This is a very personal blog. It concerns the death and subsequent funeral of my good friend Thom. Thom was born into a catholic Irish family but brought to England only a few days old to be first fostered then adopted into a Christian family of strong, if somewhat fundamentalist views. As he grew, over time he formed his own views which now seem so complex. On one hand he was to the end passionately thankful to his family for giving him a firm and loving family and instilling in him the socialist virtues which he held so strongly to, but on the other, very deliberately moved away from organised religion of any sort. He was respectful of the faith journey so many of his friends and family walk, but said very firmly that it was not for him. And I respected him for that. He was sharp, incredibly insightful and full of compassion as well as flippant argumentative and dismissive.
We were out walking a little over two years ago (a shared passion) alongside a Scottish Loch when he told me that he thought that he had a stomach problem and was in some discomfort, but after tests, it proved to be something much more malignant.
Thom was a good and valued friend to me and so many and there was standing room only at his funeral. Like many of my colleagues, I have taken rather too many such services but rarely have I been specified as the person to take the service beforehand. In Thom's case, a handwritten note written the day before he believed he would die under the surgeon's knife........... "I would like the Rev'd Alan Poolton to take my funeral..." At first it seemed like a typical Thom joke - asking a Christian minister to take the funeral of an atheist, but Thom was a complex person who evaded labels. An example of this was his choice to have a singer at his service who sang the Londonderry air - the first verse sang to "I cannot tell how He whom angels worship" followed by "Oh Danny Boy". The mixture seemed to sum the complicated (even conflicted?) person that he was, but I miss him......