“I go to prepare a place for you. – that where I am you may be also”
Today we give thanks for the live of, pay our tributes and say goodbye to someone who was many things, a wife mother and grandmother – as we will hear shortly from George her son, but also to some-one who was in many respects, a traditional, old-fashioned businessman’s wife, a woman whose main task was to support in practical ways her husband and family. And this meant among other things preparing for others. As I told George, I was surprised how many people, in both Marholm and Castor, remembered Millie so well. One reaction will be enough to make the point, I think. A Marholm resident who had been a member of the Young Wives Fellowship said to me. “ I remember Mrs Read well from the old days. When we went carol singing their house was always the last port of call- apart from anything else we were not fit to sing any more after we left their house- and Mrs Read would appear with trays of mince pies for the carol singers.”
She was dedicated to the house, and despite all her other activities, fund-raising etc, her home and the garden were the focus of her life; tending to guests, supporting George, feeding people from the Operatic society when son George suddenly appeared with a host at no notice. She liked things in their place, neat and tidy, being on her knees in the garden or doing her needle-work. She took close care of her children; she worked hard to keep the family together despite all life’s vicissitudes, keeping in touch with all. She liked people, and only ever saw the good in them.
And this church, where her husband George is already laid to rest, and where we shall carry out a last service for her tomorrow- this church is set in the place, the village, which was the happiest part of her life. It is right that this should be the last place on earth we gather with her. After the recent years of discomfort and frustration and confusion of being old and ill, her body really is at rest, at peace . But Millie, who spent so much time preparing one place for other people, and has now gone to a place prepared for her.
Before I hand over to George, I would like end by reading a poem, because it may say something about Millie’s approach to life. In came out in the course of discussion that she often recited a poem by Leigh Hunt. Some of you may know it.
Abou ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:-
Exceeding peace had made ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
“What writest thou?” – The vision rais’d its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answer’d, “the names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still; and said, “I pray thee, then
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”
The angel wrote, and vanish’d. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.
As I have said, Millie liked people, and always saw the best in them- she too, will appear in the book of the blest.
Having prepared an earthly home for others, she has gone to the mansion of her heavenly Father, where a place will be prepared for us in our turn. We give thanks for a long life, for all she meant to those close to her, for all she did for others, and today we will pray for Anne, George and Roger, and all those who knew and loved, and pray for the repose of her soul, in the sure knowledge of Christ the good Shepherd’s love for her and the whole of his Father’s creation. Amen.