Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Laying Patrick to rest

After 'God on Mondays' yesterday, I took the Megabus up to London, to stay with my sister June overnight, in readiness to attend my friend Patrick's funeral this morning at Christ Church Streatham Hill. There were as many if not more people there, as there was last June for Patrick's 40th jubilee of priesthood, over 200 at a guess.

The full Requiem Mass with Absolutions took an hour and three quarters, with a fine sermon from Bishop Tom Butler, together with three tributes. It was a joyous occasion with much laughter in appreciation of this wonderful man whose lives had touched so many people. A quarter of those present were clergy, men and women, white and black. There was an imam there, with a white and flowing beard - one of Patrick's prison colleagues, I suspect. I only caught up with one former USPG colleague, the Bishop's wife, Barbara Butler. If there were others there I didn't recognise them, nor they me on this occasion.

It was the kind of convivial occasion which Patrick would have appreciated, with a buffet meal for all comers laid on by the congregation afterwards. The only moment of quiet thoughfulness was introduced by Golda, Patrick and Judith's West End stage performing daughter, who read the meditation on death from Kahlil Gibran's 'The Prophet' with power that evoked the mystery in a special way. For me, she touched upon a side of her father's nature which I had glimpsed - the deep spiritual seriousness at the heart of his comic and absurd vision of life.

I wanted more of that element, a bit more simplicity in those proceedings and a slower pace to touch base with my friend, the Patrick I knew. Rather than make the effort of much casual chatting with strangers, after a few sandwiches I slipped out into the rain to catch some quiet, and sing a few of Patrick's songs over to myself in my head, on the way back to my sister's flat. After supper, I was back on a late bus, dozing all the way home, occasionally humming still.

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