Memorial Service Address

Memorial Service Address                                                                                                     5th November 2017

“And the faithful will abide with him in love…” Wisdom of Solomon 3: 9

To love, and to love deeply, is to give of oneself beyond measure. There comes a point when to ‘fall in love’ is to experience a state of heart and mind and spirit that goes beyond words. To love in such a way – that in giving the whole of oneself is to do so in a way that words fail – to verbalise is not enough to express how I feel about you. There are words, but there is also more than words that is expressed in the silence of my simply being alongside you and at the same time being part of you. To love, and to love deeply, is to love beyond words. It is this love that the good mother has towards her unborn child – love which nurtures and holds beyond words. The same love that loving parents have for their children, and the same love that lovers share – to be in that place of togetherness where words, valuable though they are, are inadequate – unable by themselves to articulate the true depth of meaning.

To know this experience of loving is to be able to set aside the needs of the self, and even to risk them, in the offering of all that I have and all that I am – in the giving of the whole of myself to you. My most vulnerable self, I place in the care of your most vulnerable self just as you place your most vulnerable self in the care of me. To love, and to love deeply, is the vulnerability of the unborn child resting in the vulnerability of the young mother who has yet to know what it is to bring her child into the world. That young mother rests her vulnerability in the vulnerability of her unborn child. To love, and to love deeply, is to risk everything of who I am to the unknown. In the words of the Wisdom of Solomon, this is what is known as ‘abiding love’ – love which is so intrinsic to two people that it is quite difficult to separate one from the other.

It is a quite normal feeling, and thought, that as two people find a new identity in loving another, mother and baby, parent and child, husband and wife, grandparent and grandchild etc to fear the death of the other. Such a fear is an expression of the depth of ‘abiding love’ that has evolved between two people. ‘I cannot abide without loving you.’ In other words, I will always love you. I cannot contemplate life without you. It seems to me that the words that we use in the marriage service, ‘till death us do part’ somehow fall short of the very human experience of our capacity to love even beyond death. And we do love beyond death. This is part and parcel of the nature that God has given to us and is an expression of our faithfulness. Mothers and fathers do not stop loving their children who have died. Children do not stop loving the good parent who is no longer physically present. Such ‘abiding love’ – a love that goes beyond words – is indeed painful. It means that when you die – a part of myself feels that death too. If I could not contemplate life without you when you were alive, how must I now begin to live with the love that I still feel, and which is still so much a part of who I am – even though you are no longer beside me? To know that ‘abiding love’ which cannot be expressed in words, is to know too the pain of grief that cannot be expressed in words either.

Very gently we bring before God those whom we faithfully love, beyond death, and very, very gently, we place them into the hands of a God whose love abides beyond death too.

To love, and to love deeply, is to love beyond words.

“…and the faithful will abide with him in love…”

Revd. Mark Bailey