Today Jo and I attended my grandad’s funeral. Dad led the service of remembrance at the crematorium, on behalf of his younger brother and sister and himself. Dad, you did grandad proud.
It was a good day. Don’t get me wrong: tears were shed, and rightly so. But it was a good day. Grandad’s coffin was brought in to Copland’s Fanfare to the Common Man, because his children thought that Jack deserved a fanfare. And the rightness of that music made me smile an honouring smile that stayed with me throughout the service.
After the service, we went back to my aunt’s who – as so often before, on happier occasions – laid on the most wonderful table, a gift to Jack and those who loved him. Thank you for all you have done, seen and unseen.
But for me today wasn’t just about granddad, much as I shall miss him; for me, perhaps alone, it was about learning my own role. As my father is, I am a firstborn son. And it struck me that one day the baton will pass to me, and I will do for my father that one last act he did for his father today; I will do for my brother and sister and our children what dad did for my uncles and aunts and cousins, and us, today. At least – if this can be said in the right way, heard in the right way – that is my hope; though, please God, may that day be many years from now.
However strange it sounds to our culture, there are other cultures that understand this task to be part of the birthright of a firstborn son (a challenging thought in our rights-obsessed society). It struck me that it is the birthright of a firstborn son to stand up to death and take a blow on behalf of the whole family: not that the pain of death is not felt, but that its force is not unmitigated. And it struck me that taking up this birthright is the very thing that Jesus, God’s begotten Son, the firstborn over all creation, has done for all God’s family; and that is why we can say, where, death, is your sting; where is your victory?
It struck me that standing up and taking the blow must be the most alone moment imaginable – though, dad, I hope we were in some small way there for you today. God knows it was alone enough having the curtain of the future drawn back for just a moment for now today. And it struck me that Jesus has been there, before dad, before I will stand there; and he stands with us, because that is (now, because of what followed) a moment – however evil – and not the final word. It strikes me that, in the most alone moment, we are not left alone.
I need role-models if I am to learn my role in life. Dad was a good role-model to me today. Jesus, you are our role-model. Thank you, both of you.
If this post is too private, too personal, to be thrown out into cyberspace; if I have caused any offence to my family; then I apologise. But why should death, which comes to us all, be taboo? If these thoughts help you, you’re welcome to them. And if not, let them fall to the ground.
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
family , funeral service