We are thinking of you, Jenny and Peter. There is something about losing a second parent, however much you were looking after her – and Peggy's final illness was relatively recent: even if her body stubbornly hung on to life long after the doctors expected. And you must feel pretty drained and weary. It was also really good to see the support you gave her in those last days. If it wasn't Jenny by her side, it was Pete and Judy or Colin.
And we particularly appreciate how hard it will be for you, Jenny. You cared for her for so long, and life will seem empty in every sense of the word. But I am pleased that you have the support of your wider family, friends and members of your house group.
It was a privilege to know Peggy – both in the earlier years before the stroke and dementia and also after. She didn't want a fuss, was very faithful, had that lovely knowing, slightly wry, smile that lit up her face, was quiet, a lady who definitely knew her mind; and most of the time was someone who was content and at peace. You wrote that ‘she enjoyed gardening and would love to sit in the garden with a cup of tea and a crossword to do.’ That’s the sort of gardening I enjoy! We will miss her.
The passage we read, Isaiah 40.27-31, was a passage that was underlined in her bible. She thought it was important. And it is an appropriate passage. The context is Isaiah 40. God speaks to his people. They have been through a pretty rough time – and they are weary and drained and hope was flickering for them like a tiny candle that looked as if it would be blown out.
But the whole chapter has a theme: God (who is bigger than creation, than the nations, than the idols of the nations; who cannot be compared with anyone or anything, whose wisdom is beyond even someone with an Einstein or a Hawking’s sized brain, and who will never grow weary) is coming to his people to bring them comfort and strength.
For Peggy, faith was really important. She ‘put her hope in the Lord’.
And as Christians our hope and our conviction is that God did come:
He came and rescued his people in Isaiah’s time. He gave then ‘hope when hope was gone; strength to carry on’, to quote from a song from Les Miserables.
But the great rescue was when he came to us in his Son, Jesus.
He was born, taught us the values of the Kingdom of God, gave us glimpse of the Kingdom of God, lived the Kingdom of God, he died for us on the cross and rose again.
Through his birth, the Son of God opens the door of heaven and comes to us. He lives as one of us. He knew joy and he knew deep anguish. He knew what it was to suffer, and because he was fully ‘one of us’ he would have known that sense of powerlessness we have as we sit by the bed of one who suffers (yes, he was the eternal Son of God, and he did have power to do amazing things, but he only did those works of power when he knew it was what His Father wanted). But it is that which leads to total dependence on God.
And through his death and resurrection, he opened again the door of heaven, but this time from creation-side, and as he goes through it he takes those who have come to him with him.
So today we entrust Peggy into the hands of the one she put her hope in. And as she goes through the door into eternity that Jesus has opened, she won’t need her chair. She will stand and she will join the crowd of those who worship and sing the praise of the One who is bigger than all our understanding, who was with her all her life, who loved her, died for her and who is bigger than death.
And for you who are left?
‘Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength’
That same promise of God’s comfort and strength is there for you if you wish
I really do pray that you know that deep comfort – through really good friends and family, through glimpses of the future, through the strength that comes from prayer and through the presence of the living Jesus who is with you.
God bless you.