1951 - 1999
Funeral at St. Andrew’s United Church, Williamstown
Thursday, 30 August 1999
Presider: Rev. Andrea Harrison
[A letter written by John Rattray, in consultation with his son, Michael Rattray, and other family members, upon the death of Diane Rattray (August 26th, 1999), wife, mother, beloved family member and friend]
A shining light has passed from our lives when you were taken from us so suddenly.
Because of your compassion and loving heart we sit back and wonder how will we ever get along without you there beside us.
We all loved you dearly and I know with unfailing certainty that you loved us all equally in return.
What a wonderful gift for Michael, Auntie Mar, myself and all your family and friends to have been blessed with knowing and loving you, and being loved by you, all these years.
You were my soul mate, partner, lover and most definitely my personal guidance councilor.
You put up with my antics without batting an eye.
It seemed that anything I wanted to do would be met with a "John, whatever you want to do is O.K. with me."
I have only realized in the last few days the full extent to which you were always there for your friends in Williamstown, and elsewhere as well.
Most of all, how can I ever find a way to thank you for the love and guidance you have given to our son Michael.
I know without any doubt that he was your shining light.
If anyone could have the words "perfect mom" applied, it was you.
None who knew you could ever deny that fact, and Mike knows you were the best of the best.
Because of everything you were to us, and the love we will always have in our hearts for you, Mike and I will be able to go on to the next stage knowing "Mom would have wanted it that way". We need only look and remember your strength of character that carried us through the difficult times to find the way forward.
I will always look back and see two sets of footprints in the sand, God bless you for everything you have done for us. We will love you forever.
John and Michael
Reflection from the Funeral of Mrs. Diane Rattray, August 30, 1999
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2a, 4
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
I don’t understand why it is that some people end up dying before their time.
I wish God would just act to prevent deaths like this.
In the scheme of things, it seems that there is a certain randomness and unpredictability to life; a randomness and unpredictability that God has created.
We may appreciate this when we see a shooting star in the night sky, or a beautiful flower, not planted by our own hands, that mysteriously appears in our flowerbed.
But when that random or unpredictable event is the death of a loved one, we wish that things were different.
God knows that, and God will listen to us as we lament, or even get angry at God.
God will accompany us through the grief and the anger and the loss, and more than anyone, God will understand what we feel.
And while God is trying to keep us company, God is also keeping Diane company.
In the Christian tradition, we believe that when we die, we go to live with God, in a place we call heaven.
Jesus talked about heaven to his disciples, and describe heaven as a big home. He said,
"Let not your hearts be troubled:
believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father's house are many rooms;
if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
And when I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and will take you to myself,
that where I am you may be also." (John 14:1-3)
We can imagine, then, that Diane has gone to live in God’s house, where she can visit with God, and also with all the people that she loved who died before her.
We can expect too, that she would want to be busy in heaven.
I don’t know that God has an office, per say, but if God does have an office, I’m sure it needs a bit of tidying.
And perhaps there’s a corner of heaven in which no one has potential for fixing up, but Diane would see this, and she would embark on some renovations.
Perhaps she is knitting wings for angels.
We know that it is not just adults that die, but that children also die untimely deaths.
So perhaps Diane is being mother in heaven to children who have died before their parents, calling them "love" and taking care of them.
But perhaps most importantly of all for us, is that she is looking down on us, watching us, caring for us like a guardian angel.
Her love for you, Michael and John, and all her family and friends, has not ended.
I’m sure she is missing being able to be with you, just as you are missing her, but she will be watching you and loving you from where she is.
And she will be happy to watch you live out your lives, to watch the years pass, and she and you can trust that at the end of your years, you will be reunited again.
And you will have stories to tell, and love to share.
For now, although you can’t see or touch her, like you can’t see or touch God, she is there – so remember her, talk to her, tell her you love her, and let her watch you live out your lives.
Of course, it will be tough living without Diane.
She took great care of her family and friends, and was always there when you needed her.
You may be asking how you will live without her.
Perhaps once the tears start, you are afraid they will never stop.
In the Bible, there is a story about rain that seemed like it was never going to stop – the story of Noah and the flood.
In that story, it rained and it poured for 40 days.
Well, you know how long it can seem if you have to wait an hour for the rain to stop so that you can go outside and play, or start the soccer game, or get out on the golf course.
And you know how long it can seem if it rains day after day while you wait to get out there to harvest crops.
Well for Noah and his family, and all the animals on the Ark (the big boat that Noah’s family had built) it seemed like the rain would never stop. And it may seem like that for you as cry or hurt in missing Diane.
It may seem like the pain will never let up.
Well, in the Noah story, the family didn’t give up hope.
The rain did stop, but by then, they were in a boat, surrounded by water from all the rain, and no land was in sight.
But they kept hoping for land, hoping to get back on their feet again.
Noah sent out a dove, to look for land, but it couldn’t find any. So they carried on living on the boat.
A little while later, Noah sent out the dove again, and this time the bird came back with a freshly plucked olive leaf in its beak, so Noah and his family then knew that there was land out there somewhere.
Their hope was renewed.
They journeyed and they found the land, and they got off the boat and started to build new lives for themselves.
It wasn’t the same as before the flood.
So much had changed. It was hard for them, but God knew that.
To encourage them, God decided to give them a sign, to give them hope and comfort.
God painted a rainbow in the sky, and said that every time they saw that rainbow, they would be reminded that God cared for them and wanted the best for them.
John and Michael, the journey ahead is going to be difficult for you, like it was for Noah on his family on that boat with rain pouring and no land in sight.
But over time, you will see signs of a new tomorrow. You will slowly rebuild your lives.
They will be different than before, but just as you have been blessed with Diane’s love, you will find hope and blessings in your life without Diane.
And you are not alone. You have friends and family who will journey with you through the rough seas; friends and family who will bring you an olive leaf, so that you know that there is land, a sure footing, out there somewhere.
And from time to time a rainbow will appear in your lives to remind you that life can still be beautiful and joyous in the future, as it has been in the past.
And God will be with you as you journey into the future. Amen.