Tuesday, 20 November 2007

what really matters

This afternoon I spoke at Joyce's funeral. She was only 54 and had been one of the church stewards during my time at Cottingham Methodist Church. Her husband Steve evokes Joyce so well when he says of her: when she came into the house a light went on without anyone flicking a switch. As I said in the service this afternoon, Joyce was the loveliest person you could ever wish to meet. The truth of this was written into the faces and flowed through the tears of a church packed out today with her friends and family. Everyone will remember her smile. As a friend Joyce was incomparable – you couldn’t wish for better. That was the common memory today. Always thoughtful, always loyal, always there for you, always life-enhancing, always a part of you; to remember Joyce is to find a smile on your face and a deep warmth in your spirit. Joyce was like the fizz in champagne. Sparkly, bubbly, overflowing with life and love, she brought to life for those of us who were privileged to know her these words about God: God is love, and those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. With Joyce this truth met you face to face. Joyce’s God was profoundly loving and entirely life-affirming. An intimate God discovered through love and friendship yes, but also to be encountered in the natural world; from the wild seas, glorious skies and breathtaking scenery of Iona, to her lovingly tended garden. Each plant in the right place, known by name and valued for its distinctive contribution to the whole garden, that was Joyce’s way. A parable in sweat and soil and lovingly inclusive creativity.

In the way she lived her life Joyce was a bright flame of hope for all who seek to transform this world for the better. Nothing spectacular here, nothing to make or grab the headlines; she was not a celebrity nor was she self-serving. She was an ordinary person living in an ordinary community whose ordinary life made such a difference, not least to those whom she knew and loved.

The photograph is one I took in Iona Abbey several years ago. Guests at the Macleod Centre had made clay figures and this one really stood out. Two figures are hugging each other. At the time it seemed to convey something of the experience of solidarity, acceptance and healing which often happens there. The icon reflects back the eternal truth of being held and cherished by God, which the clay figures express in a particularly unique way. The candle flame perhaps symbolises the fragility and beauty of love itself, set against the shadows and the dark.

As we remembered Joyce today we reminded ourselves of what really matters in life and of the values which define a good life.

May she rest in peace.

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