Last week my aunt died. Lesley, who was less than 10 years older than me ,was more like a sister than an aunt. She frequently stayed with us in our council house in Bletchley, where I grew up, and was a good friend and companion throughout her life. She was one of the people who most shaped the way I am and it is really tough for all of us in the family as we come to terms with how much we loved her and will miss her.
One of the most odd things that people say on the atheist web-site which I fairly frequently visit is that christians shouldn’t be sad at funerals- grief in the face of the hope of eternal life is seen as just one more of the irrational inconsistancies which mark religious people out from the rational crowd.
Such crassness is the equivalent of that of believers who argue that atheists should give up on life because it is only a temporary staging post between non existence and oblivion!
We all grieve. As a priest who has taken 100′s of funerals I have had to develop a kind of professional strategy and demeanour for coping with bereavement but inside often feel acutely even when trying to help strangers. Sympathy and empathy are part of the picture, but so is the manner in which grief has a way of accumulating and connecting with other experiences of loss. I can experience overwhelming pangs of loss when walking in Wakehurst Place and not long ago found myself weeping in Salisbury Cathedral on my first visit in nearly 30 years!