Often there is a time for people to visit a funeral home before the casket is closed for a personal farewell. Because of distance I wasn't able to do that so I had asked for a photo so I could truly take in visually that the real Andrew was "gone". The photos I was sent absolutely confirmed that! What was in the coffin was just the shell of my lovely brother. I think that made it easier to walk into the Cathedral and see the casket. I knew he had already "disappeared into God" as Thomas Merton described it.
I also had the privilege of giving a personal reflection on behalf of the three of us remaining siblings. It was wonderful that all three of us were present. My older brother Peter (82), and sister Merrie (80) both had significant challenges in making the journey. I was able to read a short reflection from each of them as well as my own. Here's what I said:
"I was only four years older than Andrew so the closest in age. We shared a lot of our lives together both as children and adults. Andrew and I had similar personalities– for example both being introverts and both being 5’s on the Enneagram! If some of you don’t understand that code language it means that we were always happy to go for long walks without talking much and when we settled in for a chat it was often about the latest good books we’d read or resources we'd found for retreats!
Our spiritual journeys have followed parallel paths too. We we were both drawn to the contemplative focus of retreats, and spiritual direction. In fact I think Andrew would say, as I do, that we were deeply formed by the opportunities made possible in the very early days of Spiritual Growth Ministries. Later of course we each in turn trained as spiritual directors and retreat facilitators. Over many years one or other of us was part of the SGM workgroup – Andrew co-ordinating it for many years.
Another parallel for Andrew and me has been the opportunity and privilege of teaching spiritual formation: Me at Laidlaw College in Auckland and Andrew at Booth College here in Wellington.
So as you can see our lives have been deeply intertwined. Andrew I will miss you hugely as a brother, a friend and a colleague. As Thomas Merton would say - you have now “disappeared into God” but that is the sacred dimension where we are all one. I just have to get used to finding you there – probably more closely connected than ever."
I'm writing this just two days after the funeral and I know there will be many months of both grief and happy memories. I'm already thinking of how much more I wish we had shared... but most of all I am wanting to enter even more deeply into that dimension of one-ness which of course is what Jesus prayed (John 17) we would all come to realise. Andrew certainly knew he was entering in to "the Palace of Nowhere" (Merton again). When I visited him in hospital and again when I last talked to him on the phone I said "I'll meet you in the palace of nowhere"... a special farewell message we both understood.
This is my favourite photo of Andrew about a week before he died. Sleeping peacefully after giving his blessing to daughter Lydia and "soon-to-be-husband" Phil since it was clear he would not be alive on their wedding day (21st November). The flower was his "corsage" matching Lydia's bouquet.
PS (added later) Here's the link to the audio of the whole funeral. I'm putting it here mainly so I know where to find it! But of course anyone who wants to listen is welcome to do so.