Month 3:15, Week 2:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5937:075 AM|
SHABBAT 3:2, Omer Count: 7 Sabbaths + Day #7
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 23 June 2013
Marjorie E.M.Warren (1914-2013)
Sermon Given in Guildford Creamtorium, Surrey, England, 25 June 2013
Introduction: My Father's Funeral
I once sat where you are today and watched, barely able to hold my tears back, as the coffin of my father, Gerald Keith Warren, rolled slowly into the cremation oven in this very room, as we sung the hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers as he had requested. He had wanted something cheerful to say goodbye.
The Convergence of Events
That was over 20 years ago. It is a strange and wondrous thing how events converge and overlap. No detail is too small for the Divine Eye, nothing acidental. There is, I believe, purpose in our coming here and being here in this world, and there is reason - however unfathomable to us - why we must leave when we do.
Living in Scandinavia, as I have now done for 25 years, meant that I did not have the time I would have liked with my father in his last days. In having my mother move to Sweden and sharing her last 15 or so years meant that I could be with her in those final days before she left us. Not so with father. I was not able to talk to him, pray with him, sing to him, or hold his hand as I did with mother to comfort her on her last day as she prepared to leave this world. My father was rushed to Cranleigh Village Hospital when his condition suddenly deteriorated and was soon gone. My last connection to him was a plastic bag with his watch and a few of the other possessions he had died with. Too little was said by me to him too late. So may I begin today by urging all of you to say those things you have not dared say to loved ones either before you depart or they do? You may not be able to tell them that you love them again.
Death Followed by a Birth
I said that nothing is accidental, and I believe that firmly. After father died, I rushed to England to be with my mother and at the same time was forced to leave behind a very pregnant wife. While I was with my own mother, my second son was born. With all the best intentions in the world, we cannot be in two places at the same time. For mother, becoming a grandmother again in the midst of such anguish, brought her a measure of comfort especially when it was agreed that the newborn baby would also carry the name of his late grandfather, Keith, whom he never met, but whom he perhaps passed on his way down here. He may not realise it, but he came into the world at a very special moment - as one person left this world, another entered it. And so life goes on as it must and as the older generation passes its hopes for a better world to the new one.
Mother and I had a standing joke. In the years of her illnesses - and these were many and hard - she would often wish that Elohim (God) would take her home. I am sure many of you senior citizens can identify with that, even if it is just to be reunited with a dear spouse who has gone on before you. And I, with the same kind of cheekiness that I inherited from her, would remind her that once as a teenager I had pulled a chicken wishbone at her dinner table and had silently asked that she would live to be a 100. Though I almost got my wish, I am glad I didn't. Another year and a half would have been cruel indeed.
A Mother's Last Breath
The death of my mother was, of course, devastating, and more so because I had spent so much time with her day and night in the final weeks. I was relieved, for her sake, when the end did come. She breathed her last breath holding the hand of Josef's mother and left peacefully. I am so happy that she had superb medical care, day and night, from nurses and carers who did a magnificent job, sitting up with her at night when we were all but totally exhausted. In this I have to say that the Swedish Health Care system was exemplary. I owe them a debt of gratitude.
Are You Ready for Death?
Death challenges everyone of us. It awakens sleepers and jolts the lazy into the sudden realisation that death is not something you can ever escape. Everyone has to face it whether they like it or not. Particularly as the decades roll off our calendars and as we enter into our autumnal years in particular, and then our winter ones, we need to ask ourselves: Am I prepared for the final journey? Have I prepared for it as diligently as I prepared for college, or parenthood, or a career, or marriage, or anything else of importance in my life?
It took me weeks to prepare for this jouney to England. I had forgotten how much there was to do to get everything ready. But I believe I stepped onto the train in Sweden 98% ready. Mother was a superb organiser and she taught me well. Yet it is surprising how most people are so poorly prepared for the second most important event in their lives after birth itself. And though we have no say in how or when we come into this world, we most definitely do in how we leave it. However, most people live as if death doesn't exist and refuse to confront it. Today we are forced to, and at every other funeral we attend. And that is good.
Is Richard Dawkin's Right?
Today is is one of those days on which we must seriously and honestly ask ourselves: what is life all about? Are you and I, as Richard Dawkins claims, just a random event with no purpose and no destiny, a collection of 'selfish genes' flung together by a 'blind watchmaker', only to be finally snuffed out? Am I an insignificant part of a species of billions of human beings that arose fortuitously through the random collision of atoms and molecules that will one day become totally extinct when either our sun blows up or the universe collapses back on itself and explodes all over again, as we have been asked to believe? Or is there something more than the material me with only five senses? Is my only hope for a kind of immortality to be remembered for some works of kindness I did and my achievements while I was here? You have heard my mother's eulogy  today. And for how many years or generations will she or I be remembered? My great-grandparents are a total unknown to me. No one remembers unless you are particularly famous or a diligent chronicler.
Atheism is Scientifically Absurd
Though I was once an atheist I have to tell you that as a Biochemist I absolutely do not believe anymore that we are either the result of random events or that life comes to a permanent end after death. I am convinced by logic, science and personal experience that we live beyond death. Dr.Joseph Mastropaeolo, Aerospace Physiologist for Douglas Space Systems, has demostrateted mathematically that the probability of the evolution of the first cell taking place would be an absolutely staggering 1 chance in 104,468,296, that's a 10 followed by four million, four hundred and sixty eight thousand, two hundred and ninety five zero's! In other words, that we appeared randomly, by chance, is totally and utterly impossible, beyond any reasonable scientific doubt. There aren't even 1080 physical particles in the universe to give you some sense of scale. We are not freaks of nature. We were created by an external Intelligence. We are more than a bag of molecules. We possess consciousness which never ends.
Experiences of Life After Death
Mother was a lifelong confirmed Anglican though she never talked about her religion very much. Like so many who had experienced so much over a violent century, she struggled with the harsh realities and brutalities of this world. She knew, as I do, that there is life after death, because of the experiences she had right up to the end. In a funeral like this one in Wales, before the war, she turned her head in the small chapel she was sitting in and saw her aunt who had recently died standing in the doorway smiling while her coffin with its physical remains stood in the aisle. Several times we both saw a dead school friend of mine - a communist - who had been killed in a motorcycle accident in Cambridge. He couldn't understand why he was still alive. When I prayed for him he finally left and we stopped seeing him. In Singapore, right at the end of the war, my mother sensed something terrible had happened at a particular spot and was told by those with her that this had been where the Japanese had executed their prisoners. We both sensed things like this, and often. Indeed I had my first out-of-body experience as a young boy while on vaccation at Port Dickson in Malaya. And when I was a student at Oxford, after a very long journey from atheism, I met the living Christ and became a Christian.
A Vision of Mother Going Home
My mother's physical remains - her ashes - lie in this urn. But she is not here. All that is here is carbon atoms. She has gone home, in her spirit, to be with Elohim (God) and loved ones who went before her. How do I know? Partly because of my faith and spiritual experiences, partly because of scientific certainty in the existence of Elohim (God), and partly because many years ago I was shown her walking out of her home and up our lane dressed in a white robe.
Yah'shua (Jesus) said: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26, NKJV)
 THE EULOGY
Marjorie E.M. Warren
Written by Christopher C.M. Warren
& Given by Josef J.E. Warren (3rd Son)
Good morning, my name is Josef and I would like to welcome you all on behalf of my father, Christopher, my brothers David and Joshua, my aunt Liz and uncle John and niece Kas who are all here today, and the rest of our family who were unable to come. Thank you for all of your phone calls, cards, and letters of condolence. What I want to share with you today is mostly taken from these and my father's memories.
We are here to honour and celebrate the life of my grandmother, Marjorie Warren, who passed away at home in Sweden on 29 April aged 98 years. We are grateful, as one of you wrote, "that she did not have to pass away in some cheerless old people's institution", but was at home with her family. She emigrated to Sweden at an old age, and though she missed England and her friends, it was definitely the right move in spite of the cold climate and the challenges of a new language.
Grandma had a long and wonderful life. She possessed a strong character, was very interested in people and made lots of long, enduring friendships, many of them lasting over half a century. She was always loyal and generous, and many of you have shared happy memories with us. She had a sense of fun, was full of warm wit and laughter, and was fascinating and amusing company. Many of you regarded her as part of your own families.
For her friends after she moved to Scandinavia, she will be remembered for her long, newsy letters until the ravages of old age forced both her typewriter and pen into retirement. She had a lot of pain in her latter years, and showed great bravery and fortitude. Old age was frustrating for such an active lady as herself, but she was determined, fought hard to keep going, and tried not to be a burden to others. She was still getting around on her own feet two weeks before she died.
Life for Grandma began in Coventry, England, at the outbreak of the First World War, when Europe was full of Czars, Kaisers and Emperors who have long since gone the way of history. Her Anglo-Irish father (and my namesake) owned a motorcycle and bicycle business. Perhaps it was this background that, in part, led her to join the Women's Voluntary Service at the outbreak of the Second World War, where she was put in charge of a platoon of other women, drove busses and military vehicles carrying aircraft frames and wings, and at one time was a driver for American officers stationed in Liverpool. Her photograph albums are crammed with memories of these times ... and, of course, of you her friends and family.
She experienced the horror of the Blitz in Coventry and had her brushes with death during that terrible conflict. She lost her first husband, who was from Wales, as a casualty of war in Greece flying Wellington bombers, and would have been the first to agree with General Sherman who said that "War is hell". She always had a special fondness for, and close connections to, Greece because of this tragedy. Many of our family members and friends, to this very day, have strong Greek ties we're happy to say!
In 1946 she boarded ship, and set sail, viâ India, on a new adventure to Singapore and Malaya, as it was then called, and still then British colonies, where she met many of you. As a war widow she threw her energies into running guesthouses for rehabiliating troops in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Macao and Hong Kong. She got caught up in the Chinese Civil War, was shelled by the Red Army while onboard an American gunboat, and even knew Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's mother before she fled to Taiwan with her husband-President after China fell to the communists.
She did what many of us do when we lose a loved one - she kept busy - and being busy was definitely one of her hallmarks. She lost my grandfather, Keith, 20 years ago, when my brother Joshua was born, so was widowed twice. In addition to all her activities, she was involved in the Malayan Red Cross and worked for a time at a travel agent in Kuala Lumpur. She also loved antique furniture.
Grandma loved acting and the theatre, and produced numerous plays for the troops as well for the Kuala Lumpur Theatre Club. One or two of you here may have acted in her plays. She loved poetry and especially Wordsworth.
In 1953 she met my Grandfather, Keith, an architect working for the Malayan Government, married for the second time, and the next year my father, Christopher, was born, her only child. Little did she know that one day she would have seven Anglo-Norwegian grandchildren as part of her continuing legacy!
As if two world wars weren't enough, she also experienced the 'Emergency' in Malaya, and the brutalities of communist terrorism. For her own safety, she was once locked up with my father (then a little boy) in Changi Jail, Singapore, for their own protection from the communist bullets and bombs. Dad is always joking that he was once in jail and loves to look at the shocked faces of his first-time listeners!
My grandparents moved back to England when my father was a young teen, and to Cranleigh village in Surrey, as my father was still at boarding school there, as my grandfather had been, before him, before the war. It wasn't long before Grandma was busily involved in the local Conservative Party and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, now known as Cancer Research UK. She came to be known as a hard and reliable worker. Grandma loved organising events and was as known for her exotic Asian cooking as my Grandpa was for his beer-making. She loved her garden, which always looked beautiful, and took pleasure in sharing it with others.
Marjorie Warren was, as one you wrote, "a great and brave lady, and special in every possible way". She will never be forgotten by those who knew her. Her death is the end of an era, and she will be sadly missed by family and friends alike. She is at least, now, without pain and at peace, and reunited with loved ones who long ago, and some more recently, crossed the veil of mortality into the Great Beyond. And in a few minutes her ashes will be laid to rest next to her husband, Keith, in the English soil she so much loved.
Thank you, every one of you, for being her friend and for taking the trouble of traveling, in many cases, a long way to be with us here today.