Goodbye. Haere ra. God bless. Peace be with you.
I and a whole host of others said these words today in a packed to standing room only Christchurch Transitional Cathedral.
It was the Christchurch funeral service for Lynda, our Dean. A vibrant young woman who had come to Christchurch from Ireland and decided to make our city her home, to make our cathedral and its people her people. She is actually going back to be buried amongst family in Northern Ireland.
It was a really grand service. All the pomp and ceremony. Two hundred robed clergy formed a guard of honour as her coffin was carried out by friends and colleagues who struggled with Lynda’s deadweight. For it was true that she was larger than life. And perhaps that contributed to her early death. She was 40 years old.
Funerals bring out more than just hankies. Cliches abound. “Gone too soon.” “Too good to die.” “Such a lovely person, God wanted her for his own.” Somehow I think that although these may be true, Lynda would have scoffed at them. Lynda had more than God’s spirit with her, she had her own spirit.
Lynda had planned her service back in 2010, possibly after our first earthquake when many of us wondered if this was the end. For those earthquakes struck everyone – even those with the purest of hearts.
The first reading, which I admit was so obscure I had never heard reference to it, was Lynda’s joke. Apparently when clergy would ring and ask advice on what to talk about when the bishop visited, Lynda would point them to these passages and suggest they discussed what they meant to them.
The Bishop, also an immigrant to our country and also Lynda’s flatmate, spoke. I thought it a lovely tribute to a warm and generous soul, a woman who might live, breathe, and be all things religious, theological, Christian, but who also had a wicked sense of humour and fun. My children Juliet and Robert, who were both serving at the service, said it was a long list of things which may have killed her. For Lynda had not been well for some time. For many her death was not unexpected. But it still came too soon.
So more than 500 people gathered this afternoon to pay their last respects to someone who will be missed. Her sermons always began with a joke or anecdote and then segued into the more serious stuff. But by then you were so interested you carried on listening.
We sang heartily to the hymns Lynda had picked four years earlier for whatever reason. They were happy hymns. And the thing about a congregation at ease with church protocol, people sing with gusto, supported brilliantly by the Choir. It was a pleasant way to give tribute.
And when her coffin had been farewelled with a karakia, and the congregation filed out to an organ voluntary normally heard at weddings (another joke, Lynda?), there were many high clergy and sombre business stalwarts scratching at things in their eyes.
Lynda, kia tau te rangimārie. You will be missed.