• Author:Ben Jones
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For you are always close to me…..

If there is such a thing as a brilliant funeral, Dr J and I went to it today. We joined what felt like half of St Helens to say goodbye to one of the finest men I’ve ever met – a grand man – and dad to one of my finest friends. We went today to show our respects for Mr William (Billy) Kilgannon – a man it was impossible not to respect – and to show our love to his spectacular family – a family it is impossible not to love. It was truly a privilege to be a small part of that big and big-hearted family’s saddest day. A day when dad joined mum, reunited after seven years apart.

What made such a sad two hours – and it was heartbreakingly sad at times; none more so than watching five brothers carrying their father’s body to his rest, some tripping with tears – inspiring, laugh out loud funny, life-affirming, beautiful and warming? What made me smile as much as I cried? What made our drive home better than our drive there? Love. Around every corner of the farewell to Billy was love. Gigantic, real, deep, unsentimental, proper love.

The love of his family and friends and his love for them; the love of a church packed to the rafters well before Mass started – standing room only, which we only just were able to enjoy – many stood in the porch, doorway and entry to the church;  the love of a simple service, peppered with fitting readings, immaculately read; the love of lovely hymns – some of my all time favourites, sung with the passion and gusto I have only felt before in packed Irish churches; the love of the people present, wiping tears and raising smiles one after another; the love of seeing old friends together again, united in their love for their friend; the love of a youngest son who spoke for the whole family with an outstanding eulogy which is still filling my eyes with tears now, eight hours later; the love on the nods, the acknowledgements, the handshakes, the hugs that speaks a thousand words every one; the love of loss that everyone could feel for Billy, his family and for their own losses that have gone before; the love of thirteen grandchildren, who Michael reminded us were loved so much by their grandad; the love of the small gestures between friends and strangers as they navigated the overflowing church; the love of the tears that were shed because others shed tears.

The Mass ended with my favourite hymn – I watch the sunrise – sung after communion – still ringing in my ears. A hymn that marked the passing of my wonderful Mary and my marriage to my wonderful Aileen. Reminders for me of love in every bar, every note and every word.

The world can at times seem full of hate; full of anger; full of despair. Not today. Not at the top of Dentons Green Lane. Not across from The Gerard. Not in the faces of the people. Today was about love and it was brilliant.

 

I watch the sunrise, written by John Glynn, in 1970

I watch the sunrise lighting the sky,
Casting its shadows near.
And on this morning bright though it be,
I feel those shadows near me.

But you are always close to me
Following all my ways.
May I be always close to you
Following all your ways, Lord.

I watch the sunlight shine through the clouds,
Warming the earth below.
And at the mid-day, life seems to say:
“I feel your presence near me.”

For you are always . . .

I watch the sunset fading away,
Lighting the clouds with sleep.
And as the evening closes its eyes,
I feel your presence near me.

For you are always . . .

I watch the moonlight guarding the night,
waiting till morning comes.
The air is silent, earth is at rest –
only your peace is near me.

For you are always . . .

 

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