Big World Small Boat

Private Diary of A Priest. OK, so we're not all angels...Everyone needs a place to get things off their chest! And yes, I do talk to God about it all! Even He has a sense of humour! Want proof? Well, he made me, didn't He? Oh, one last thought-If you don't like what I've written, please keep in mind - it's MY diary. Go write your own!

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Location: England, United Kingdom

I've been serving children in crisis for over twenty five years. My goals are not to raise money, but to find organisations and individuals who can help change lives! What may be outdated equipment for you could change the life of a child in Eastern Europe! To learn more please visit our site at: www.ProjectNewLife.org

Friday

Dying Alone

Today I celebrated the passing of a life. Emily Hanwell, age 95, died alone in her home. She had lived through two world wars, the sinking of the Titanic, the advent of television, and four monarchs. She is survived by two sons - both no longer living in the area.

Emily died in her bed. The coroner listed her cause of death as ‘suspected natural causes.’ It was the best the coroner could offer. Emily had been dead for several weeks before her body was discovered. Nature had followed God’s mandate and there was little of her mortal remains left.

I spoke with one of her sons. He had already been made aware of her death. He told me that he was 'too busy' to attend her funeral, but he was sure that his brother would ‘try to do something.’ He said his mother had become difficult to deal with and it was a ‘blessing’ that it was all over. I asked him when it was that he had last spoken with her. He said he had spoken to her on Christmas Day ‘when she had called him.’

When I arrived at the funeral directors, I discovered there were no flowers. There had been no calls about Emily, or anyone asking about her funeral. Her coffin was of the ‘particulate variety,’ a polite euphemism for cheap board, with colourless plastic handles, which was all the government would pay for. I went next door to the local florist and purchased several bunches of daffodils to place atop her coffin.

And so we headed to the chapel at our local crematory. In Britain the pallbearers are the professional staff of the funeral director. There was no one there to receive Emily. And it was impossible not to have tears form in my own eyes to see this pitiful coffin lifted up and placed upon the catafalque, with no one there to mourn her loss or celebrate her passing. Often my children have attended funerals I’ve celebrated, when I know there would be no one to attend. But in my heart I was certain that at least one of her sons would find time to attend their mother’s funeral.

Just as with any funeral I celebrate, I prepare a Homily that is unique to the deceased. Sadly, there are times when I have nothing more to guide me than looking at the face and hands of the deceased. For me, there is often an endless story that is revealed in the lines on someone’s face. This was the case with Emily. But in my Homily, I did say to the pallbearers that I wondered what the last days of her life were like.

One of the greatest fears that a human being can experience is the fear of being abandoned by family and friends and being left to live one’s life all alone. Prison guards know this when they place recalcitrant inmates in solitary confinement and torturers know it too when they need their victims to confess to fictitious crimes.

To be cut off from human contact is immensely painful, but it pales when compared to being cut off from God. And yet that is the daily experience of too many of His children, wandering about this earth with no sense of any larger purpose or destiny and no vision beyond the blank wall of death. What a tragedy, and how unnecessary it is!

And as Emily’s soul was committed to God’s care, I was able to smile, knowing that she was not alone, nor ever would be.


Emily, I know that as God opened His arms to receive you, the angels danced.


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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You were the priest at my aunts funeral. She was Judith Lambert. And you may remember me. I was the woman who cried on you as you greeted people leaving. I wanted to thank you for all you did for my Uncle Robert. Everyone said they had never experienced such a beautiful service before. It was so different than any funeral I ever attended. I never imagined that we could laugh during such a painful time. But you brought my aunt to life and reminded us to reaffirm our love for those who we love. I've laughed and cried reading your blog. Thank you again. Gemma Lawrence

21:07:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does one get over being so alone? I do have a few very good friends, but too few! I am dying of loneliness! I don't know what's wrong with me that I can't seem to "connect" and make new friends. I don't want to die alone too! I'm turning 60 this year. Any suggestions?

12:07:00  
Anonymous Claire Finn said...

Dear Father Bill, thank you for being there for Emily - God bless.
Dear Anon - my name is Claire and I met Father Bill when my Mother sadly passed. Your comment hit a nerve with me as we have clung together as a family and had talked about people being alone - I'm a 48 year mum and nanny and I just wanted to reach to you to say hello and that you are not alone. My email address is (removed to protect poster), if you want to say hello, I would be so happy to hear from you. Write to me C/O Father Bill - it would be lovely to receive a proper letter for a change! Love Claire x

09:00:00  

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