Friday, 26 October 2012

We buried Uncle Bill McDonald today.

For him, God was the life force inside every living thing, and he did not place himself above the lowest of creatures in that sense. He certainly looked for ways to help every human being he came across, regardless of all else except their need. He was an exceptional organiser, who pushed others gently and with humour to do better, while always wondering if he was himself doing all he could.

Stories told by his three children gave us a picture of intelligence, wisdom and kindness and a letter he wrote to be read at his funeral left us in no doubt he was not afraid to go, but was content. That is how he will be remembered.

However, the Pastor who conducted the service did not accept Bill’s understanding of God and spent most of his time at the lectern preaching about a god that existed outside the body and mind of Man; a god, who unlike Uncle Bill, did play favourites, and although we are expected to believe he created and loves us all, offers eternal life only to Christians.

When he considered he had us softened up, he delivered the knock-out punch by quoting the words of Jesus as reported by John: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

 For the past few days I have been reading a detective novel in which the ‘heroine’ character spends more time protecting her patch against intrusions from other coppers than seeking evidence to support her case. I guess the Pastor may have wondered why I was smiling as I listened respectfully and noted the parallels. Uncle Bill rests in peace. Some do not.

32 comments:

  1. I think your Uncle Bill would've been a good man even without the church, and he's earned his place in his heaven.

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    1. I think he found his 'heaven' while he was alive... an interesting twist to Pascal's Wager; 'If you doubt the Biblical Heaven exists, create your own here, just in case!"

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    2. And Sue, you also reminded me of the following:
      Catholic Priest's Prayer.
      Oh Lord, give me my daily bread.
      Let me sleep alone in my bed.
      Then I'll stay celibate,
      So I can celebrate
      Life's fun and games when I'm dead!

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    3. (With apologies to the religious)

      The Nun's Prayer:
      Let the party begin
      We're ready to sin
      We gals have been waiting so long
      Here all alone
      No townies, no phone
      Pass the hors d'oeuvres and the gin

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  2. Darn shame your Uncle Bill is going to hell for not accepting Christ and all. I wonder if the preacher was aware of the irony of preaching such a "funeral" over such a man.

    It is also true here in America that there are preachers who consider funeral audiences to be their prisoners, and use the occasion to try to win converts. I've even heard of funerals in which those who wanted to be saved were invited to come to the front. I would hope that most Christians find such tackiness abhorrent, but I don't know that they do.

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    1. I think Uncle Bill did a bit of cherry picking. He kept the believable bits while rejecting the nonsense. He attended church but did not leave his brains at the door.

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  3. Some people are unbelievabubble! My condolences Stafford - was he on your Mum or Dad's side of the family?

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    1. Uncle Bill was my maternal grandmother's sister's son, so he was Mum's first cousin. It is interesting how far back our family goes to maintain contact. His sister Flo was at the funeral as she was at Cousin Wally's a few months ago. She is the last of her generation and was the one who kept Mum in her life and with her the kids on both sides, so we are all close still.
      Flo's children are about twenty years younger than me, as were Bill's, so I was able at the funeral, to describe to them; our great grandmother, Ann French (Warr) who I remember well, and Flo and Bill's father, their grandfather, Angus McDonald, both of whom died before they were born.

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    2. I love this ! I pride myself on knowing my father's and mother's first and second cousins. And I know my third cousins as well.

      For I am Ninot daughter of Abdul Aziz, son of Tok Muda Salehuddin, son of Tok Awang Pekan, son of Tok Nik, son of Tok Tunggal, son of Tok Ghaffur, son of Tok Haji son of Tok Sabur!

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  4. Didn't you lose another uncle not too long ago? Hope it's not something to do with you! Seriously, I imagine Uncle Bill was smiling in his box to hear all this cant overhead. Makes you realise, though, that unless you organise your own service well in advance of the need-by date, you're at the mercy of whoever gets the job.

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    1. Bill's letter was dripping with humour as he intended, so the occasion was kept where he wanted it. The feeling I had during the 'reverend rave' was that Bill's family and friends were wanting it to be over so they could get together over the promised cuppa and sandwiches.

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    2. Sorry Carol, the answer to your question is that I did lose another Uncle Bill last year. He was the Exclusive Brethren uncle and at that service my sister and I, along with his son were not allowed to participate but were required to stand off and observe from afar. So much for the inclusive love of Jesus.

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    3. This is strange to me. Here in Malaysia, I have attended Christian, Bhuddist and Tao, and of course Muslim funerals - and I was never asked to stand at the door!

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    4. The EB's are terrified that the Rapture will happen while they are mixed with the Ungodly. They interpret the 'wheat and tares' story as meaning that if they are with non-EB's when it happens, their all-seeing all-powerful god will not take the trouble to separate them from the unworthy and leave them behind.

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    5. That means that they forget that their all-powerful God is powerful, loving and all-seeing.

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    6. I am afraid they have forgotten a lot of things about being human and about the Christian message as presented in the New Testament. Of course if they had known I am Atheist, they would have freaked out totally and insisted I leave altogether! Luckily for them, the Rapture did not happen during the funeral so their delusion was not tested!
      It just occurred to me that maybe my presence might have interrupted Uncle Bill Chesterfield's own ascension!
      But I guess that would have happened when he died, so their concern was for themselves, not for he or me!

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  5. On the other hand, I went to the funeral of one of my relatives who was known as a scoundrel and abusive. So much good was said about him, I wasn't sure I was at the right funeral until we viewed the body. A friend of mine said, "Dying sure makes some people better." How good someone seems is often a matter of perspective.

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  6. Of course you are right, and only those who live with a person really know them. But how a father treats his wife and children, and how he treats his neighbours, I think is a good indication of the real man.
    At another funeral last year, that of a cousin's husband, her brother delivered the eulogy of a man who we all despised for his abuse of wife and children.
    Geoffrey skilfully skirted around the real man to find a few virtues to report.
    Later I congratulated him on his tact and how his well chosen words, to we who really knew him, did not totally hide the truth.
    But the deceased was mentally ill and his behaviour was dictated by his genes. So what can we say about that?

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    1. I also think (speaking from personal experience) that how a man treats his ex-wife and her (their) child is even more of an indication of the real man!

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  8. I was interested to read Snowbrush's comment about American preachers, having attended a funeral recently here in New Zealand which was conducted by an American who is the pastor at a local Baptist church. "Betty wanted me to tell you," he said, "that if you want to go to heaven it is not enough to simply go to church on Sundays and be kind to others." He went on to explain at length that total commitment to the Lord through baptism is the only possible way to avoid eternal Hell. To my astonishment, he finished by unashamedly inviting attendees wishing to avoid such a fate to talk to him after the service. Incidentally, the deceased Betty had suffered from dementia for some years, so was most unlikely to have provided any funeral instructions!

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    1. On the other hand, the advice could well be the ravings of a demented mind.

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    2. Keith, I have made this comment before, but not to you. It seems to me that Betty's loving god gave her a lousy exit strategy.
      I presume you were sufficiently scared out of your wits to come forward? :-)

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    3. I was sufficiently scared out of my wits that I didn't stick around for the after-match tea party!

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    4. Funny thing that. At the Last Supper they served wine, so the story goes and the chalice was passed around. I have never seen wine at an after service supper.
      Might be a good thing too, or tongues could be loosened. In vino veritas.

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  9. I am always amazed and saddened when people assume God to be as petty and narrow as we are. I'm very sorry for you loss Stafford.

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  10. Thanks Mary. I was there for his sister Flo who I knew well because Mum and she were friends as well as cousins so we visited often. I knew Bill less well. But it was good for me to know that he was more concerned with the welfare of people than religious dogma.

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  11. Rest well, Uncle Bill. A funeral is not a place to start preaching. How inappropriate on the Pastor's part. I am sorry for your loss, Stafford xxx

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