With you every step

Sandra Millar writes…

Ten years ago I had to organise two funerals within 6 months – first my dad, then my mum. They both died suddenly in the fullness of years. Neither of them were churchgoers, but amongst their family and friends were several Christians – not least, me, a vicar. But it was not because I am a vicar that they had really special funeral services. It was because this is what the Church of England offers to everyone. My dad’s funeral took place in the parish church of the community where they lived in retirement. We chose hymns, readings and music to reflect his life and interests, singing a contemporary Christian hymn because he liked modern things, playing a CD on which my nephew was singing, and ending with ‘In the Mood’ by Glenn Miller. The grandchildren read, and me and my sister spoke about his life. The vicar held the service – and all of us – together. Dad was buried in a local cemetery – and we released balloons into the sky at the end. Six months later we held my mum’s funeral in a different church. Not because they had fallen out, but because this church was very much her family church – she was christened there, married there, her parents and brothers buried there – and a year earlier I blessed their marriage for their Golden Wedding. Nowhere else would have been right. We asked the local vicar, who agreed, and the vicar who led Dad’s service came to take this one too. Another lovely service, a bit more traditional, and much more emotional. The vicar read when we couldn’t , told the story of Mum’s life and gave us the hope that in God’s great love we would all be together one day. We listened to “Morning Town Ride” by the Seekers before the committal into the hearse and the journey to a crematorium.  A month later we placed her ashes alongside Dad’s. Afterwards the local churches contacted us, kept in touch, supported us through a painful time of grief. We often lit candles in different churches,  allowing the peace and stillness to bring comfort. And knowing that people were praying when I couldn’t was very special. Every person is unique, every life is special, every journey through death and grief is personal. And the Church of England has been supporting people through all of this for hundreds of years – and your local church is there for you, just as it was for me-every step of the way.