Dick – Living on…
It’s very hard to know where to begin in talking about Richard – or Dick – as some of us were allowed to call him. And yet, starting is the easy bit compared to stopping! For one might say that there is so much to say – so many memories, so much to say about his character, and yes indeed – so many stories. I’m not sure whether Dick told more stories or had more stories told about him! It’s a close one to call, that. But one thing is sure – exactly as in life – we will all be telling his stories and telling stories about him for many years to come. It’s what he would want of course. I don’t recall him saying it, but I daresay he would subscribe to the famous adage of Oscar Wilde’s, that there is nothing worse than being talked about, except not being talked about. Well, we are here today to talk about Richard. And we will continue to do so, in public and in private conversation. I’m sure many stories will be told when we gather after this service in Cheshunt. In this much, he lives on.
His stories are only part of his legacy and Richard will live on in so many other ways too. Of course he was a father – he and Janet launched and loved a large family, brought up in a traditional way, with a song for each one of you he used to sing, and various other family activities, some of which we have already heard about. Those songs we played on the organ by Keith before we started this morning. You will know that Richard was sorely grieved by Janet’s death three years ago, he was, by his own admission, lost without her, and it had only been six months or so earlier that they had celebrated their Golden Wedding with renewal of vows in this church. That was a truly happy, family gathering, and yet, perhaps we knew that it marked the beginning of the end of an era. All the more poignant therefore were the renewal of vows where they professed their ongoing love, promising anew to love and support each other until parted by death. Within a year Janet was gone, and now Richard has gone to join her. An era truly is over, especially within the Shone clan, and all of our prayers and thoughts are with you as you move into such unknown, however anticipated territory. So treasure the best of Richard – of Dad – of Grand-dad – and not only will you draw comfort, but he will live on.
For others of course – countless others – Richard lives on through his teaching. I’m sure many here have had the kind of experience I had several times, of walking round around Enfield with Dick, and it seemed every other step of the way involved bumping into a former pupil from the Grammar School, who tugged his forelock, gave a little bow and said ‘Hello Mr Shone’, or even, ‘Hello Sir’. Richard not only earned respect, but he also commanded it, and it was a joy to behold. More to the point, it betokens the extensive influence that he had over so many young men of our town whom he taught, mostly maths. It adds up – if you’ll excuse the pun – to a great deal, and in his case we might remember that what we remember about our school days is not so much what we were taught, but the teachers who taught it us. Mr Shone was a an educational character, a memorable mentor, and an influence for gentlemanly, upright behaviour, an advocate for self-discipline, self- respect and learning for learning’s sake. I’m sure some here, and many others elsewhere, will want to thank Richard for his legacy of learning. And in that, he lives on.
And his teaching ability also found expression in his calling to be a preacher. A lay reader in this parish for many years, I inherited him from John Sampford my predecessor. When I arrived, he was already Churchwarden Emeritus, having served in that role for a long time – indeed, he and Sybil Clutton had appointed John Sampford in 1978. But when I arrived, he had an plan – a cunning plan. As well as being immensely supportive of me, and of course customarily hospitable, he wanted to become Reader Emeritus, having around then recently turned seventy. So that was arranged, and of necessity it formally marked the end of his preaching ministry (which therefore gave him more time to engage with the Masonic world).
Nevertheless, one of his sermons is immortalized on the ‘ship of fools’ website. This is no disparagement – indeed it is praise indeed. I should explain that this long established website which pokes fun at the pomposity of the church, has for many years run a column entitled the ‘mystery worshipper’. By it a stranger turns up at random to a Sunday service and then writes a report afterwards, which is published. They assess everything, even the quality of the coffee. Well, if you take a look at that website you’ll see that in 2002 they came here, and secretly wrote up a service Richard was preaching at. We come out of it rather well in my opinion – but the best bit – and they thought so too – was the fact that during the sermon someone’s mobile phone rang. Richard was unphased – ‘that must be my bookmaker’ he said, without missing a beat. Such quick wit endeared him to us all, and has immortalised his preaching! And the thought that he lives on in the worldwide web would surely please him greatly, notwithstanding his own, rather, frustrated attempts to grasp that world of communication!
I’ve mentioned Richard’s Masonic enthusiasm already, and we all know – some more than others – of the depth of that enthusiasm and commitment to the Brotherhood. His apron has been placed on the coffin as a symbol of his Masonic life.
I’m told, and I quote:
“That the Lambskin Apron is an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason; more ancient than the Golden Fleece or the Roman Eagle, more honourable than the Star or Garter, or any distinction that can be conferred by king, prince, potentate or any other person. By it Masons are continually reminded of a purity of life and conduct so essentially necessary to gain admission into the Celestial Lodge above where they believe the Supreme Grand Master of the Universe forever presides”.
Richard was a member of several lodges in three parts, including the Grammar School Lodge. I am confident that that he was ever himself in that context too, and Masonic brothers here present mourn his loss too and will continue to do so for sure. So he lives on too, , as he would put it, in the embrace of the Great Architect.
For all of us of course, in family, school, church, lodge, Richard was a debater of ideas, an avid reader, a thinker, a staunch Tory, a man who knew his mind, liked to expand it, and valued learning, wisdom and knowledge as well as faith. Even though he is gone, you will catch yourselves in coming months, not so much saying, I wonder what Dad, or Richard would have made of that – no, you might well be saying ‘I know what he would thought about that!’ Here is another sense in which he lives on – in opinion, belief, and for sure, in humour.
For most of us, most of the time, enjoyed his humorous outlook. He enjoyed, and told jokes, like I said, most of which we appreciated. Some were risqué, others distinctly naughty, others downright blue. But even when annoyed with him, we loved him. So, in so many ways he lives on. I’m reminded of the current thinking on psychology that suggests that we all want the four L’s. A healthy, happy, fulfilled life involves these four L’s, which are to Love, to Live, to Learn and to Leave a Legacy. You will share my view that there is no doubt that Richard did all of these things, and so, therefore, by this measure Richard’s story is a story with a happy ending, a story well told, a story completed, to be put on the shelf as a classic tale of life, love, learning and legacy.
And yet, this is not the measure by which we live and love and learn. Dick’s story is not simply his story, now consigned to history. No – Richard’s story is bound up not only with all of our stories, but with the story of salvation – with the story of Jesus Christ, his Lord and Saviour. For whatever we may say about his life and his legacy, Richard’s was a life a faith. When we brought him into church yesterday evening we sprinkled baptismal water on his coffin. His life’s journey was a pilgrimage from the font to the grave. And we now stand at one end of it, looking back, yes, but also looking forward to what lies beyond.
As Dick lay dying last Sunday, he received the last rites of the church, and the family gathered round and he entered into glory. I was there with him and it was a tremendous privilege to commend him to his Lord, and do for him a small thing which mattered so much to him. So with all this talk of living on, we remember that ultimately it is to his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ that we commend him today, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection in Jesus Christ our Lord, and my Lord, and his Lord. Richard lives on in so many ways, but he lives on really, in the arms of God, in that eternity where there is no noise nor silence but one equal music, no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light.
Richard, our father, grandfather, brother, fellow pilgrim and friend, rest in peace, to rise in glory. Amen.
The Rev’d Dr Gordon Giles, St Mary Magdalene, Enfield, 1 May 2015