Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Goodbye Uncle John

I haven't even told you about our trip to Champagne (Reims and Epernay) and Lorraine (Verdun, Metz and Nancy) — we were only gone a week but things sure piled up for us when we got back!

One thing I missed was an exchange of emails announcing the death of John Hallifax, my mother's older brother whose name in memory she passed on to me as a second (middle) name. I've not been close to him over the years but do know him as a very active, energetic and kind man.

He passed away last Tuesday at the ripe age of 90 having recently fallen quite ill. I first read this news and the announcements of his funeral Saturday morning. Since his sister was in England they decided to have the services of remembrance on Monday the 19th so I didn't have long to decide what to do.

I felt the Lord would have us go as kind of a representative of our scattered side of the family who obviously could not attend at such short notice. I called up and booked Sarah and I tickets on the midnight boat sailing from Caen to Portsmouth Sunday night.

This put us in England in time for breakfast. I know the trip well by now having perfected it for years when I was taking care of Aunty. Since the service didn't start till the afternoon we decided to go and see Aunty's marker. We found it, after two years, in much need of some cleaning so decided to come back this fall better prepared with some supplies to do it properly.

After lunch we got to the crematorium at about one o'clock and joined everyone filing into the chapel for the "committal" — a new word for us, we came to think it was coined to replace the word burial. Neither of us can understand the modern craze—even among sincere believers—for cremation rather than burial. Fifty years ago it would have been unheard of.

I remember talking it over with Aunty many times and she, having spent time in India, viewed cremation with a degree of loathing, associating it, as she did quite rightly, with Hinduism and paganism. I guess I'm out of step with the church again (sigh).

Still, I don't judge another man's servant and let everyone be fully persuaded in his own mind. You can be sure that I am.

The service was very nice and meaningful and very tastefully done, we thought, and a vast improvement on the only other cremation service we've been to in England.

After an opening welcome and prayer we started with Great is Thy Faithfulness a grand old hymn we love. Then followed (for those who care to know all this) a scripture reading from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 which was followed by a lovely rendition of I'd Rather Have Jesus sung by John's brother Pat and quietly accompanied on a guitar by my cousin Ken.

Then followed some prayers, an "address" by someone called John Balchim (can't remember but I think he is a former minister at Above Bar Church in Southampton) and finally we sang the last hymn which was I Cannot Tell. Now you're going to find this hard to believe but neither of us had heard this hymn before. It is sung to Londonderry Air or as we know it O Danny Boy and the words are powerful with this melody.

Afterwards we went to the "Thanksgiving Service" at Above Bar which started at 3 o'clock. At the refreshments which were served at the end we really got to meet all the family members and have some good fellowship with them. Most we hadn't seen for five years, at least. For some it had been ten. For two people in particular (my cousins Diane and Faith who thought they'd never met me) it was about fifty. Unknown to them (they were not two years old at the time) I had met them when their parents visited our family in the west of Canada in 1959. I have some good memories of them then as they came, fresh out of Pakistan as missionaries, and sat on our back lawn and sung some native songs.

All in all, we were very pleased I had made the right decision to go. It was a good testimony and made many glad we had come and we were able to renew many ties. It's funny that it must take a funeral to bring about so much good and lasting happiness.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks a lot for going, Derrick, we sure appreciated you representing our family. That's funny about the cremation. Like you, I had this discussion with Aunty many times and knew that she hated it. I believe it is a personal decision that the Lord leaves up to us, after all, one cannot choose the way we die, so may not have the choice at the time. As for Floyd and I, we made our decision based on practicality and what we believe to be good stewardship of the money the Lord has given us. To be buried in North America, you are looking at upwards of $7-10,000. This is not a burden that we want our children to bear when (a) they don't have it, and (b) we are alive and with the Lord and they are just dealing with our empty "shells". So, we have both signed our bodies over to science (as did Mum and Dad). That way, a memorial service can be held without the coffin and there will be no grave to attend to and weep at... As you say, everyone has to be persuaded in their own mind and that's how we have come to see it.