Yesterday I had the privilege of taking part in the Funeral Mass and burial rites of a much-loved Christchurch woman. Wendy died early last week decades too young at 47. For her husband and seven children this past week since their wife and mother’s sudden death has been an eternity of pain as they, and Wendy’s many wider family and friends, try to come to terms with her death.
I say it was a privilege to be present. and I do not use the word lightly.
For the hundreds of people gathered Wendy’s funeral was the last place we wanted to be, but our love for Wendy and Steve and their family gave us no option but to gather.
Several times throughout the funeral grief welled up flooding the congregation in waves of sorrow. The tears flowed and we felt the physical and deep pain of parting as we heard Steve and his family share and lead us in prayer.
Steve began one prayer reflecting that when he and Wendy were preparing for their wedding, the part of the vows they had greatest difficulty with was “till death do us part”.
At this point another wave of emotion and tears engulfed us.
But then Steve continued his prayer with heart-felt conviction that the resurrection of Jesus gives life to our own mortal bodies today. As we prayed at the Mass “life is changed not ended”. Death at the end of our earthly life is more of a transition than it is an ending. Our grief today is a price we pay for our love, and a life without love is hardly even an existence.
Both at the church and the cemetery yesterday hope continued to break through our grief. It was as if our faith enabled and even encouraged our grief to be more deeply heart-felt. The hope that we shared provided us with a safe environment. Our weeping together was therefore not desolate (as those without faith weep) but hope-filled. We were grieving not as people who have no faith, but as Christians grieve with Jesus at the death of his friend Lazarus. Our grief was only partly from loss and entirely from our love for Wendy, Steve and their family.
The most repeated word used of Wendy yesterday was love. Wendy was quoted on the front of the funeral brochure: “I just love people eh!” and every word spoken yesterday by family and friends testified to our experience of the power of her love.
Yesterday I was privileged to experience true love and real faith. Today my own faith and love is deeper and stronger because I experienced hope breaking through sorrow so tangibly at Wendy’s funeral yesterday.
I am deeply grateful.
May Wendy rest in peace and rise in glory.
and Steve, may you and your family know our deep love for you all especially as you live these difficult days.