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A funeral on 'R U OK Day'

*Trigger Warning* Post refers to a funeral arising from suicide.

Recently I attended a memorial service for a young man, a friend of my youngest daughter and her partner. His funeral was delayed for a month so his sister could find a flight and complete COVID-19 quarantine with her baby. Sadly and ironically, therefore, it was held on Australia’s RUOK? Day, 10th September, when we are reminded to ask our contacts about their feelings to support their mental health and prevent suicide. Here in WA where the borders have been closed throughout the crisis, unlimited friends and family can (still) attend funerals, so this was a matter of thanksgiving. In this short story, there is a context which we all understand as we live through these strange and unprecedented times. The pastor asked us to think about how God will redeem this situation, and suggested it might be by changing us, to bring us to greater compassion for others. He mentioned RUOK? Day, and told us that if we are not OK today we could speak to someone there in the church. He also said, “Let's not just have one day a year but let's use this reminder to create an accepting forgiving community of God's people”. He urged a journey that takes us deeper into faith and compassion so that it is safer to be vulnerable to each other. As for our lost young man who left this life in despair nonetheless and notwithstanding his strong Christian background, the pastor reminded us that nothing can separate us from the love of God who has planted eternity in our hearts, so this lost 'little one' is now in eternity with God. He assured the family that the sun will rise on their joy again.

His parents thanked everyone for the tremendous support, comfort, prayers, gifts, flowers, and food they had received in the last month. I am sure I was not the only one to wonder if a fraction of that communal care “in the living years” might have prevented this sad event. I have my own small measure of guilt because this young man asked to come and see our pet python (!) and I never bothered to arrange it. Why don’t we give enough time and diligence in the day-to-day? It is so easy to forget that life and health are precarious and the young are especially vulnerable.

Deb Hurn

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