Reception of the Remains of Liam Magee Tuesday the 14th May 2019 Homily

I recently downloaded John Prine’s latest album. I’ve been listening to it in my car and on my headphones for the last few weeks. Words of some of the songs came to mind as the reality of Liam’s death cast its shadow into every moment and every second of Friday night. The album is called Tree of Forgiveness and the track I found going around in my head is one entitled; When I get to Heaven. John, like most American folk singers, has become more faith filled as he moves over the 70 mark. Rolling Stone wrote an article on him entitled Inside hisWild past and Grounded Present

Liam could have written the song When I get to Heaven.

When I  get to Heaven, I’m goin to shake God’s hand…Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand…Then I’m going to get a guitar and set up a rock and roll band…Check into a swell hotel…ain’t the afterlife grand. 

It’s the chorus though that I felt Liam coming through…And then I’m going to get a cocktail, vodka and ginger ale and smoke a cigar that’s nine miles long. 

No matter where Liam would be he’d have to be the best with the best of everything…even if it is in the heavens. That’s what we loved about him I suppose. His ability to be the best and to do the best in all things. He wrote his own spirituality for life and its one that is worth contemplating. We could all learn a bit from it. 

The bible is full of quotes whereby God takes delight in his people’s delight; Liam contributed greatly to God’s delight; he really, really showed us how to be happy. He was God’s gentle and lovable rogue, the Robin Hood of his trade and just fun to be around. What better image would we want of Liam in eternity than sipping a cocktail and smoking a long cigar.

In the second verse of the song Prine says he’d open a nightclub called the Tree of Forgiveness where he’d invite along his critics, feed them with pints of Smithwicks and again, a Liam moment, smother them with his charm. But he also says he’d forgive everyone that ever did me harm. The liturgy today is about forgiveness or mercy, placing those we love, especially Liam before the mercy of God. We all need God’s mercy and the kind forgiveness of one another. The one trait of one who is forgiven is the wish to forgive others. Thankfully we don’t need to charm God for his forgiveness, we only need to ask him and this is why we gather this evening – to ask God to forgive Liam for his failings and to receive him warmly into God’s eternal embrace. We hope to assist him on that journey with our prayers this evening. I suppose that this is a good thing; if Liam was depending on one of his horses to carry him into the arms of God he’d be in right trouble. Our prayers have better odds!

The reason we gather this evening is also to offer tangible support to Ann his wife. To his children Nicole, Ciara, Sarah and Craig and his brother Noel. The suddenness of this passing leaves us in shock not just at his passing but the fact that we are asked to absorb the fact that life can be so fragile, so tender, so unpredictable, and so unforgiving. 

My own mother used to say ‘death is very final son’ I didn’t realise the full tenor of that saying until she herself died last Christmas. You can negotiate with sickness, with recovery, with infirmity, but not with death; it is so final and what we’d give to dissolve that finality for a moment. 

The only one in history who helped us sees beyond the curtain of death into the possibility of life beyond is the person of Jesus at this time of Easter. The accounts tell us that there is more. Sometimes we have to dare ourselves to think beyond this life; to think outside the box and even live outside the box as Liam did. Others want to put us in a box to limit and control us; Liam couldn’t be limited or controlled, even by Anne,  neither could Jesus – he wasn’t limited even by sickness, suffering, or death. Dare to think and live differently as Liam did and as the person of Jesus encourages us to do; even in the face of death. After all the Spurs motto is To Dare is to Do.

John Prine also says when he gets to heaven he’s going to take his wristwatch off. The concept of eternity is a timeless place with no more anxiety; where the futility of this world no longer torments us. His song also tells us that he’ll look for his mother and father and his mother’s sisters coz, he says, that’s where all the love starts. This is the ultimate quest I suppose, not just to sip cocktails or smoke cigars but to find the source of all love and be a part of it forever. 

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