I had delivered my sandwiches to the venue where the drinks and refreshments were going to be served a little earlier in the evening. The original plan had been to leave the car there, have a meal in town and walk to the funeral parlour afterwards. The car park was a 24 hour affair, £1 for each hour. It had the potential to be costly, so I drove home, left the car, read my book for an hour (it was a page turner) and then left to walk into town.
On the way into town I passed a friend walking in the opposite direction. She told me that I was going the wrong way. School and the prize giving ceremony were obviously not my destination. Prize giving? I knew there was something on, other than the funeral but hadn’t been able to identify what it was. Prize giving! I have to confess that getting a prize for Religious and Moral Education doesn’t carry much street cred with the young people that I deal with. It doesn’t rank very highly. Speeches at prize giving ceremonies don’t seem to be as stirring as they could be. It would seem from listening to some of my friends who were there that this year was no different.
I arrived at the funeral home in good time.
There are few funerals that I have attended where I haven’t really had an emotional investment in the person who has died. The recent ones over the last few years have been family funerals where I have shared poems or done the eulogy. They have been painful affairs. This funeral was a relatively painless one but still carried with it a sense of loss.
The photo on the front of my mum’s order of a service was one that summed up so much about her. She was, for the most part, cheerful. She laughed a lot. The photo captured joy on her face. She was wearing a hat with red, white and blue flowers – something Jubilee orientated. She suited hats did my mum.
The photo on the front of Sheena’s order of service looked perhaps a little bit severe. I didn’t really know her very well. I know her son better. There were readings read by friends from her church, and poems, and someone spoke about Sheena’s courage in the face of challenges.
Somewhere along the way I stopped thinking about Sheena and started to think about my mum’s funeral not so many weeks ago. I thought about what was said about my mum by me in my eulogy and by the church minister. She had been part of that church family for thirty years or more.
There is something particularly distressing about a mother’s funeral. It tends to be the mothers rather than the fathers that are the heart of a family. It feels like just for a while everyone in the family becomes just a little bit unmoored. It’s as if the pontoon that all the boats were all tied up to has gone and they are left bobbing about in the water. They regroup eventually and find another family member to be the pontoon and start tying up.
There are always assurances In Christian funerals about the next life. Sometimes it’s just part of the liturgy and what is said. Sometimes you know that the promises of an afterlife have become a reality for the person who has died. They knew Jesus and Jesus knew them and there was a party going on in heaven. It was true for Sheena. She had become a Christian at the age of 12. She knew her Saviour.
It talks about prizes in heaven. It doesn’t talk about boring speeches or certain prizes that you almost have to bribe people to accept. It talks about crowns being handed out to the righteous, and just as swiftly handed back to the one who has made them righteous.
I didn’t go to the prize giving ceremony at the school. I went to a funeral of a friend.
My friend was not really at the funeral - she was attending a prize giving ceremony in the heavenlies.
Having received her crown of righteousness she would have, being Sheena, worn it just for a short time. Then she would have placed it at the feet of the one who is the only crown wearer – Jesus.