Sermon for Requiem Mass Sermon for Sandra Allan Thursday 5 July 2012
Sermon preached by the Vicar at the Funeral Mass for Sandra Allan
5th July, 2012
I last saw Sandra in St. Luke’s Hospice a few days before she died. Her room opened out on to a lovely courtyard garden which she was appreciating, after all that time spent over the last year in Northwick Park Hospital with a view limited to a wooden fence and a bit of sky.
Gardens are important in the Christian faith. Our gospel at her funeral mass takes us to the one in which the body of Jesus had been buried by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus after the crucifixion.
That had all been done in haste before the beginning of the Sabbath. So now, on the first Easter morning, that little group of women, the faithful companions who had accompanied and supported Jesus during his ministry, who had stood by him at the cross, come now to do what had been left incomplete; to embalm this body with fragrant spices and to mourn.
So we come this morning to honour Sandra’s body in this funeral mass, to surround her with the fragrant smells of incense but above all with our love and prayers. We do that in sorrow, yes, because someone who has been dear to us is dead and there is an empty place in our lives.
But because of what happened in that garden in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we do it in faith and hope. We come to say our farewell, but in trust that God will raise her up.
Life took a sudden turn for Sandra last year when, after feeling under the weather for a while, she discovered that she had leukaemia. So, life began to centre round courses of chemotherapy and countless other pills. Much of that life had to be spent in an isolation room with her visitors donning plastic aprons and rubber gloves before they entered.
She approached the whole business with a quiet but cheerful courage, knowing full well that it might all be in vain. The smile and the laughter we had known was still there. I think one of the ways she dealt with this was by a detailed catalogue of what she was going through. Perhaps that was the methodical, well-prepared teacher that she had been in her working life both in this country and in Switzerland.
She also set her affairs in order, with the help of Barrie and Diane. During that interlude when the therapy seemed to have worked and she was back at home, she came to see me to discuss what she would like at her funeral. Her love of the music which she had taught in her professional life is reflected in it. At that time she was even able to get to church on some days. And we should not forget the importance of her practice of the faith: she certainly didn’t. It made her the person she was.
But then, the worst that we had all feared happened, the disease returned, and a new round of treatment in hospital began. This time she knew that it could only be a series of holding actions, in a slow but inevitable retreat. Even when she was clearly tired and worn down by yet another of the infections which her system was now so vulnerable too, she remained bright and always glad to see her visitors; although she could not have too many if her reserves of energy were not to be exhausted.
She spoke often of her gratitude to those who were supporting her: some at close quarters:
- the doctors and nurses in hospital and hospice;
- family and friends who acted like those faithful companions in the gospel, Barrie making all those long journeys down from their native Cumbria, Diane being always at hand for anything that was needed, feeding the Vicar cups of tea when he arrived;
- those who could only phone and send cards and pray from a distance.
She would tell me this on my regular visits to take her the Sacrament and we would give thanks for you all.
Well now we have brought her to this place whose life and worship and people she loved and shared in. We come to pray in thanksgiving and hope for our dear friend and Diane’s daughter Jessica, one of her pupils, is going to lead us in our prayers.