40th Birthday Commemoration Service – Reverend Caroline Symcox address

40th Birthday Commemoration Service – Reverend Caroline Symcox address

Reverend Caroline spoke eloquently about Katie, about loss and how the work of the Trust had been a positive way of moving forward following such a tragedy.

We’ve come together with a curious and potent mix of emotions. We bring our sadness, our grief – that sense of loss that began that fateful February day 9 years ago, and which persists, as it must, in our hearts. Grief can be a strange thing. Everyone will experience it differently, and the hallmark signs that we associate with grief can occur in any kind of order and at any kind of frequency. People who say you should ‘get over’ a bereavement in a given time-frame: a year, or two years, or whatever… They don’t know what they’re talking about. That’s not how grief works. Losing someone changes the shape of your life. Losing a loved one leaves a hole that will never be filled – you just learn how to negotiate life around it. Time makes the wound hurt a little less, but even with that slow healing there are still days when it feels as sharp and painful as it ever did. So yes, we bring our grief today, as we remember Katie: her joy, her light, her friendship and love.

But as we remember, it is not just sadness that we hold. We bring love too. I hope there have been times for us to smile today, and that there will be plenty more. Because Katie’s presence in the lives of everyone gathered here today was a positive one. She made lives richer, she lifted people up, she carried love and light into places that might otherwise have been dark. We’re not looking to name her a saint here – she was human, just like the rest of us – she had her flaws and her difficulties, but none that outweighed the good that she brought. We are not here only to grieve – we are here to remember too. To remember with love. To say thank you for a beautiful and a rich life. To smile at happy memories, at jokes shared, at problems faced and surmounted together. We bring our love.

And finally, crucially, we bring hope.

Hope can be misunderstood sometimes, I think. We can sometimes hear it characterised as baseless wishing; as in we can hope for something but have little reason to imagine it should ever come to pass – a kind of city in the clouds situation. But I don’t think that’s what hope is. Hope is expectant. Hope is based in reality. And most importantly, hope triggers action – it finds its reality in a changed way of living. If we truly have hope for something, we work for it, we look forward to it coming to pass with expectancy and joy.

Our hope today is twofold. First it’s the hope that we expressed when we said goodbye to Katie. A hope in a continued life through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. The stories and memories and conclusions recorded in the Bible express this hope – that over 2000 years ago, Jesus lived and taught, was arrested, tortured and killed, and that two days later he was raised from the dead. He received a new and different life after death, and that that same life was offered to those who seek to follow him. The nature of this life after death is mysterious – we have a hard time imagining what life without time and decay, without pain or death might look like – we are constrained by our human bodies and senses, after all. But Jesus speaks about it through the miracles he showed people through his lifetime and through metaphor when he speaks about eternal life directly. He shows this life in the form of hurt people healed, of food in abundance for 5000 people and more, of water turned to wine in a banquet the likes of which no one could ever had imagined. It is a meal shared, a place of rest, a home where all are welcome and there is room for everyone who wants to be there.

This hope is that Katie is not gone or lost – she is lifted up in the arms of our Creator God, held and loved, and that we shall see her again in the passage of eternity.

And the second hope? Well this hope is of green shoots in a barren land. Katie’s loss was senseless and crushing, and holds a pain that we carry to this day. But even in the midst of this pain, good and growth was found. The charity that was begun in Katie’s name seeks to prevent this pain, of the totally preventable injury and death caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, happening to anyone else. It raises the profile of this cause. It provides detectors to those who couldn’t afford them. It helps people to recognise this danger and gives them the tools to face it. So much good has been done in Katie’s name over the last 9 years, and it is a good that continues. We celebrate that hard work today, as we celebrate the woman who set Katie’s family on this righteous path. In the midst of pain, we see hope – a hope that isn’t just a baseless wish, but an expressed vision – that no one should have to suffer this same tragedy – and a job of work. This hope drives and shapes so much good still to come.

Katie would be proud, I think, of the good done in her name. So let us hope together, you and I – for Katie, safe in God’s arms, and for the Katie Haines Memorial Trust. And let’s put that hope to work.