Why? Why, has Jim left us? It’s an impossible question. We’re all perplexed and sad. And dare I say so, we’re at least a little bit cross with him sometimes.

There are no perfectly convincing explanations. We can’t know everything that was in Jim’s mind. But what I want to try to do, is to explain that we can be confident that Jim himself is not suffering – and that he may even be in a better place.

But then I want to try to turn our thoughts away from our sadness, from all the worry and despair of the last few days, and to do what I’m sure Jim would have wanted, which is to start to remember, to savour, happier memories, of Jim at his best.

Nearly 2500 years ago, Socrates, the great Greek philosopher, was condemned to death. He had to drink hemlock, a poison which took some time to work. He was surrounded by his pupils and his friends, who were terribly distressed at what he was going through.

Socrates said this, which I think could well apply to Jim as well.

‘There is great reason to hope that death is a good, for …. either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another. Now if you suppose that there is no consciousness, but a sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by the sight of dreams, death will be an unspeakable gain. . . . Now if death is like this, I say that to die is gain; for eternity is then only a single night. But if death is a journey to another place, and there, as men say, all the dead are, what good, …. can be greater than this? . . . What would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod and Homer? Nay, if this be true, let me die again and again. . . . The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways – I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows.’

So said Socrates. [Plato, Apologia Socratis, 40c5f: see https://en.m.wikiquote.org/wiki/Apology_(Plato) for translation]

Those of us who are Christians believe that, as St Paul wrote, there is life after death. We are all made of body and spirit: although the body dies, the spirit, our soul, lives on. [See 1 Corinthians 15, especially from v.35].

Other religious beliefs are similar. Buddhists believe in a ‘transmigration of souls’, so we come back again in this earthly life, but perhaps in a different body. There’s that old song: ‘Be kind to your web-footed friends; as a duck may be somebody’s brother ..’

Jim didn’t have a religious faith, so following what Socrates said, he has either just settled down for one last gentle sleep – or he has woken up to a nice surprise, in a blessed place. But there is another, less philosophical, place where Jim certainly lives on, and that’s in our hearts, in the happy memories we have of him.

Advertisements