Burial Office, Thursday, June 11, 2015
John Patrick Egan, Jr.
November 5, 1949 - May 30, 2015
Good evening and grace and peace to you. It is such a privilege to take part in this service, as we commend to God’s care and love John Patrick Egan, Jr. “Jack.” As we express our care and love and sympathy and prayers for Jack’s brother Dan and his sisters Kathy and Mary Pat. And with thanks to Peter and the Choir this evening. As I said to Mary Pat as we looked at the hymns and psalms and anthems: we’ll sing him to heaven. We sing him to heaven, as our songs on earth mingle with the chorus of the angels, until it’s all one song.
I hope you will take a few moments to read the very touching remembrances and tributes that are included in the service leaflet. There are a number of nice observations and memories, the expression of deep and meaningful care. But also in the midst of those thoughts a recurring theme, that John Patrick Egan, Jr., was a difficult person to know. Behind the curtain of a life dealing with the challenges of mental illness, separated from family, estranged from so many of the kinds of common platforms of experience that help any of us to know and share with one another. Education and interests, work, hobbies and recreation, relationships, family and friends. A man whose inner life was a life lived in secret, except perhaps for moments here and there when something more could be glimpsed. When there would be a hint.
In your tribute, Kathy, as I think I first read this when you posted it on your Facebook page, you talked about, and this is your insight, how “Jack’s existence made others reevaluate what it means to be a “good” or “normal” person.” And Mary Pat talks about how in some ways Jack’s very existence almost became a kind of secret. To talk about him, even in the family, especially in those earlier years, you would almost need to whisper. His brother Daniel’s poetic insight: “A life unknown, to all but One. What purpose? What effect? To what point done?” And perhaps the asking of those questions get to the heart of Kathy’s point. To struggle with questions about what a “good life” is, what a “normal life” looks like, even to raise those questions, to draw them out, can be a frightening thing for any of us. Easier to look away, pretend we didn’t hear the question. As they say in the Twelve Step movement, “Denial isn’t only a river in Egypt.” It is a river that runs with a strong current through all our lives.
To give thanks for the life of John Patrick Egan, Jr. Son of John Patrick and Mary Louise, brother of Dan and Kathy and Mary Pat. A man who lived his life on the margin, at the edge. Like all of us. A man whose inner life, whose depth, whose hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, will be forever mysterious even to those who knew him best. As is true for you and for me, for all of us.
And yet to say all that, it is also so meaningful to know and to see and read in these tributes, in each one of them, these words of faith. Daniel talks about the “One” who did know John, who does know him. About plans that are true even when we don’t see or understand them. “majestic purpose, loving embrace.” Thank you for that. Kathy reminds us of her brother’s destiny in God. The better place, where there is rest and peace. Mary Pat connects the life that was real and true here in these last 65 years with the Life that is real and true and everlasting. Alisa pictures a heavenly reunion of a family that has been healed and made whole. Edward in his memory of cheeseburgers and fries turns to brilliant vision of, to quote him here, “a holiness rooted in things, in a simple and unadorned way.” How even in the simplest of moments--hot dogs at the ballgame—we can catch a glimpse of such transcendent and holy grace.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and bring you to myself. That where I am, there you may be also.”
“For neither death nor life, no angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It’s all good, which is what I’m trying to say. Not to diminish the pain that John may have known in so many ways through his life. Not to diminish the complicated pain of his parents, his brother and sisters, those who knew him, those who wanted to know him. But to turn our eyes for the moment as these beautiful readings and anthems and hymns invite us to do, to turn our eyes from the place where we stand now to the place of the Cross. And to allow this gift of God’s grace and love, his forgiveness, his blessing, to be received in our hearts and in our lives. Nothing good is lost. Nothing good is wasted. No one of us is forgotten.
And so the privilege of sharing these few minutes in thanksgiving for the life of John Patrick Egan, Jr. To commend him to the continuing care of the One who has known him and held him close from his very beginning. And to be reminded ourselves of what is of greatest value and importance. And so Paul in First Corinthians 15: “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”