Yesterday I travelled to Manchester to attend the funeral of a friend who, along with her husband, had been a huge support and encouragement to me during my ministerial training, and indeed, beyond.
I had arranged to visit the family (who live opposite the church where the service was held) in the morning, and could not have been made my welcome, my genuine protestations that I should leave them, this was family time, being brushed aside.
It was a lovely service, truly honouring a woman who loved, and was loved by, so many people.
Unusually for nowadays, she had been brought home the night before the service, and her coffin lovingly place in the conservatory where she had so often sat to watch the garden birds or to admire the flowers in her garden. It was a real privilege to be permitted to sit with her while her husband ran the final few errands for the catering (the tables had to be literally groaning under the weight of delicious food, and plastic tubs were labelled up to be filled with snacks for my journey home!). In the stillness, cup of tea in hand, with the scent of flowers filling the air, I sat, remembered, smiled and prayed.
The service was a pack-out and people had travelled considerable distances to be there. Beautiful hymns, whose significance I knew, lovely readings and tender, thoughtful tributes... it was as good as funeral is going to be.
Later, munching my packed lunch/tea on a train that was equally packed out, this time with slightly merry young women en route to a Hen Weekend in Manchester, and school girls who were chatting about how they 'CBA' to do this or that, I smiled to myself in gratitude. Life in all its fullness, youth and age, beginnings and endings, laughter and tears... and in it all love and hope.
Farewell A, you have given me so many happy memories, and entrusted me with so much. May you rest in peace and rise in glory.