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In memory of Luke Lawson

Luke Lawson

2012 - 2020

Luke 2

Celebrant Fr. Brian Fitzpatrick
St. Colman's Church, Clare
3rd July 2020

Lm 3:22–26 ~ Ps 24 ~ Rm 14:7–9 ~ Lk 7:11–17

It has been a long and tiring week for you, Barry and Leanne, along with Emma and Corey and all your family, from the hellish dawning of events early on Saturday morning, through the long purgatory of waiting for Luke to come home from hospital, and now along the Way of the Cross that you’re walking today with your son, ironically enough on a Friday, the day that Mary followed the footsteps of her own Son and laid him to rest on that Good Friday evening. Frequently over the past week people have reflected on how surreal and how tragic this turn of events with young Luke has been. Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined the awful turn of events that happened so suddenly in the early hours of Saturday and that people would find themselves organising guards of honour for young Luke, or compiling tributes for print and social media, other people arriving spontaneously and unsolicited with stews and sandwiches, or with lawnmowers and hedge clippers, neighbours who put their arms round the Lawson family even while they clapped from their doorsteps, or young people setting about making beautiful and touching memorials. Luke would be well chuffed with the whole fuss in his honour, and rightly so. He’s made all of us down tools and scrap the routine of our own lives in order to reach out to Barry and Leanne, Emma and Corey whose lives have changed forever, not knowing what to say or how to make it better, but wanting to show that we’re simply here if we can help.

All this has been before our eyes this past week: sympathy and friendship, kindness and support, love and compassion, for it is in our gift when tragedy strikes to soothe the wound with the best of human nature, using the gifts that each of us have and putting them to use for someone else. It is this kind of positive response to things that are awful that reminds us that goodness and love are always to be found right alongside the pain of darkness and loss. No matter how heavy and oppressive that darkness, the little flame of love can never be extinguished. It is that small voice of optimism, even confidence, that is whispered in our ear by the first reading today. Written in a time when Israel was near extinguished by invading kingdoms, the Temple in Jerusalem was reduced to ruins, the citizens were either deported as slaves or killed in the streets, and all God’s promises of protection and care seemed to have been broken. Remembering those promises and the good times of the past, you can imagine the writer looking round at the devastation and mayhem, and finding some scrap of trust that tragedy cannot have the last word, they put down the words “The favours of the Lord are not all past, his kindnesses are not exhausted” (Lm 3:22), because if God really is God, then adversity and evil cannot win out. It seems audacious even to try to speak any words to the pain of parents who’ve lost a child, but it would be only to say that the gift God gave you in Luke is too precious to be lost. Instead his short life here transformed into a life with God so much fuller and blissful that we can only come close to imagining if we can imagine this world without all its pain and trouble.

However Luke was a gift in this world, to his parents and brother and sister and family and friends, and thankfully he wasn’t not a gift that we only recognise after he’s gone, because people could see the sparkle and vivacity with which he lived life and every moment given to him, and loved being in his company. In one sense he was like any other twelve-year-old, making his way through school, loving his football, enjoying his gaming, but from a tender age Luke showed a gift of sensitivity to others that is sometimes hard to find in other people many years older than him. He was blessed too with a sunny disposition, the Sunshine that brought light into his Mummy’s and Daddy’s eyes, and was an all-round happy child, but he had an eye for those around him who weren’t so happy: the lonely child, the worried or tearful youngster, the last to be picked for the team, and rather than looking the other way, it was Luke who’d be there in a bounce, to include them, bring them in, offer them friendship. He had an innate sense of fairness for the underdog, and had no truck for swagger or bullies. But you didn’t have to be lonely or troubled to have Luke for a friend; he had the kind of engaging nature that would approach anyone and make friends. Social butterfly is the phrase that was used: harmless, beautiful, appreciated, and light of touch. Friends at home or on holidays were no bother to Luke; he just loved to find out where other kids were from and what their lives were like and what games and play they enjoyed.

Holidays were special times for Luke and his family; that bubbliness and exuberance he had just made him ready for adventure and discovery when he was in different surroundings, plus that bit of independence you mightn’t get at home. Adventure and approachability combined meant that Luke could readily fall in with anyone he met, and on one holiday down South when Luke took longer than expected coming back from the shop, his Mummy asked him, “Where were you till now?” And Luke replied, “Well I met a farmer who needed a hand capping his cows, so I thought I’d stay and help him out.” He loved the water too, so the beach and the sea were particular favourites. When others thought it too cold or even too rainy to be in the water, Luke would be splashing about happy as Larry, not even feeling the want of a wetsuit as if the sun were splitting the stones. His mischief and jokey nature got him into trouble now and again, but on the other hand he was unfailingly honest, so he’d come and ’fess up to his Mum and Dad about things he did or shouldn’t have done, and who could be cross when you’re met with contrition? The other side of Luke’s jokey nature was his ability to raise a laugh, and I love the simplicity of Luke who, when he was on holidays and got mussels or some other dish made in a white wine sauce, took to acting drunk because he had enjoyed too much of that white wine sauce that made him tipsy!

I don’t know what Emma and Corey are going to do without Luke but I do know that Emma was always protective and loving to her wee brother and Corey was...well, Corey could be a torture at times and always wanted to play video games with Luke, but Luke in his own generous way suffered him well and humoured him with great tolerance, and Corey will always have his big brother’s example to remember and his silent presence looking over him. Similarly too his grandparents Patricia and Harry and Kay are heartbroken today for they thought the world of Luke and loved him dearly; the young but mature Luke was old enough to see grandparents sometimes need help and none better to offer that than the young man himself; he was growing into the role of a young carer in keeping with his nature.

And then Luke was a son—the son of Leanne and Barry, two of the strongest people I have known in these awful circumstances of loss. Over the past week I’ve seen them united in grief, sensitive and supportive to one another, and gracious in accepting the help so necessary at this time. But most of all, I’ve seen and heard immense pride in, and love for, their son, sharing memories and tears and even smiles and laughs: memories of Luke always up for adventure and divilment with his Daddy, and tender and helpful and thoughtful with his Mummy.

So, with love like that there is unnatural pain in the parting. There can only be few other pains which run deeper than the pain of a mother or father who has to bury their child, and that pain is always a measure of the love in which their child was held. Those of us who, but for the grace of God, have never been in that position, can only imagine their pain, but it’s hard not to be moved by the sight of a parent in such circumstances. It’s no surprise that when the Lord and his disciples were confronted by a funeral procession leaving the town of Naim, the gospel tells us Jesus was moved: he felt sorry for his mother (cf. Lk 7:13). The whole incident where Jesus then places his hand on the bier and stops the funeral procession depicts Jesus as the figure who doesn’t only block the progress of the march of death, but turns it back and forces it to release its grip on those who were thought to have been lost. The picture of restoration is complete when Jesus gives the young man back to his mother.

At one level we would love if Jesus would come and do the same today: would restore Luke to Leanne and to Barry and all who loved him, so that we could have him with us for just another wee while. But it’s our belief that for us Christians, the day when the Lord truly and decisively intervenes and properly releases the grip that death takes of us, is on the day we are baptised in his name. That is the day of our rebirth, when we are born again of water and the Spirit to a life that never ends and death, try as it may, cannot separate us from the love of the Father who adopts us as his children. In the Catholic tradition, this candle which stands at the head of Luke’s coffin is the Paschal candle, or Easter candle. It is lit for the first time at the Easter vigil as a symbol among his people of the Risen Christ, who scattered the darkness of that most silent of all nights. This candle burns in the church throughout the season of Easter as we celebrate the resurrection, but it is lit too at any time of year on the occasions of every baptism and every funeral that are celebrated in this consecrated place. So it reminds us that the light of Christ has illuminated Luke's life since the day Leanne and Barry brought him for baptism, and it remind us that God is faithful to the promise made to Luke at his baptism as he calls him now to the fullness of life in heaven. Baptised as well all are too, we ask God to help us hold firm to our faith and hope the we can look forward to the same eternal life, and the unbounded joy of seeing Luke again.

Luke 1




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