Summary: Funeral Service for a 4 year old child, who was buried in a Natural Burial Site, after a long battle with an agressive cancer.
When a child dies, we are inclined to say “What a pity he was taken before he was ripe and able to bear fruit”. We speak of promise rather than actual achievement. This would be quite unfair to XXXXXX.
We don’t speak in the same way of a new blade of wheat: we appreciate it for what it is – a blade of young wheat.
Every child, no matter how brief his stay amongst us, has already borne some fruit. In the case of XXXXXX, considerable fruit. In this beautiful and natural setting, I think that is only right that we celebrate that.
It is right that today is a sad day, but we must also reflect with joy on the life that was XXXXXX’s.
Someone once wrote:
“It is one of the most unjustifiable pretensions of our age that it measures time and experience by the clock. There are a host of considerations and values which a clock cannot possibly measure”
[Sir Laurens van Der Post]
For many, the death of a child, and in particular the death of a lively, intelligent child as XXXXXX is almost unspeakable. Yet within his own short life, I believe that XXXXXX has taught us all here much about, life, about living and about death; so speak we must about death, about cancer and about the person who was XXXXXX.
It is all too easy to portray those who develop a cancer such as Neuroblastoma as a victim, passive, submissive and helpless. However, XXXXXX throughout his life and throughout his illness showed us how to live life to the full: to build memories - castle hunting in Scotland, seaside holidays and the rest - not just for himself, but for C [Mother], for J [Father], the whole family. An independence of mind, a gritty determination and a lack of guile all seem to characterise this red-wellied young man. This shows a maturity well beyond his four years, qualities which are unmeasured by the clock and which will ensure that his memory is treasured for ever.
We should be reassured that the frown (his dad’s frown, I am told) that had been a habitual feature on his forehead throughout this illness and its treatment was, at his death, lifted: he was serene. He was released from his burden. Christians believe that which our reading promised: that Christ would come to those who labour and are heavy laden (with whatever affliction) and would give them relief.
Though he has gone from our sight into the loving arms of God, into the kingdom of heaven, XXXXXX remains with us, through the memories, the love and prayer of those of you who remain here on earth. For death, although a physical loss to those of us here, is very much a part of life: death is not an end, but merely a change in relationship. As we heard in that reading entitled “Death is nothing at all”, the departed are still very much with us, in our memories, in our prayers.
I am also very sure that along with the whole company of heaven, they pray for us also. Prayer is a two-way communication through the medium of God, and I must say, it can be a very great comfort in times of difficulty and sadness – prayer does not have to be complex, or a throwback to what you were taught as a child: prayer however simple, however direct, however you choose to express it, a simple conversation with God and with XXXXXX and can be a great comfort.
We do not know why innocent children have to suffer so much, and die so early. It is not true to say that God wills it: that would be unthinkable. One thing that we do know for sure is this: God does not allow his little ones to suffer alone – he surrounds them with love – of their parents, family and friends.
In this sadness, it is often tempting to blame God for this tragedy; but that also would not be right – how often in times of despair and loneliness do we turn against those who love us most. God certainly does love us, and like a loving parent, he loves us even when we get angry at him, or are in despair of him. God has done what was promised in the Gospel reading: he has lifted the burden of suffering which XXXXXX so bravely endured: gathered him under his wings as a Mother Hen gathers her chicks under her for protection. We should be assured of that, and whilst it does not diminish the reality of our loss of XXXXXX in this life, we should be thankful for that.
We can be sure that God will take good care of him now that he has gone home to him. XXXXXX will never be alone, not only will he have his imaginary friends DaDa and Puncher with him, but he will have the love and the prayers of all those gathered here today.
So now, we prepare to commend XXXXXX’s soul to Almighty God, and pray for him as he makes this next step on his journey.