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15th April 2020

By Dennis Abbott - Posted on 15 April 2020

I officiated at a funeral yesterday (Tuesday). It was a chap I’d known for over 20 years; he was not a victim of Covid19, it was a sad occasion at Bradwell Crematorium, and it felt strangely incomplete. Only 10 or so close family sitting the requisite 2metres apart, not the many who would have been there from the police force he served in. No hymns, no handshakes, no hugs of love and comfort. There was no eulogy as there would have been had it been a “normal” service, and I had a weird feeling of guilt being out in the warm sunshine for the first time in about 4 weeks. On the way back home (Nichola had to drive me as I am still awaiting the return of my driving licence), I began to think about the death that we remembered just last Friday. No eulogy then, no hymns, yet that death was complete. Complete in that it took away the fear of death for us. I realised that the Church is One. There is not a Church of the living which is separated from the Church for the departed. The departed do not leave the fellowship of the Body of Christ. The unifying bond of Holy Baptism unites us all in the love of Christ, whether sinner here on earth, or saint in heaven.

I gave a message of the hope of resurrection to eternal life, saying that death is the next step on the journey of life as Franklin D Roosevelt put it, and that reminded me of a story I have told before about the best being yet to come.

An elderly lady who was a very active and a faithful member of her parish was dying, and she asked for the priest to come to her bedside that they might talk about her funeral. She said, “Father, when I am laid out in my casket, I want my rosary in one hand and a fork in the other”. The priest was caught by surprise: “You want to be buried with a fork?” “Yes. I have been looking back at all the church dinners that I have attended over the years. I remember that at all those meals, when we were almost finished, someone would come to the table to collect the dirty dishes, and usually they would say, ‘Keep your fork’. That meant that dessert was coming. When they said that, I knew the best was yet to come! That's exactly what I want people to talk about at my funeral”. When people see me in my casket, I want them to turn to one another and say, “why the fork?” And, Father, I want you to tell them I kept it because the best is yet to come”.