“On the Death of Colin Stuart”
A Funeral Meditation
By Martin Bell, in The Way of the Wolf: The Gospel in New Images, 1968, Ballantine Books, pages 75-77.
John 16:22 — Jesus said to his disciples, “Ye now, therefore, have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”
He said: “Go now—have sorrow.”
1. Human beings do not belong to one another. We are God’s children. We belong to Him. It is by sheer grace that we are together for a time—for a little while. We receive God’s gift of another person in our lives with thanksgiving. But we must realize that this person is a gift—we cannot hang on, or refuse to let go of one of God’s children when He calls.
2. Colin Stuart was a gift. One of God’s own tiny children. And, for a time, God gave Colin to the world. In order that two human beings might have a child. And, later, in order that a woman might have a husband. And some children might have a father. And some other children might have a grandfather. For those children Colin defined what it means to have a father, or a grandfather. And a woman came to know what it means to have a husband. And because of Colin, the world understood more fully the greatness of the love of God. God loved the world so much that He gave it Colin. And that was nice of God.
3. But now Colin Stuart is dead. And the world won’t see him again. God took him back. That’s painful. And there is no way under heaven to minimize that pain. Jesus said, “Go now, therefore, and have sorrow.” We do not sorrow because God is cruel or unjust. The world did nothing to deserve Colin. God gave him to us freely. Not because we deserved it, but because He loved us. We are not sorrowing because God is unjust. We are sorrowing because Colin is gone. And that’s right. That’s just right. Jesus said, “Go and have sorrow.” A part of us is dead. That part of us that we called our father, or our grandfather, or our friend. That part of us we called Colin is gone. And we know the pain, and the emptiness, and the bitterness and the guilt, and the heartbreak all too well. We will never be the same. And that’s right, too. We can’t be “the same” ever again.
4. We are here to say good-bye to one of God’s tiny children. Jesus said, “Ye now, therefore, have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and you joy no man taketh from you.” He said, “When you pray, say ‘Father.’” God loves Colin. And he belongs to Him. He always has. For a time He gave him to the world. And now He has called him. And now we know emptiness. That’s the way it is with human beings. We are here today, reluctantly, to offer Colin back to God. In so doing we are offering ourselves. We are here boldly—to dare to say “Our Father” and to pray “Thy will be done.” We are here to trust God, and to love Him, and to realize how much He loves us. We are here to say good-bye to Colin, one of God’s tiny children. And today we must let go of his hand. But in so doing we give it over to that of his heavenly Father. We cannot hang on. We must let go. But God has hold of his hand. And He will never let go. Amen.
John 16:19-22 — Jesus… said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’ Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
I Thessalonians 4:13-14 — Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
PRAYER FOR DEPARTED LOVED ONES:
We give back to you, O God, those whom you gave to us. You did not lose them when you gave them to us, and we do not lose them by their return to you. Your dear Son has taught us that life is eternal and love cannot die. So death is only an horizon, and an horizon is only the limit of our sight. Open our eyes to see more clearly, and draw us closer to you, and then we may be nearer to our loved ones who are with you. You have told us that you are preparing a place for us. Prepare us also for that happy place, that where you are, we also may be; O dear Lord of life and death. Amen.
–William Penn (1644-1718)