1938 - 2015
FAMILY REFLECTIONS FOR DEAR DAD’S
FUNERAL AND THANKSGIVING SERVICES ON 12TH FEBRUARY 2015
1938 - 2015
FAMILY REFLECTIONS FOR DEAR DAD’S
FUNERAL AND THANKSGIVING SERVICES ON 12TH FEBRUARY 2015
(Links are in red and underlined)
Ruth’s Reflection for Murdoch’s Funeral Service
In August last year, my husband Chris and I were given this beautiful hand painted Indian elephant, when we had a very moving experience sharing in the vibrant Sunday worship in one of the Vyasarpadi pastorate Churches in Madras/Chennai; now a modern brick building, but in 1967, when Dad was a junior presbyter to the VVK Unit, it consisted of only three tiny mud churches built on the city rubbish tips. Mum and Dad are still lovingly remembered and deeply cherished there. The people of Vyasarpadi will never forget, just as elephants never forget.
Recently, Dad was asked the following question by his grandchildren, Hana and Benjo: If you were an animal… what type of animal would you be, and why? Dad chose an elephant for various reasons, many of which I feel reflect his own precious personality…. I quote part of what he said: “Their gregariousness, herding together as one, and their gentleness towards their young and towards people are remarkable.….. The main reason is that such a huge animal can display such gentleness and fondness, such wisdom and empathy, and that if I actually became an elephant that would give a slight boost to this wonderful species which is fast disappearing. Finally, the first film I ever saw as a small boy was in the Hillhead cinema in Byres Road, Glasgow and it was called ‘Dumbo’.”
Our family has had so much life together, which is a cause for thankfulness and celebration. We are grateful for all the many wonderful memories we will go on sharing and enjoying. These are all signs of the loving way Dad has enriched our lives and, as Charlotte Mew says in The Call, one of Dad’s favourite poems, reveal the ‘marks he has left upon the snow’.
Catriona’s Reflection for Murdoch’s Funeral Service
This is one of my favourite pictures of Dad. It was taken on a walk in Sutherland Grove near Connel by Oban. It reminds me that Dad made the most of life, he thought big, he dared to dream. His family, and his grandchildren were important to him. As a child life with him was exciting. I remember him getting us up to watch the lightning split the night sky on holiday in the Indian hills. Dad put his heart and soul into everything he did whether it was making sand castles or cars at the beach, playing hide and seek with Hana and Benjo or playing board games at which he liked to cheat! When I was 10, he and Mum brought us home from India by bus - what an adventure it was. They were never afraid to try new things and he always encouraged us whatever path we chose to tread. As I grew up he helped me hone essays on Marx and religion, on the nature of exchange, and on racism and discrimination. In the last few months he has helped Hana gather views for her Baccalaureate on the banning of the niqab in France. Dad was generous in his love for us, and since I became a parent often lent perspective when things seemed to be going awry, most recently reminding me after some tricky prelims that he had failed physics spectacularly. Dad was at the centre of every family gathering and he is greatly missed. But he would want us to go on, to live as he did, to think big, make the most of every moment, and most of all to dare to dream.
Iain’s Reflection for Murdoch’s Thanksgiving Service
To say something worthwhile about Dad's life in just a few short minutes seems quite a challenging task. He has had such a full life with such a broad scope and prodigious output, it is hard to know where to start.
At the same time as having an enormously driven working life - and he never really retired - Dad was also always an exceptionally loving and caring Dad, and husband, brother, granddad, relative and friend to many. I always had the feeling Dad would drop literally anything to help me if I really needed it. And this was a great and reassuring feeling to have.
There is a photo of Dad at about age 8 or 9. It is precious because we don't have many photos of him from this period. He is in his kilt walking down Argyll Street in central Glasgow with his Uncle Bob. There seems to be a swing in his kilt and a spring in his step and he looks proud to be alongside his Uncle Bob. Maybe I am reading too much into it but his expression seems to show a confidence that the world will hold deep interest, and adventure and fulfilment - and so it has proved to be. Dad, together with Mum has had an incredibly happy, fulfilling and productive life.
It was at the age of 15 that Dad decided he wanted to give his life as a minister in the service of God. Dad's strong imagination was captured by the teachings and example of Jesus Christ - and his whole life has been guided by it ever since. Dad's faith was central to his outlook on everything and sometimes it could be a bit startling - once at dinner we were having a perhaps slightly morbid discussion about what we might choose for our epitaph. After we had proposed a few suggestions, Dad looked a bit puzzled and bemused, and then he said he would just have 'see you later'.
By the time I was two, Dad and Mum had arrived at St Andrew's Church in Madras working as missionaries. It was an exceptionally happy time and Dad was very fulfilled in his work. In September 1974, at the request of the Church of Scotland, he wrote an account of the work he was then involved in entitled 'A week in the life of a missionary family'. What Dad was managing to fit in in the course of a week was extraordinary, as he criss-crossed the city and wider area on his moped - between churches, homes, hospitals, aid agencies, government departments, slum areas, embassies and so on. And of course this pattern was repeated in the towns around the UK in his various postings.
Memories of Dad preaching from the pulpit in the magnificent setting of St Andrews are particularly vivid - with his long white cassock and flowing beard he was a compelling and charismatic figure. The church sides would be open to let the breeze through and ceiling fans whirred overhead to keep the morning heat at bay. He used to tell us he ditched the beard at one point, but the ladies of the congregation said they preferred it so back it came. There is a book of Dad's sermons and prayers from this period, and his urgency and zeal to advance the Kingdom of God on earth as he saw it, particularly through practical measures to improve the lives of the most needy, leaps from the page.
Dad was always fun to have around for us as children. Our holidays in Kodai hill station were particularly magical. One of many events which sticks in my mind was an evening when missionary families and friends were gathered in the large veranda room of the mission bungalow. It was quite a wild night and rain and wind beat at the windows and the trees were thrashing around outside. Dad had decided the entertainment that night would include him telling a ghost story. Notwithstanding so many fine upstanding missionary folk who would be impervious to such nonsense, I seem to remember that Dad's extraordinary ability to spin a tale and communicate it with every fibre of his being, had created quite an atmosphere, among the more susceptible at least. Beforehand Dad had a quiet word with me to sit unnoticed behind the group with a metal tray and wooden spoon in my hand; and at the signal from him I was to bang them together as loudly as possibly to produce maximum effect. I carried out my duties to the letter and when the moment came at the point of maximum suspense the thrill for a young boy of six to carry out this role was immense - and I am sure Dad got as much pleasure from my reaction as anything else.
Dad's life was not all easy. In different ways returning to work in more secular Britain was more frustrating for Dad than working in the very spiritually open culture of India. He was sometimes also despondent that the ecumenical one world vision he was so passionate about sometimes seemed to be going in the wrong direction. However, through everything he trusted his God's Will 'Not my will, but thine' which he believed entirely in.
We will miss Dad terribly over the coming months and years, but in another way he still seems so very present as he has made such a deep imprint and impact on our lives and everything we are. I hope he is smiling down on us all today enjoying the sight of so many of his friends and loved ones celebrating him, and more to the point from Dad's point of view, celebrating the Gospel.
Catriona’s Reflection for Murdoch’s Thanksgiving Service
Dad was a man who was centred in his faith, and in the last days and moments of his life, it was the familiar rhythms of faith that held us when we stood at the precipice of our grief, enabling us to go on.
Dad was a man who was rooted in his family. Despite the sometimes enormous distance that separated us from grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, I was always aware I was part of something bigger, and of how precious this was.
Dad loved his grandchildren, and when I look at Hana and Benjo I am constantly amazed at how much they are themselves, but also how much there is in them of generations gone before, in appearance but also in their very essence. ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ and ‘Ah But your land is beautiful’ are books that played a formative role in my Dad’s life when he was Hana’s age, and these are the books she chose for her sixth year dissertation. Like my father, Benjo has an innate acceptance of others, and has always stood up for those who perhaps struggle a little more than most.
Dad was a man who recognised our inter-dependence, who created networks of friendship, who accepted difference. Together with Mum, his love and choices shaped our lives. Being born amongst India’s teeming millions, in a country of contrasts, of light, colour and warmth, where I always felt welcome despite being different gave me an appreciation of the diversity in God’s world. This diversity, honed and shaped is something Dad valued and taught us to accept and hold dear. I have always been aware of the breadth of the world. My choice of Damir, born a Bosnian Muslim in communist former Yugoslavia, as my life partner, perhaps reflects the permission he gave us to value the other. For Hana and Benjo, their dual heritage has offered a richness. Our time spent in Bosnia with Mum and Dad a few years ago was precious, creating and reinforcing familial bonds across cultures and borders.
Dad was a man who dared to dream. He dared to speak out, championing the poor and the little people. He valued everyone he met and he held the lives of those on the margin as especially important believing he could make a difference. He recognised the poverty of expectation and hope which pervades the lives of so many. He taught us to believe we too could make a difference, and to treat all those we meet with dignity and respect. This belief gives me hope in the sometimes bleak world of Children & Families Social Work, where undoing the impact of trauma and abuse takes a myriad of small steps, with gradual, sometimes barely perceptible change.
Dad was a man who loved people, who knew how to listen. The friendships he created remained strong across time and space, and this was never more evident to us than in these last months of his life, when so many of you sought him out. He and we, felt strengthened and sustained by your love and support.
Dad was a man of faith who dared to believe that the world and the church could truly be one. Above all he believed in the goodness of humanity and the possibility of reconciliation. He could be impatient, never more so than at the slow progress of ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue. He spoke the heart of the matter whatever the cost. He desired more than anything that we live in dependence on and with our neighbours whoever they may be.
Dad was a man who believed in God, whose opinions I respected, who gave voice to difficult issues, who demanded intellectual rigour and integrity. In his 76 years he trod lightly on this earth. My family and I have been blessed and strengthened by the richness of his life, by his vision and belief. I hope my children, his grandchildren Hana and Benjo, and all of us here today will dare to dream as he has, will value the lives of those living on the margins, and will believe we too can make a difference.
Today I celebrate the richness of my inheritance.
Ruth’s Reflection for Murdoch’s Thanksgiving Service
I, Ruth Elizabeth (as I can still hear my father’s lovely voice tenderly calling me, while seeing the sparkle in his blue eyes), have spent more than a third of my life living “Amid the Alien Corn”. Thanks to our dear parents, I grew up to believe that differences and diversity are not to be seen as sources of division and distrust, but rather of strength and inspiration. So some of the most enriching and happiest times of my life have been spent in India as a child, later with the Maasai in Kenya, and more recently in Viet Nam, where I have treasured memories of Mum and Dad’s time with me there in 2003. Shortly after that visit, Dad wrote me some beautiful inspirational verse; in it he included some quotations from Tennyson, Edmond Haraucourt and the motto of the Clan MacKenzie. In this brief extract, he alludes to my leaving Viet Nam; I now think that it also reflects something of the way I feel about dear Dad and his parting:
“. . . tears well up enough to fill
The mighty Mekong river ten times o'er
Reminding me to realise again
‘Partir c'est mourir un peu
C'est mourir a ce qu'on aime:
On laisse un peu de soi-meme
En toute heure et dans tout lieu’
Yet deep inside to know
That men may come and men may go
But those who shine and do not burn
Plant seeds which last for ever.”
During Dad’s remarkable life, living out the Gospel, amongst those of different religious beliefs or of no belief, he has sown many seeds of faith, hope and love in people’s lives, and in numerous places in the world. Now, in the knowledge of Dad’s strong Christian faith we can give thanks to God for his faithfulness, for his inspiration, for his love of Jesus, and pray that his soul may rest in peace. Amen