I know that many of you will be sad at the death of Fred Watson, who passed last Sunday morning just before our church service. Many of you will need to grieve his death too, and that’s as it should be.
It is worth remembering that his latter years of life have not been easy for him at all, having to cope with his insulin-dependent diabetes, his chronic pulmonary fibrosis - which was a progressive disorder - and his chronic heart disease.
Breaking his leg was NOT what he needed, and asked just too much of his frail body. Despite making a reasonable early recovery from an orthopaedic perspective, his body was not up to the extra demands made on it to mobilize, even on a frame, and he suffered two heart attacks whilst in hospital, with the last of them being his terminal event.
We will be having a memorial service in the near future in which we can celebrate his life and the good things we remember about Fred.
Pain and loss are always unwelcome visitors, but unfortunately they have a knack of knocking on the door several times in all our lifetimes. There is no good trying to push the visitor aside as he will kick the door down if you don’t let him in with as good a grace as you can muster. Death knows he’s not your favourite guest, but he has a job to do, just like the rest of us, and although he’s not popular with the young and fit, those killed in road traffic crashes, and victims of violence in general, there are those who welcome him with open arms, and who yearn for his embrace.
I have had the care of many patients who longed to be free of their earthly bonds, and sought the release that death would give them. Some were terminal cancer patients, some were multiple amputees from war zones, still others were badly disfigured burns victims for whom the prospect of literally dozens of painful operations, to attempt to restore their ghastly features which resembled molten wax, was just too much, and then there were the bereaved - usually elderly and long-time married - for whom the prospect of facing their last years alone without their partner was overwhelming.
For these folk, the idea of passing on to another and better place, with the prospect of meeting loved ones who had gone before - or being finally without pain - was a dream of Elysian Fields and blissful release from the turmoil of the terrestrial round.
We shall not know if Fred was one who was happy to be passing on, but of two things we can be sure; whatever had caused him suffering in this life has now ended, and - forgiven all his sins - he now rests in that place where he will see our Lord face to face.
We, too, can rest in that assurance - thanks to Jesus who has shown us the Way.