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Funerals

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COLIN WELCH

For many of us gathered here this sad Spring afternoon, the reading we have just heard, will remind us of a happier family occasion, the wedding of Chris and Sophie, just 9 months ago- not long after I got to know Colin . And in that short time, I discovered something about Colin, which you will all know.

Most of us here, will know of Colin's friendliness, his liking of people, the way he spoke to strangers as though he had known them for years, his kindness and concern for waifs and strays. I was by, coincidence reading a poem this week, which for me caught something of Colin; it went like this:

Not, how did he die, but how did he live?
Not, what did he gain, but what did he give?
These are the units to measure the worth
Of a man as a man, regardless of birth.
Not what was his church, nor what was his creed?
But had he befriended those really in need?
Was he ever ready, with a word of good cheer,
To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?
Not what did the sketch in the newspapers say,
But how many were sorry when he passed away?

I don't know how early in life this habit of picking up with strangers and taking them in started; it must have started fairly early. For when he was 17, on holiday in St Mirren, he met a stranger who was to become part of his life for the next 30 odd years - I don't suppose Sue would have qualified as a waif or stray, or someone in need, but befriend her he did, in a relationship that was, with their two children, Christian and Kirsty, to become the centre of his life; and with them latterly- from 1989- their home in Marholm. - Why go away when you have paradise here, he would say, Sue tells me.

Not, how did he die, but how did he live?
Not, what did he gain, but what did he give?

He loved his family, he loved his home and life in the village, and the Green Man could hardly be closer. For he was social, gregarious, he loved a party, music - van Morrison to grand Opera, a drink with others and witty conversation, ready with a quick riposte, making friends easily but not suffering fools or hypocrites gladly; with a strong sense of injustice; noticing if people were to take advantage of anybody; knowing what he thought, not one to sit on the fence and of course supporting England's footballers And he especially loved children, his natural openness, his good-humoured silliness and little practical jokes endeared Col-Col to them.

Not what was his church, nor what was his creed?
But had he befriended those really in need?

His kindness to people was legendary. With his generosity, even with his work -he loved being self-employed- he was never going to be a millionaire. Friends and strangers alike were treated with a friendliness, but their needs also taken seriously. Not many of us would meet a stranger, someone in need, have them living with us for a year, help put them back on their feet, let alone remain life-long friends with them. For that matter, not many of us would have partners like Sue who could accept it. I don't know which of them I admire most in the circumstances. His kindness to his fellow humans, or her tolerance when waking up in the morning to find total strangers, whose car had broken down in the night, sleeping on the sitting room floor. He was also practical, a hands on father, active,. A handyman, enjoying doing some jobs, apart from cutting the grass. I was amazed to find him one day, in the depth of winter, very ill, outside in the garden in shirt sleeves. putting together a new door for the house.

For he took his illness as he took life, on the chin. He was instinctive rather than reflective about life. But now the struggle is over; his body is at rest, free from pain and discomfort. Sometimes it is difficult to see purpose, shape and pattern in our lives. But if we look about us, away from the confusion and muddle of our own lives we can see that shape and pattern there is. We can see that the stars and planets in the heavens move in a fixed pattern; the suns sets and rises; the seasons come and go, and as surely as Spring follows winter, greenery dies back and returns to new life. We can see evidence of the pattern around us; but as one monk said to me; there is also a purpose and shape to our own lives- it's just that we lie too close to the carpet to see the pattern in our lives.

Well I think we get more than a glimpse of the purpose and shape of Colin's life. It was a life, as I have hinted, motivated, love, kindness, enjoyment of what it brought, by a determination not to let difficulties defeat him. For he not was beaten psychologically by his illness. It didn't change or distort him.

With sadness then we give thanks then for such a life .. He clearly lives on in the memories of those who love him; Sue, Chris and Kirsty, and his large family of siblings, his twin Phil and his beloved younger sister Angie. He will live on in the grandson due so soon. But there is more. In our opening hymn we heard of the Good Shepherd, whose promise is that Colin and we, in our turn shall all be led to pastures new, brought to the presence of our loving heavenly Father. This is not a shepherd who asks about people's church or creed, or that that we should believe six impossible things before breakfast, but is more concerned about our attitude to the homeless stranger, the sick, the dispossesed. In his Gospel, the Good Shepherd tells us he has sheep whom he knows and who know him; he also has other sheep, the rest of the flock of uncertain and muddled humanity, that may not know him, but whom he also knows by name- also part of his loving concern; other sheep that he must gather in so that there shall be one flock with the one shepherd.

Faith without works is nothing worth, we are told in the Bible. Colin was kind to others; he will be met by the kindly Good Shepherd. Colin lived this life he was given abundantly; I believe he will come to that abundant new life, given by God our Father. He loved, and will be held in turn, as we all will, in the loving arms of his heavenly Father. We can be confident in the knowledge that his body is at rest, and his soul at peace. In funerals we use the water of baptism to remind ourselves of God's promise- the promise of new life that comes to Colin now, and to us all in our turn. For him the battle is over; we commit him with confidence to the loving care of his heavenly Father- in a place of refreshment, light and peace. May he rest in peace. Amen.