Paxtonvic’s Blog

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An homily for All Souls

Many churches are having this week-end a special service when those who have died are remembered with prayer and sometimes the lighting of candles.

We have our service this afternoon in Little Paxton Church at 3pm and here is the homily I shall share. Its more personal than usual but hopefully it may speak to someone.


An Homily For All Souls

Sunday October 31st 2010.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Maybe I should have been a bit more realistic.

But when I came to jot down some notes for this homily  a few days ago  I found an almighty block inside.


It’s true sometimes I find it hard to get going with any sermon. I worry that my words may be too long, wont be relevant, will be boring or wont be faithful to the passage of scripture I’m addressing. But usually I can get going and keep going with hopefully a successful outcome.


But this time it was different.  A service for All Souls. . The annual opportunity for those in our community who have lost a loved one to remember them, pray for them and continue to commend them into Gods safe keeping.

As I look around I see so many of you whom I have journeyed with for a while as you begin to make sense of what loosing your loved one means for you.

But this year for me it’s a bit different. This year is the first All Souls Service I’ve been part of since my mother  Mildred died in June. If the truth is told the block comes because in many ways I haven’t really given myself time to come to reflect on the impact of her death for me and my family. Im not sure what I will find if I do.


Mum’s passing  was expected – infact she had had far more years than I thought she would have. At the end she was so frail and poorly she didn’t have much quality of life. Often I would go into her nursing home and with a sort of wry smile she would upbraid me  “ Old Mrs So and So “ she would say “ she died last night – why couldn’t it have been me?”


She had had enough months ago and I was beginning to wonder if she was waiting for something. Maybe she waited for my son to move to St Neots which he did two weeks before she passed away. Maybe it was just her time to go.


What I do know is that I went onto automatic – and I expect many of you can recognize doing that. You pretend to the outside world it doesn’t hurt and get on with life with a smile and a joke and say it is all a bit relief now they are out of pain.

British people can be masters of not letting on how we really feel – tears and upsetness are only for private and the rest of the time it’s good to be seen to be getting on with things and putting a brave face on it. And anyway, other people don’t find it easy to see us upset.




You must forgive me for talking about myself – it’s not something I would normally do. But I do it in the hope this afternoon that it might help some of you at least  who are still missing a loved one – or several loved ones very much. And if I only get one point across in the next few minutes – I hope it’s this one.


That in the midst of the awful wrench of loosing somebody, in the bewilderment that can set in and the raw pain and anger of loss that can gnaw away day and night – the two  thing that can help are  knowing that friends are there and really do care. And that God himself is with us, sharing that pain, bearing it with us, longing to bring comfort and calm  to hearts which can beat  with so much emotion.


If anyone asked me what is at the heart of my Christian faith – it is that God is with us whatever we are going through, whatever we are struggling with, whatever we have to contend with. There’s a hymn we have sung “ And when human hearts are aching under sorrows iron rod. There they find the self-same aching deep within the heart of God”


A God who suffers with us – a God who knows and cares for us intimately in this world and the next, a God who will never forsake us. St Pauls summed it up so much better than I ever could “


For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Often when we are with someone who is very sad and upset the best thing we can do is just to be there, sometimes in silence. That presence in itself is a comfort. We don’t always have to be talking – much as we think we should be saying something. The being there is all that matters. And when I’ve been really sad in the quietness of a garden or a room with the TV and computer turned off,  I feel God is there wanting to share his peace with me.


The words of Psalm 130 often come to mind:


1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;

2 O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.




There is no panacea for grief. Nothing we can take or book we can read which instantly takes away the reality that our loved simply isn’t with us any more in the way we have been so used to.

Maybe with time the raw pain does lessen and life gets back to some sort of normality. The bills have to be paid, the garden tended and the washing done. Maybe in time we make some sense of suffering and the pain that we see a loved one endure.

Maybe out of endings which are so painfully endured there comes new beginnings like spring follows after winter. For some those springs to be honest are slow in coming. Clever people have written about the different stages of grief that we have to go through before there is some sort of resolution and life feels worth living again. But many will say they take one step forward and two steps back.

But through it all – where ever you are on the journey through bereavement, I truly believe that God is with us every inch of the way and will pick us up and carry us – as the famous poem footprints has it – when we feel like falling altogether.

Jesus was in no doubt when he spoke to his disciples towards the end of his life – my peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you. Trust in me as the way, the truth and the life”

They must have had some hesitation when they first heard those words. But all that was dispelled when he rose from the dead after a cruel crucifixion and appeared to them in a spiritual body, death transcended, hope for ever etched into the human condition.

May his peace be with all of you this day and every day as you remember and honour the life of all those you still love dearly. Each of us matters dearly to God whether we are on earth or in heaven – and to remember our loved ones daily and to give thanks for the ways they shaped our lives is as important as the love we gave them when they were with us.

And so, as I come towards the end of writing this homily – I think I feel something has lifted a bit. Maybe because I have admitted publicly that I’m no different to anyone else and actually find death very difficult, frightening and confusing.  That I really miss my mother and wish I could say just once more how special she has been to me. But that in the middle of it all I’m even more sure of Jesus’ promise to be with us always and show us the way to eternal life. And that often we are called to be alongside one another in grief as well as sharing in all the good and happy times.


Thank you to all of you for sharing much with me in the past months and years, thank you for letting me share a little of what loosing my mum has meant to me. Thank you for the opportunity to commend once again the great hope that God has given us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus from the dead and pray that he may be a great comfort to you all in the coming days.Amen.


(For my dear mother Mildred- although to be sure she wouldn’t have wanted any fuss or mention made of her!)



October 31, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. From someone who lost their Mum nearly five years ago …. you are spot on. It’s a hard thing to wrestle with and we are all very reluctant to air our grief in public and let others know how bewildered and hurt we are. I remember feeling awkward and slightly embarrassed because nobody knew what to say to me …. and I went to great lengths to try and prevent other people feeling uncomfortable around me. This was a great help to them, but it really didn’t do me much good!
    Grief is a bit like the menopause …. you just have to start at the beginning, go with the mood swings, accept that you may upset a few people along the way, be prepared to do alot of thinking, alot of crying, feel things intensely and, at times, question your own sanity. It can’t be hurried, there are no short cuts and it’s a different experience for everyone.
    I don’t really believe that old saying that ‘time is a great healer’ … I don’t think you ever heal entirely when you’ve lost someone close. But I do think that time helps you adjust to the loss and accept that, although life can never be quite the same as before, sometimes ‘different’ isn’t necessarily all bad.

    Comment by Juliet Green | November 6, 2010 | Reply

  2. Thanks Juliet for your kind and thoughtful comments.
    Much appreciated

    Comment by paxtonvic | November 12, 2010 | Reply

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