Tuesday, February 17, 2009

John's Funeral

There were so many people at Dad's funeral. If you knew him well, that won't be a surprise. I was impressed to see so many people there as I knew there would be. The flowers were beautiful, as was the music and how my Mom composed herself as well as she did, I will never know. What an angel xxx The refreshments afterwards were so well prepared and appreciated. It was so nice to sit and chat with people whose lives were touched by Dad. I am biased of course, but I believe this funeral was the most special of all funerals I have been to.

One of Dad's very good friends, Alan was asked by my Father himself to speak at his funeral. We love Alan just as he loves us and I am so thankful Alan sent his talk to me so I could post it here.

WARNING: Have your kleenex ready!

There are times in our lives where we receive great gifts. Sometimes even in those great gifts there are some that stand out. When John asked me to speak at his funeral I took it as one of the greatest compliments that I have ever received.
Many centuries ago a man by the name of Job asked a question that many of us have probably asked ourselves at some time. Maybe we have asked ourselves this question since the passing of John, and maybe even this morning. Job simply asked, "If a man dies, will he live again? (Job 14:14.)
Over the centuries men have tried to answer this question through science, logic, poetry, religion, psychology, etc. The only common factor is that they disagree with each other on the answer.
Madame Marie Curie, the world renowned physicist is quoted, after her husband’s funeral as saying, "We buried Pierre today. He is sleeping his last sleep. It is the end of everything, everything, everything." It sounds as if her answer to Job’s question would have been, "No."
Another great scientist said, "To believe that man came about by accident is the equivalent of believing that the Unabridged Oxford Dictionary could come about as the result of an explosion in a printing works." His answer to Job’s question appears to be "Yes."
I believe that mankind did not come about by accident. I believe we were created by a loving Heavenly Father. The English poet, William Wordsworth, speaking about our birth, said,
"…Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star, Hath had elsewhere its setting, And cometh from afar: Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness,But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home:…"
Ode. Intimations of Immortality. (William Wordsworth.)
A young lady, Jeanette Szabo, was captured by the Gestapo during World War Two, and mercilessly tortured in order to release the whereabouts of her fiancé. Rather than betray him she suffered all that was done, and was eventually shot to death. After her death a note was smuggled to her fiancé that said;
The life that I have Is all that I have And the life that I have Is yours
The love that I have Of the life that I have Is yours and yours and yours
A sleep I shall have A rest I shall have Yet death will be but a pause
For the peace of my years In the long green grass Will be yours and yours And yours."
Her life was immortalised in the movie, "Carve her name with pride," starring Virginia McKenna. Jeanette’s answer to Job’s question would have been a resounding, "Yes."
What of Job himself? Did he have an answer for his question? He did, and it is magnificent. It comes just five chapters later. It resounds beautifully down the centuries. He said:
"23 Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!
24 That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!
25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.
( Job 19:23 - 27)
That is a definite, clear, wonderful "YES," Job had confidence and faith in his Redeemer, and his Redeemer will not let him down.
Job did not have an easy life. He was described by God in the following words: "…there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?..." (Job 1:8) All that Job had was taken from him, his children, his wealth, his health. The suffering caused him to make the statement:
"For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me." (Old Testament Job 3:25) His family, seeing his suffering told him to "…curse God, and die…" His response is so John Sims-esque. He said simply, "…"Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21)
John Sims, like Job of old has been called upon to suffer. I recall when he had to finish playing his beloved Rugby League due to an injury that left him in much pain. Sometimes just to move led to excruciating suffering. The doctors told him that it was psycho-sematic. In other words the pain was "all in his mind." For many years he was to undertake that suffering, and had insult added to injury when they took him to a local hospital, and gave him electric shock treatment, to "get this out of his mind." John suffered all of that, and still was positive.

After years of suffering the doctors finally discovered that when John had injured his ribs in a rugby match he had somehow trapped a nerve between his ribs. Every time he moved awkwardly the nerve ends would be shredded, causing much pain. When this was discovered there were those of us who told him to sue the doctors and the hospitals. His response was so typical of the man we all love and respect. He put things so succinctly, "I’m just grateful to have my health."
In later life John was called upon to suffer cancer of the bowel, and undertook many bouts of chemotherapy. He never complained, and was an example to all who saw and visited him. He was cheerful, and always had a joke for everyone. John was called upon to suffer more cancers that eventually took his life. His courage was there for all to see. There was never a "Why me?" He knew that he would eventually win, as he had total conviction that his Father in Heaven would not ask him to suffer beyond his ability to withstand. When asked why the Lord would ask him to suffer in this way, his response was "Why not?"
Whenever I think of John I always think of courage, perseverance, patience, strength, faith, humour, love and example.
That we will meet John Sims again is beyond doubt. Whilst John’s body has passed through death, his real self, his spirit, lives on, and will progress and grow. He will meet again with loved ones, and have glorious reunions. My guess is that after meeting his relatives he will seek out his beloved Joseph Smith. (Maybe Joseph will even seek him out.) There has surely never been a more avid student of the Prophet Joseph.
One day we will also pass beyond the veil, and will meet John again. I know that when my own time comes I will hear, amongst that welcoming throng, a voice that says, "Hey Alan, UP THE ROBINS….By the way, have you got that tenner you owe me?" (One of his very favourite jokes, and one of his best known. How many of us have fallen for that one.)
I know that the answer to Job’s question is "Yes." We will live again, and this is down to the Atoning Sacrifice of Job’s Redeemer, and our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. I have tried to find a poem that sums up how I feel about this, but could not find one. As a result, I have tried to write one. You will quickly see that I am no Wordsworth or Tennyson, but the poem sums up how I feel.
Where, O death, now is thy sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
A Son of God has come to earth, and set thy captives free.
Not in riches did he come, He was born in poverty.
In a stable in Bethlehem, but King of Kings was He.
He walked the dusty paths and roads by the Sea of Galilee,
He called upon the fishermen, and said, "Come, follow me."
They dropped their nets, and followed Him. They did so immediately.
And they became the fishers of men that He had promised they would be.
He healed the sick, the lame could walk, He caused the blind to see.
They brought their children to be blessed by Him, He cured men’s leprosy.
And when Mary and Martha lamented their loss, He showed His power over thee,
He called Lazarus from the tomb, and from thou, death, he was set free.
He called to the boisterous waves, "Be still," and He walked upon the sea.
And when my heart is filled with pain, He brings His peace to me.
He took upon him the sins of the world in the Garden of Gethsemane.
There he was betrayed by one He loved, and was taken to Calvary.
They took Him up to Golgotha’s Hill, and nailed him to a tree.
He hung and suffered on the cross, and did so for all my friends and me.
And now when death a loved one takes, through tear-stained eyes we see
That death, thou really hath no sting, and grave no victory.
For death is swallowed up in Him, and holds no fears for me.
Through Resurrections miracle the grave is but temporary,
And all this was done through love, and Grace by this Son of Deity.
Yes, death, you are beaten for all time, for CHRIST’S is the victory.
All of us will try to leave some things behind for our children. For some it will be money, for some it will be a house, a car, a watch, a necklace or some other possession of financial worth. John Sims has never been one for accumulating wealth. He truly lived in the world, but was never of the world. He was never going to be rich. Everything he had would be regularly given to the poor and needy. The last time I met him in this life was so typical of the man. Gina and I came up to Hull for the funeral of John Fountain, and spent the afternoon after the funeral with John and Val at their home. As it approached time to leave for home, John pulled out some money, and said, "Alan, it must have cost a lot for you to come up here today. Let me give you something towards the cost.

John has truly learned that to give is better than to receive. I know that John will not leave a great deal of financial gifts to his children, but he will leave them wealth untold. These gifts are beyond rubies and gold. He has left them gifts such as truth, courage, example, fidelity, strength, faith, integrity, caring, love, obedience, knowledge.
When people judge other men they have set guidelines that they will judge them by as either success or failure. Often they will judge them by position, wealth, possessions, rank, profession, sporting prowess, looks, dress and status symbols.

John Sims' life here stands huge as a success in anyone’s "book." He is a great husband to his beloved Val. This is an example of a perfect couple. They were like Morecambe and Wise, Abbot and Costello, Little and Large. If you saw one, you saw the other. John is a great father. Just look at his children, and you see his success. Both sons served missions, and his sons and daughters are all sealed in the Temple of the Lord.
He was a great Bishop. When I was a young missionary he was my Bishop. There were three missionaries serving from the ward. Each of us, John Fountain, Neilson Forsberg and I, would get a letter every week from our beloved Bishop. This was before the computer and word processor. Each letter was handwritten and geared to the needs and personality of the individual. I still have mine at home. He also travelled all of the way to Merthyr Tydfil (Wales) to marry Gina and I. There is no Bishop I would rather have had to marry Gina and me.
John is a great friend. There is nothing he will not do for his friends. In forty years as his friend I have always known that my name was safe with him. If you have John Sims as a friend, no-one, but no-one will ever say anything bad about you in his presence. He loves his friends, and we love him.
Here lies a great Latter-day Saint. He has been faithful for over forty years. He is as good up close as he is at a distance. Sometimes people are to all outward appearances good, honourable people, but when you spend time around them, close up, you discover that they are not as good as they appear in outward appearance. In forty years as a close friend of John Sims he is the same no matter where he is or who he is with. He does not have two sides. What you see is what you get.
I recommend John Sims’ way of life to you. He is a noble son of his Father in Heaven. I bet when he gets to the Pearly gates he gets Peter with that tenner joke. I unreservedly love and admire him.
I know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that John Sims lives on. We will see him again, and when we do, we will see that sincere look straight in the eye that was his trade mark. We will receive that firm and uncompromising handshake. We will still owe him that tenner. We will hear again that confirmation that he loves us, and has missed us, and if we go where he is, we will dwell in the presence of God forever.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thanks Alan. I have just used a rather large amount of kleenex. I am so grateful to Alan for sending this to me. I was listening at the funeral but obviously my mind was wandering so it was great to be able to read this and share with you our friends and Dad's grandchildren.

"We love and miss you Dad"

1 comment:

carolm said...

i'll bet there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

love and hugs!