I have just returned from officiating at the funeral of one of those rare diamonds - a man who caused no-one to utter an untruth at the service, someone who will be missed because he represented goodness, warmth and light for so many people.
Officiating at funerals, as a Christian, is an odd thing. In our own humanity, we feel the pain of the mourning friends and relatives. We have probably all lost a close family member too, but rightly, we have a job to do and we must do it.
There is a danger however in how we do our work. We can either underplay our part or overplay it - and either is wrong. As a Christian, I have a belief in the defeat of death by the life of Christ. I belief that death is not an ending, just a changing, a movement from one place to another. To many others, death is the end - irretrievably. Then there are the large numbers, the considerable majority, who exist in the middle of that continuum who just want their loved-one to simply come back!
If we underplay our hand, we commemorate the death, the one moment at the end of many countless moments. If we overplay our hand we forget it almost altogether. Somehow, we must celebrate the life, acknowledge its end, and give comfort in the hope of heaven. It's hard. It's hard because the people sat before me don't really want to be told that the person who has passed from their sight is at peace on a distant shore. It's hard because no-one wants to be there doing that thing at that time (except in some notable and tragic cases). It's hard because I bring hope, and wonderful as that is for me, it is not welcome, not today, not really - because none of it should have happened. It's hard because when I stand up before a gathering of bereaved people, I am the confirmation that the most terrible thing really did happen. Hope is a funny thing. It is great to think we all have hope, but hope seems such a hard thing to accept when your loved-one is gone and isn't coming back. Hope is hard when this is not a dream from which they will emerge. Hope is hard when the screaming agonised voice inside the widow stood before me is 'Come back!'