I arrived at the funeral home half an hour before the ceremony, and Susan's sister Brenda met me with a hug. Susan was still back at the hotel, where the power had failed, leaving them trying to get ready in the dark.
Brenda's eyes were shining as she said, "I'm not wearing black, I'm wearing Dad's favourite colour." She wore a beautiful jacket of kingfisher blue. "I can't be sad," she whispered.
I understood. There was so much of God's hand in all that surrounded this man's passing.
A little later as we began to file into the chapel for the service, I noticed a row of veterans in the back. Gray haired, faces lined, and no longer resembling the dashing young men who once went to war, they sat with a quiet dignity. Suddenly I felt very close to my own dad. I knew that many of them shared a brotherhood with him that only they could understand.
Later, after the committal at the graveside, we came back for lunch at the Legion hall and I went over to chat with a couple of these gentlemen and shake their hands. I told them that my dad had been an old soldier too, and I asked them where they had been during the war. I wanted to show them honour, to pay attention to them.
The respect and honour shown to the deceased person at a funeral is an important part of this final ritual. Susan's and Brenda's dad, Hugh Saunders, was honoured with a full colour ceremony at the Legion the night before the funeral. He was buried with a hundred poppies in his casket, placed there dozens of vets and his family. Susan pinned hers right on his lapel and then patted his chest, right over his heart and whispered, "Goodbye Dad--until I see you again."
As the cavalcade of cars proceeded slowly through the heart of Windsor to the cemetery, I thought of the sombre progress, 6 years ago, along the streets of the village of Alvechurch as I rode in the funeral car with Mum and Robert. A man in top hat and tails walked slowly in front of the car, leading the way from the house, to St. Laurence Church, only a short walk really; not even a mile. The sense of dignity though, was immense, as it was when dad's coffin was wheeled in, draped in the Union Jack, and led by standard bearers.
Today I wondered why we save so much honour for the end. I understand why we do it then, but why wait? Why not try to show honour and respect for each and every human being we meet, each and every day? Our world has become so casual in many ways that I think we have lost something precious. It is, after all, a demonstration of love to honour someone. What a wonderful thing it would be if each person we met felt incredibly cherished and attended to, loved and honoured.
1 John 4:7-12 (New International Version)
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.