Eltham Crematorium

20th February 2009

Funeral of Lilian Alice McKenna

All of us must surely, by now, be aware of the sufferings of the people of Haiti in the Caribbean as a result of the terrible earthquake and its aftermath. A quarter of a million people dead within the space of a few minutes, and millions more left alive but without the barest necessities of life.

As we come together this morning to commend the soul of Lilian Alice McKenna to the love and mercy of our Heavenly Father, it is worth thinking about one important similarity and one significant difference between these two occasions of grief and how they should affect our response to them.

Firstly, the difference:

However much sympathy we may feel for the people of Haiti in their troubles, the grief we feel at the death of a loved one, brother, sister, mother, friend or child, is a much more personal, individual experience. Lilian is somebody whom many of those present this afternoon knew personally. We have memories of her. She came from a family of seven children, three brothers and three sisters, two of whom, Elsie and Ernie, survive her. Lilian herself had two children, and several grand- and great-grandchildren.

For all of these, and the many others who knew her, her death has been a source of personal grief and loss which cannot be compared with our sympathy, however sincerely we feel it, for the unhappy people of Haiti – because we simply do not know them.

Secondly, the similarity:

Both kinds of grief should move us to take Positive Action about the event.

In the case of the earthquake the best we can, and should, do is to support the relief work with our money, and the people we cannot reach in any other way, by our prayers; and likewise, in the case of a bereavement, such as this, we can, and should express our support for those closest to her in any way we are able.

However, when Christians bury their dead, we can do so much more than this.

As people who believe in the love of God for His creation and His creatures, we can confidently commend the soul of Lilian into the hands of Him who created her. She herself asked that we should ‘remember her with smiles and laughter’ and many of those present today will doubtless recall in our experience of her, some of the occasions when we have been moved to do one or both of these things.

Secondly, as those who believe in the effectiveness of prayer we can, and should, ask our Heavenly Father (in the words our Saviour gave us) to ‘forgive us [and that "us" includes Lilian] our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’, confident that all those who seek His mercy and reconciliation with Him, will receive it ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord’.

Thirdly, we can then confidently say ‘goodbye’ to her in the ‘sure and certain hope’ that the Resurrection of the Body and the Life Everlasting are awaiting those who have faith in Him. And to this end, we should pray for ourselves that, when the hour of our own death comes, be it sooner or later, suddenly (as in the case of Haiti) or with some warning, we may have prepared ourselves for it by the amendment of our own life, and our acceptance of God’s free gift of His grace and love.

And there is one thing more that we can do, and do it right now. We can observe two minutes of silence, (like we do on every Remembrance Sunday) in order to remember Lilian, our relationship both with her, and hers with God, and then each of us in our own way, thank God for the life of Lilian Alice McKenna, pray for the repose of her soul, and express our sympathy with those who have been most closely affected by her death.

So please would you stand for Two Minutes’ Silence.

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