Tomorrow, we hold a service of celebration and thanksgiving, for the life of Rev Barbara Stanford. Such occasions are always mixed... we are glad to give thanks, but the giving of it because somebody has died makes it sad. For many of us, to think of Barbara is to smile, to remember with great fondness and to be aware of missing her.
As I have planned this service, I have more than once thought "I must give Barbara a ring and see what she advises...." - only to be caught again with the sadness that I can't do that any more, and with gladness that for so long, I had the chance to benefit from her wisdom, her gentleness and her dry wit.
There is much to be said, and will be tomorrow. There may even be much to write in due course, as we look at the possibility of a memoir - so rich, full and self-offered a life might well be written up as a celebration and exemplar of what a life of devotion might look like.
But what ever is said will never be enough - as it can never be enough for any life. No life can be summed up in words or sharing stories. For the depth of life, the hidden life in God of prayer, devotion, question and wonder, the cost and delight of being alive....all of that is more than human words can encompass.
Those moments in worship when we give thanks for a baby's birth, celebrate the coming together of two lives in faithful commitment, mark death and its experience of loss, we are reminded - or discover in ways we cannot hide from - that to be human has at its heart mystery, wonder and the unspeakable grace of God. To do this in community, before God, with prayer, listening to Scripture, and hearing one another is a life-giving part of being the church.