Jimmy Sherlock’s Funeral Mass

Just in from Jimmy’s Funeral Mass in Gurteen.  It was a lovely gathering of

Jimmy Sherlock, R.I.P.

 family, neighbours and friends.  I had a few notes written by way of a homily and will try now to put some shape on them.  A good number of people told me they were happy to read what was said at my father’s Mass so might be good to include a few words from Jimmy’s too ….

The Gospel Passage was from Mark’s Gospel (8:22-30)

They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought to him a blind man whom they begged him to touch.  He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Then putting spittle on his eyes and laying his hands on him, he asked, ‘Can you see anything?’ The man, who was beginning to see, replied, ‘I can see people; they look like trees to me, but they are walking about’.  Then he laid his hands on the man’s eyes again and he saw clearly; he was cured, and he could see everything plainly and distinctly.  And Jesus sent him home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village’. 

Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’  And they told him. ‘John the Baptist,’ they said ‘others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.’  ‘But you,’ he asked ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter spoke up and said to him, ‘You are the Christ’. 

HOMILY 

Fr Michael McLoughlin (R.I.P.)  shared a house with me in Collooney.  He was retired at the time but had, for many years, been a curate in Gurteen.  He was very fond of Jimmy and his family and used to visit Jimmy regularly.  He told me that he was chatting to him one day in the garage and that Jimmy had mentioned he’d be going to Dublin the following morning.  A few minutes later a woman came in to the garage, chatted with Jimmy for a while and said that she’d like to arrange to have her car serviced.  “Certainly Madam”, said Jimmy “any day you want”.  She suggested the next day and Jimmy said that would be fine.  When she left Fr McLoughlin reminded Jimmy that he was due to go to Dublin the next day.  When Jimmy agreed, Fr Michael said that he had just arranged to service the woman’s car, even though he was going to be in Dublin. “Yes indeed, Your Reverence”, said Jimmy “but that woman won’t be in tomorrow or in a thousand tomorrows.  She regularly comes in and arranges to have her car serviced but it never happens”!!  Jimmy knew people.  He knew their ways, respected them and responded appropriately.  Jimmy knew people. 

He also knew about things.  The Paschal Candle Stand here in our midst is quite heavy.  One day Jimmy saw one of the priests struggling to move it into position for a funeral.  He said nothing but returned a few days later and fitted wheels to the base.  When I was in Carracaslte Parish I asked him to make a stand for the thurible.  He made two – one for Carracastle and another for Rooskey.  They served their purpose and I recently noticed the Carracastle one is till in use.  It was a simple but effective piece of work.  The base – an old clutch plate! He knew what needed to be done – he knew what would help and he did it.  Jimmy knew people and things.

The Paschal Candle is a lovely symbol of Christ with us.  Often it can pass un-noticed in the church but the Candle is there at our Baptism and our funeral.  An abiding presence that seeks to console and accompany in its abiding.  At the Easter Vigil the church was in darkness and this candle alone was carried through the church.  Its small flame, gave light and life to other flames and brought brightness where there was darkness.  This is Christ’s desire for us too – he seeks to bring light where otherwise there might be a lasting darkness. 

In the Gospel Passage we just heard, Jesus restores sight to a blind man.  It wasn’t an instant restoration.  He put spittle on his finger and rubbed his finger on the man’s eyes.  At first the man could see things but only in a blur “I see people” he said, “but they look like trees”.  More time, further healing and the man was able to see clearly.  Sometimes God’s work takes a bit longer than others.  It can sometimes be messy work – spittle – but what is being said is that God is with us and if we put our trust in him, the sight will return.  It often demands patience. 

Jimmy was a mechanic first and foremost but seemed willing and able to turn his hand to many things.  He fitted attic stairs, made covers for boats (I’m sure people thought there was a very wealthy man living in Gurteen when they’d pass and see boats of various sizes, shapes and value, on the street outside Jimmy’s house).  Someone told me they saw him working on a boat cover one night.  The street lamps had come on but the lamp beside Jimmy hadn’t.  As the person drove by they saw Jimmy climb down off the boat, take a spanner and hit the base of the ESB pole.  The light came on immediately.  He seemed to know the spot – the right spot to make sure the job was done and done well.  

I remember Jimmy as photographer.  He took countless photos – quite likely to record the success of Denise at dancing – and, in the process kept a record of many great and local events.  He didn’t work with digital cameras but film.  In the digital age, the photographer sees immediately how good or bad the picture is and can delete and try again.  Not so with film, it demanded patience and trust.  The photographer relied on his ability to take a picture but did not know for sure whether it had worked or not until the developing took place.  For this to happen there had to be a period of darkness – the darkroom – where darkness gave way to light and clarity of image.  Light is the flip side of darkness and we cannot really have one without the other.  Jimmy’s darkness came with illness and the confusion that brought.  Our hope is that he too has now fully worked through that darkness and that he sees clearly the fully developed picture that is Life Eternal.  

When I took pictures and showed them to Jimmy, he would be quick to point out the flaws.  “What exactly were you taking there?”  He’d point out that while I might have got someone in the photo I had too much taken along with the person.  There was need to focus.  They say the good photographer has the picture clearly taken in mind before ever the shutter closes on the camera.  This calls for discipline and clear eye that can focus on what needs attention and leave to one side what is of little, if any, benefit to the photo.  So too in life, there is a need to focus and let go of things that might serve no lasting purpose to our lives or journey.  We can learn well from the photographer – from Jimmy.  He used to show slides as well.  We’d often gather in the kitchen.  The screen would be set in place, the projector connected and then the lights would have to be turned off.  Again, darkness before light – before the revelation of the images.  Nora and her family have experienced this darkness in recent weeks – watching Jimmy sick and in hospital, hearing him speak of coming hone when he was not able for the journey or the return.  Our prayer for them is that the darkness gives way to light of peace today – peace in knowing they did well by him for as long as was possible. 

It’s hard to imagine that my father and Jimmy are gone within a week of each other.  They were two strong presences in our lives.  Our uncle Thomas died over thirty years ago.  I never saw him stand up – he was in a wheelchair or in bed when I saw him on Sunday nights.  I’m sure Hal and Evie remember him standing but I don’t.  Jimmy and daddy stood tall in my world.  The image of the Twin Towers comes to mind.  Those towers that stood in each other’s shadow until an act of terrorism caused them to crumble.  I see something of that in daddy and Jimmy.  The terrorism of old age and sickness crumbled what had stood strong for all of us for so many years.  We thank God for Jimmy and Bill.  We thank God for Thomas and pray that they, together with their parents, sister Mary Ellen and daddy’s twin (who died at birth) rest in peace.   We remember as well, Thomas’ wife Nora, my mother Mary and Sr Maureen McDonnell.  It’s sad to think that so many of that generation have died recently.  Again, we pray that they all rest in peace.

Jimmy projected much of what was good in life.  He did his best by and for people and was very proud of this place and his family.  Our prayer now, our lasting prayer is that he is at Peace. 

May he rest in Peace.

In concluding the Prayers of the Faithful, the following words were used.  It’s a piece called “The Photographer’s Prayer” and I don’t know the author’s identity.

Oh God, as I bring my subject into focus and prepare to make each Portrait, never let me forget that I’m creating treasures for some family, a keepsake for loved ones…

Make me sensitive to the qualities and virtues of others, that I may draw out into the light, the beautiful radiant belongings of their hearts….

Help me Oh Lord, to be an artist, collecting the beauty of every soul, the glow of youth, the wisdom of age, the gentleness, the laughter or tears of each life that is precious in thy sight…

Deeper than a means of livelihood, give me the perspective to see my photographer’s art as a service to others, making life richer and more memorable….

And, Dear Lord, between the lights and shadows, the ups and downs and the rolling years, keep me from getting out of focus or off center, so that my life and work may be framed with dignity and colored with contentment…

AMEN

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