Today was my third funeral in three days, which is no big deal compared to my Catholic colleagues, but which would be unusual in the context of the small Church of Ireland community. The number of funerals in my church would average about six – in a year.
âThere will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. â?
Sitting beside Geraldine’s bed on Wednesday of last week, there were a few moments of quietness. Geraldine was pondering memories and began to talk about having worked in London at the Royal College of Surgeons and how much she had enjoyed sitting at lunchtime amidst the tranquillity of Lincoln‘s Inn Fields. Lincoln‘s Inn is one of the four inns of court in London, one of the places that can call people to the bar. Lincoln‘s Inn Fields is a beautiful spot, it is the largest public square in London and one of its best kept secrets. It would be a bit like Saint Stephen’s Green, only not so large. Geraldine laughed when I told her that I went to college within a couple of hundred yards and used to sit in Lincoln‘s Inn Fields and eat lunch. A few years earlier and I might have been one of the annoying students who disturbed her lunchtime peacefulness.
When I thought about it, Lincoln‘s Inn Fields seemed a good picture to use to think about Geraldine’s life.
Places and emotions seem to go together sometimes and there is a line in Psalm 96 that says, âlet the fields be jubilant, and everything in them!â? Lincoln‘s Inn Fields was often a jubilant place it was somewhere to meet with your friends or maybe someone you loved. Geraldine’s life was filled with so many jubilant moments. Geraldine loved nothing more than having the people she loved around her; friends were special people, people to whom she was committed. Geraldine had no doubt that she had been blessed with the best family in the world. Geraldine’s life was a place filled with jubilation; a life that was jubilant brought joy to those around her. Sitting in Lincoln‘s Inn Fields for her lunch Geraldine would have sat relaxed amongst the professionals all around her. There were the barristers from the inns of court, the surgeons from the Royal College, the academics from the university, and a plethora of other professionals from the offices that surrounded the square. Geraldine would have been undaunted. Geraldine gave and expected the best throughout her professional life. Work was something in which to take pride; it would never have been satisfactory just to have completed a job; if a job was to be done, it was to be done well. Geraldine remembered fondly her days at the office. Life is not all summer sunshine, there are darker moments as well. The prophet Jeremiah recognised that safe and familiar places could become sinister and threatening. âDo not go out to the fields or walk on the roadsâ?, he tells people. Lincoln‘s Inn Fields could change after dark. People whose lives were less fortunate would sometimes find refuge in the square; sometimes, often unintentionally, they would be frightening to those who were familiar with the square in the daytime. Geraldine would have been safely home by evening time, but there were other moments and other places down through the years when she went through dark times. Familiar places and familiar people could seem very different from what she had known. Geraldine was blessed in being able to move on from the dark moments; they had been there, and they were to be acknowledged, but she had a forgiveness and a peace in her heart that allowed her to move on and to be the person filled with joy and light whom we all knew. Lincoln‘s Inn Fields was a place to meet with beauty, whether in the changing colours of the trees and shrubs as the seasons progressed, or in the architecture of the buildings surrounding the square. Geraldine’s life was one filled with much beauty: the beauty of her love for her family, the beauty of her friendship towards so many people. Geraldine had a love for beauty, in art, in the books she read, in the music to which she listened. Beauty is something that raises us all up; that makes us all different people; that makes the world a better place.
So we come to today, which can seem like an end, but the reading from the book of Wisdom says that seeing today as the end would only be in the eyes of the foolish. Geraldine faced the future with confidence, with a sense that this was one more step in the journey. Her faith has been a great comfort to her as she faced up to her illness with an unflinching bravery
The ancient Greeks had an idea of heaven, they called it the Elysian Fields. In the Bible that idea of heaven becomes the new Jerusalem. As she sat in the sunshine of Lincoln‘s Inn Fields in times past, we have confidence that Geraldine sits in the brilliant light of the new Jerusalem today. Geraldine has reached that place where, in the words from Revelation, âThere will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.â? We give thanks for a life filled with love; for a life lived to the best, for a life marked by peace, for a life touched by beauty; for a life fulfilled in faith.