We are people of Resurrection hope.
In the passage that Ron’s family chose for the Gospel today, Jesus declares that “all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.”
We Christians believe that death is part of life, but not the end of life. That what we mark today is not the end of Ron’s life, but his passage into new life, life forever in God.
We hold these things to be true, and yet we’re realists, too. Having faith and hope doesn’t wipe away the immense grief we feel as we gather to give thanks for the life of Ron Bergey.
God made us for love, and when someone you love passes on, it hurts. It really hurts.
Still, we hope that as time passes this sense of enduring love—God’s love, of course, but also Ron’s love, because our love for each other is a participation in God’s love—we hope that love may be something we can hold onto.
Something that reminds us that Ron will never be entirely absent from us as long as we remember this.
Linda has shared some wonderful memories of Ron, helping to keep him alive in our hearts as we give thanks for his life. I didn’t know him as well as most of you, but I’ll share a memory or two of my own.
A moment that stands out vividly for me was the conversation I had with him soon after he got the diagnosis that he was ill and there wasn’t much the doctors would be able to do for him.
Before I spoke to him, I gave some thought to what his reaction would be. Would he be frightened? Or angry? A range of possible emotions went through my own.
And he was emotional, but not for himself. The concern that was on his heart was a deep regret for the difficult days ahead that Pam was going to face. This was a concern he repeated as time went on.
So we talked about the support she would have from family and friends, from this church community. What I wish I’d said more to him about was the way his love would endure. But I hope he knew.
A wise person once said that living a good life isn’t about doing great things, or being famous, but simply about doing small things with great love.
And that’s the kind of life we’re all called to live.
I saw Ron at home a week ago. We prayed with him, holding hands. It was very difficult for him to talk, and I assured him that God knew what was on his heart whether or not he spoke his prayers out loud.
His hand was warm, his grip was strong. Surprisingly strong.
Now I’m not God, so I don’t know what he prayed for. But based on our previous conversations, I might guess that some of his prayers were for those he would leave behind. I might guess that he’s praying the same kind of prayers now.
Memories. We take our memories and weave them into something we can hold onto, today and going forward, remembering the promise that God will wipe away every tear.
I want to end with a little passage from an Irish priest named John O’Donohue, who was also a poet. He wrote this blessing that talks about the way the dead remain present in beauty and love all around us:
Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you. …
May you continue to inspire us:
To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.
Let us lean into Love today. Let us lean into the hope of the Resurrection—and when we people of faith talk about hope, it isn’t just a wish for something we want, but a commitment to live in the truth of it. That hope says Love lives on, is with us now, and will be always.
Preached at St. James the Greater Episcopal Church, Bristol, PA