Ian Le Geyt RIP
This service has a sort of 60s musical feel do it, doesn’t it? Ian was a great musician, a guitarist – and the photos in the service sheet remind us of that.
So we began with Leona Lewis’ ‘Footprints in the Sand’, and then we sang ‘Morning Has Broken’, which you might remember was sung by Cat Stevens on his 1971 album called ‘Teaser and the Firecat’, and the track, which made a hymn famous, was actually recorded in Willesden, not so very far from here. The hymn became famous because of this, but was actually written only forty years early in 1931.
More music – we heard Ian’s favourite song, the tear jerker, ‘Tears in heaven’ – by Eric Clapton.
You may know the very sad story of how his four year old son Conor fell from an apartment window in 1991 and that the song was written as a very personal response to that tragedy, first appearing on the soundtrack to the film Rush in 1991. Words that resonate particularly today are the central lines:
Beyond the door
There’s peace, I’m sure
And I know there’ll be no more
Tears in heaven
And then, as we leave, carrying Ian through our door here to his final resting place, we shall hear ‘Dance with my Father’, a Luther Vandross number, released in 2003, and the title track of the album of the same name. Like Clapton’s tear-jerker, it was a personal song, recalling his childhood memories of his parents dancing together. Luther Vandross’ father died when he was only a child of 7.
So, as well as bringing our own grief over Ian today, we are bringing into the service other griefs too, griefs which have touched Ian and us, which have spoken to us, through the personal experiences of others in a universal, widespread way. And these great songs have come out of deep personal emotional experiences, in which, of course, lies some of their greatness. And they speak of a child’s memories of his father, and of a father’s memories of his child.
We are all children. We are all children of God. And sometimes, in older age – and increasingly these days, it seems, we return to a kind of childhood state if dementia or Alzheimer’s or other diseases affect us. This was Ian’s deep misfortune as we know, in which, to some extent, he became a little childlike. It is sad, and hard to bear, for everyone concerned and involved and connected.
You, his family, have borne that with him, and you have learned to care for and about him in new ways. And for sure, you loved him until his time was done, as the poem put it. And at the same time, you were learning to cope with the passing of Claudine, whose death affected Ian so deeply. He used to show me her picture most Sundays, alongside the one of his playing in the rock band of course, which I believe is the same one on our service sheet today. These were the two things that seemed to matter most to Ian: music, and family. So as we gather here today, it is important to give some attention to the music he loved.
And it is also important to remember that music operates on so many levels, it speaks to and through us, and communicates emotion, creates connections and its own pathways of memory and resonance, and these songs will forever be associated for some of us, with Ian, whatever their original associations may have been.So as well as preserving Ian at his best in your hearts – love and remember him at his best, also preserve his music, and as time passes you will smile and remember.
For music is, fundamentally, at root, the art of time.
It exists in time, and passes into time.
Music has duration, and rhythm and tempo.
Music is meaningless outside time, and indeed, one might want to say that our timebound lives are meaningless without music.
For in music, we are taken outside time, and can glimpse the eternal.
And it is time, that we have heard about in both readings today. Firstly, in that powerful poem promoted by the Alzheimer’s Society, we are told ‘Do not ask me to remember’. It is sad that for Ian, a musician, that the sense of time which we live by, deserted him.
And yet, there is a time for everything. We heard from that great scripture, that there is a time for every matter under heaven: to be born, to die. A time to weep and a time to laugh. Today is a time to weep. But perhaps also there will be some smiles later.
And perhaps this reading is familiar to you, as it certainly would have been to Ian, as the foundation lyric for that great song, ‘Turn, turn, turn’. Written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s, and recorded in 1962, the lyrics, except for the title which is repeated throughout the song, and the final verse are taken verbatim from our reading from the book of Ecclesiastes, which Maureen read. So we have a sixties song there too – and what a profound one too.
And this brings us full circle back to the song we opened with – Leona Lewis’ ‘Footprints in the Sand’, a text suggested by Simon Cowell, which is actually a traditional poem used very much in the Christian tradition in which the voice of Christ says to the weary traveller:
I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.
Being carried by others, and being carried by God are recurring themes in our lives. Ian carried you, and we all carried him in various ways. This is the fundamental nature of humanity.
But the key thing here is that it all transcends the here and now – we carry Ian with us always, as he is carried into another eternal realm. And it is in music that we glimpse a sense of that eternal realm – the realm of rest and peace, and of resurrection life. And it is in that resurrection life that we have our hope – our hope for ourselves, for each other, and for Ian.
And so it is that we say farewell to Ian, giving thanks for his life and commending him to God. And there can be no greater description of the place where he has gone, than that of the poet John Donne, who was also Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in the 17th century. Jackie will use it in the prayers in just a moment.
So may we all, with Ian, enter into the house and gate of heaven, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity. Amen.
The Rev’d Dr Gordon Giles, St Mary Magdalene, Enfield, Friday 17th April 2015