Monday, September 25, 2006

Peace for Lilly

Today marked the funeral of tiny baby Lilly: the little girl who was found in the river not far from my church.

I went.

I've never been to the funeral of any child before... let alone a child I've never had any direct contact with.

Nonetheless... I went any way.

I didn't go to gawp morbidly at the tiny white coffin... nor to jump on some sympathetic bandwagon. I went because at the core of my being I fundamentally believe that everyone has the right to have someone say goodbye when they pass away. Every individual counts.

Furthermore, I also believe in my heart of hearts the command that Jesus Christ gave us... to "love your neighbour as yourself". I would not wish to be left alone - unloved and forgotten, should my time come... so why should I leave another to the same fate?

"Love your neighbour as yourself".

Lilly was not afforded the kindness that stems from that commandment in life. Instead... either by accident or brutality, her collar bone and skull were fatally fractured shortly after birth and she was abandoned out of either fear, callousness or neglect in a section of river off the beaten track.

However... in death, the local community resolved to give her the respect and love that she had been robbed of in life.

Lilly had a Christian burial, paid for out of love by kindly locals. Her white coffin was tenderly carried in the gentle loving arms of a local undertaker. Flowers were laid, a headstone will be provided... and 100 mourners turned out to say a loving goodbye to a girl they never knew... I am so proud of the people around me on this day... today - for all their flaws... they got it right in the most amazing and powerful way.

A few moments will stay with me this day. Firstly, a young mother held her own child in her pew just 10 feet away from where Lilly's coffin lay. The contrasting image was not lost on me. Two children... two very different fates, life and death at so tender an age in such close proximity... it moved me.

Secondly, we were invited to pray over the coffin... all of us... to raise our hands and pray - to let God's love, light and peace flow out from within us as a gesture of farewell to the child.

Thirdly as the coffin was led out, several women reached out to touch it. I'm told this is not an unusual custom... but I've never seen it at any of the numerous funerals I have attended. The tactile sympathy shown towards this child warmed my heart.

Fourthly, the internment itself was supposed to be private... but nearly everyone stayed and watched from a distance... and paid some kind of personal respects when they found opportunity. This was only slightly marred by the press taking snapshots of the burial taking place... which sickened me.

What moved me most was the having sensation of the unseen mourner - God himself, all around me. I felt the Holy Spirit in that service... and their was a Spirit of unity among those gathered.

So rest in peace Lilly, you will not be forgotten... you will always be one of us.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:40 am

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