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Homily/Eulogy – for a good man, Rob Haley

Today we are saying goodbye to a very special person, Rob Haley. 

Rob was born on a cold, foggy evening on the 19th of July 1924, in Bunyip, a small town in Gippsland, Victoria, Australia: the first child to Alf and Florence Haley. Last week – on 13th May 2014 – he passed away peacefully with his children at his bedside. 

If you’ve done your maths, Rob would have been 90 this coming July. 

We come today with mixed emotions. In death – our own or others’ – we collide with reality. There is shock, maybe sadness. There is fear and perhaps helplessness. Perhaps deep appreciation, and gratefulness. 

Each is OK: it’s who you are. In terms of emotional experience there’s no ‘one size fits all’… 

But we’re in the realm of mystery today. When death comes close, as it has in the loss of our dear friend/husband/dad /granddad, we are left struggling to find feelings that fit and thoughts that make sense… 

I’ve been privileged to know Rob on and off for 41 years. My memories of conversations with him are varied, but my dominant feeling is surprise and appreciation at Rob’s courage – with his voice. When Rob was six he had whooping cough which caused papilloma to form on his vocal cords. For the rest of his life he couldn’t speak above a whisper. At Blackburn Baptist Church in the 1970s in large meetings, sometimes without a microphone, Rob spoke from his seat and many couldn’t follow what he was saying. But he didn’t give up. He had some wisdom to share and – even in his classic whisper – he was going to share it!

And – wait for it – Rob was a teacher for most of his working life – speaking in a whisper! I’ve been a teacher, and I can vouch for the fact that teaching – in my career they were adolescents – without a voice, is not easy…

You each will have your memories, and chuckles… For example Rob had nick- names for the children,. The boys were Bill and Charlie, which were used indiscriminately, depending on whoever was there at the time – and Lyndas was ‘Topsy’.  These names were affectionately used until the children were in their twenties!

Lyndas: ‘Dad did not have a practical bone in his body . I can remember my dad and his father working on some building project at our holiday house at Phillip Island.  My Grandfather turned to my mum and said,” I’ve had him for 25 years, you’ve had him for 25 years… where did we go wrong??”‘

Dad had an eclectic range of interests.  nature, photography, Christianity, Classical music, and he even tried to teach himself Hebrew to broaden his understanding of the Bible.’ 
um and dad had a good marriage and as children we never heard a cross word between them.  Any problems were discussed privately. Dad was a deep thinker but also had a cheeky sense of humor.’

So as we commit Rob to the mercy of God today… Let us be grateful that our lives have been enriched by his life…

Rob was a Christian, but not narrow-minded. For him death was not the last word; life is. Death is not the end of the human story; it’s actually closer to the beginning. This for all of us is a temporary farewell.

So back to our reactions today: God shares in our suffering and grief. The Lord knows the loss that we feel. Jesus himself cried with Mary and Martha when his friend and their brother Lazarus died. 

At the same time God gives a special hope in moments like these for “God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in time of trouble”. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled, for you believe in God, then believe also in me.”

The Christian faith tells us that despite death life is not absurd and meaningless. In death, we are changed but life hasn’t ended. In fact God has prepared a place for us that is infinitely better than where we now are.

CSLewis said it well:  ‘I have never met a mere mortal’…

So our grief is not in vain; death does not have the last word; we are loved by a gracious God who never will abandon us.

Why is parting so painful? Because it is only when we have to part with people that we realise how much we love them. ‘Love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation’ (Kahlil Gibran).

I wrote a book of meditations about 20 years ago called Sunrise Sunset… Just as sunrise and sunset are very special moments in the day, so birth and death are very special moments in the life of a human being. At these moments we realise that each person is absolutely unique. At birth something comes into being that never was before. At death something passes away that will never be (on earth) again.

The sun has gone down for the last time on the life of Rob.

A Facebook friend composed a poem about death: 

Death, when it comes, will be such sweet release;
To loose the grasp, let life slide idly by
Into the depths of waters yet unplumbed
And from all earthly pain and pleasure fly.

Although for some, mere thought of their demise
Fills them with dread in the encircling gloom,
But no, not I! I’ll gladly wrap the Reaper in his grim embrace;
For me no fear of grave or worm or tomb.

You see, my life is hid within the One
Who conquered death, broke mortal bonds of sin.
Because He lives, my future is secured.
Thanks be to God – I also live – in Him!

Rob will be missed. 

Let me send you forth with the old Irish blessing:

May the road rise​ to meet ​you,

May the wind be always at your back

May the sun shine warm on your face.

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand. Amen. 


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