictably
as day the night, or wakefulness our sleep,
yet Janet, like a well-established tree,
mature and strong, no signs of ageing shows.
To comment on appearance would be mad,
but “no fool like an old fool”, so I’ll risk it.
If you are like a tree then let it be
a smooth skinned beech, with gorgeous graceful limbs.
Surrounding seedlings demonstrate your gifts:
they’ve grown in strength, inheriting your traits.
As mother you still nurture when required,
And keep in touch, and pray with constancy.
As wife you’re still the best mate I could have.
As friend to countless others, down the years,
supporting, helping, counselling each one.
So, on this anniversary of your birth,
we thank you from the depths of all we have,
for being here, Janet, for being you.
(Written in 2013)
We said she was “going downhill”,
with pain, distress, and heavy breathing.
But in this Hospice, goals are different,
patients comfort is the sole aim.
In Bunyan’s terms, she’s climbing the hill
to the celestial city, the place where God dwells,
and where she will soon be with her Lord,
and will see Him face to face.
So it’s the exact opposite of downhill:
she’s making progress uphill,
as this life slips softly away,
and the next begins, eternal, glorious, and unending.
We rejoice with her, so kind, she is our mother,
my wife and our dearest friend,
but soon she’ll be in glory, as she climbs
ever upwards, to reach the goal.
(Written shortly before her death on 6th September.)
Many people appreciated these, especial the last one. One reader pointed out the resonance with Psalm 84, in The Message translation, verses 6-7:
“And how blessed all those in whom you live,
whose lives become roads you travel;
they wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks,
discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain!
God-travelled, these roads curve up the mountain, and
at the last turn – Zion! God in full view!”
After these, Peter’s other brother Paul read a short biography and some memories of Janet, which were very poignant. The song “There is a Redeemer” was quite emotional for many, while “Before the throne of God above” was more theological. Tim Fletcher, our minister, spoke clearly and simply about the Gospel, using the Bible texts (Jn 3:16 and part of Revelation 21) and the words of these songs.
We closed with “Thine be the glory” to Handel’s glorious tune. I felt the service had achieved all its aims, and everybody seemed to agree.
This poem sums up the service (writted 28th September, revised 1st October 2018)
“Not Funereal but transformational”
Some funerals seem funereal, but not my wife’s:
we said farewell, and proclaimed again
the timeless truths of our Christian Faith,
we believe the resurrection of the body.
We gathered to see her white coffin
committed to its end, “Earth to earth, dust to dust,
ashes to ashes, in sure and certain hope
of the resurrection from the dead.”
Then, with music group, we met in church,
to sing most memorable songs, “Before the throne”,
“The Lord’s my shepherd”, “There’s a Redeemer”,
and to finish,“Thine be the glory”, what a hymn!
These songs constructed a sermon,
“my soul is purchased by his blood”?
So, the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me?
Absolutely, this is our faith, Amen!