Barbara Webb, the extraordinary reader from Wombourne church who worked with me to develop the service in accordance with Mum's wishes, has sent me the words that she spoke on the day. Barbara knew my mother well, and her words are a fine tribute.
I am not a Christian, but I have a lot of time for the spirit of philosophical inquiry that Barbara brings to her religion, and indeed her outlook on life. Barbara helped us give our mother a wonderful send-off; thank you, Barbara.
This service has been built around Judy’s well-thought out wishes, to such an extent that I feel that she has invited us to celebrate her life by sharing much of what she found good in it. Even during the last weeks in Compton Hospice Judy was very much in charge.
The manner of her illness has meant that she was able to talk with and share many thoughts with Bethan, Julian and Justin, drawing the family closer together which was, I am sure, her dearest wish. Those bonds have been strengthened and will not break, even though the Atlantic separates her sons from her daughter much of the time.
As most of you here know, music played an enormous part in Judy’s life, especially over the last years. That is reflected in the service sheet which contains the full details she requested. Music, I know, touched Judy at the deepest level, and in her choice of music for this service she has chosen two pieces and asked us to sit quietly as they are played. So let us do just that, not only remembering Judy but allowing the music speak to deeply to our hearts, freeing emotions that words simply don’t touch.
Judy had a lot of time to decide the details of her funeral. She asked me over a year ago to co-operate with our Rector Paul. And she knew that the tone of the service would be 100% Christian because it was only a couple of months ago that, being Judy who tackled things head on she asked to be sidesperson at a local funeral in this church … which it so happened I took. Yes, she knew this would be a 100% Christian funeral.
Judy was a thinking person, who didn’t take what she was taught for granted, and there were aspects of the Christian faith which she found difficult. She questioned, and I believe that God will welcome her with open arms because of that. Some of us come to him as unquestioning simple believers, others seek more concrete answers, but fortunately God loves us all. just as we are.
For her own reasons Judy struggled with the concept of resurrection, which is the bedrock of the Christian faith. In fact most faiths allow for some form of existence before, outside or beyond the span and confines of a human life, so there must be a widespread, deep–seated, instinctive belief in humankind that death is not the end but the start of something new. Our problem is, of course, that only one Man came back from the dead to prove it and tell us about it, Jesus Christ himself. Apostle Paul tackled this head on in his letter to the Corinthians. “If the dead are not raised, it follows that Christ was not raised; and if Christ was not raised, your faith has nothing to it. If it is for this life only that Christ has given us hope, we Christians of all people are most to be pitied.”
But Paul didn’t stop there. He must have been a tremendous orator and I can hear him thundering “But the truth is, Christ was raised from the dead”. Paul believed totally in the resurrection, and so do I. The Christian hope of life after death is the heart of our service today, and from what I have heard from her family, I believe that, as Judy drew nearer to death, her life story made sense to her, and she was finding the peace which God alone can bring.
God doesn’t ask us to understand; he asks us to trust in him, and live our lives in hope, inspired by his love, the love he expressed in Jesus Christ, the love he lavishes on us every day. Our job is simple; we are to accept that love and use it to love our families and all those around us, as agents for God, spreading his peace in the world.
Judy, as we say after most of our services, may you rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen