Funeral Sermon: George DuniganO Lord, you have searched me and known me.
A sermon preached by Erin Dunigan
NOTE: This is a ficticious funeral sermon for my grandfather, George P.
Dunigan, who I never had the priveledge of knowing as he died before I
was born. It was preached as part of an assignment at Princeton
The sermon listed as 'In Memory Of' is the actual sermon that I
preached at the Memorial Service for my father, George Patrick Dunigan,
You are known. Intimately. You are known, and you are loved. You are
known in every way—in your actions, in your thoughts, in your going out
and your coming in. The God who created you, knows you completely and
loves you extravagantly.
We who have gathered here today are hurting. We mourn the death of
George Dunigan. We may feel alone or abandoned, weighed down with our
grief. But even in the midst of that, you are known, and you are loved.
The loss of George has left a gaping hole in each of our lives, and
most especially in the lives of his family. George was a husband to Ann
and a father to Patrick. George loved to gather family and friends at
the house to celebrate holidays and to be together as family. George’s
close friends were his fishing buddies…standing together for hours in
the surf, waiting for the tide to change, waiting for the fish to bite.
Although he wore a starched white dress shirt, tie and hat to work each
day at the telephone company, on the weekends he could be found in his
characteristic swim trunks and a sweatshirt—no matter what the weather.
George was known by us and loved by us, and his death has left a hole
in our lives.
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
God is with us. God will not leave us. Even in the midst of this
difficult time, even in the midst of our pain and our loss and our
sorrow. God is not far off. God is not distant. God is not removed.
There is nowhere that we can go, no matter how far, how high, how deep,
where God cannot reach us. No matter how far we may travel, God is
George Dunigan was a traveler. Whether it be canoe trips during the
summer on lake Erie…or driving across the country, in 1925…he and the
guys drove from Erie PA to Pasadena, California. Crossing the mountains
they broke an axle in the Model T and had to use rocks and a tree limb
to lift the car, remove the broken axle, and travel miles, walking,
hitching rides on farm wagons, to get repairs made, and then walked
back again to reinstall the newly repaired axle…it was this adventurer’
spirit that took him to Baja California for the first time. An avid
surf fisherman, George was always looking for a good spot to cast his
line. This pursuit landed him in La Mision, the location where he began
work on a retirement home for he and Ann. The “community” was made up
of a few houses at that point…one day while driving up the road George
had to wait for a car to pass before continuing… “We are going to have
to go down to San Quentin” he said to Ann, “there is too much traffic
here!” And that was George.
We will miss that dry wit and lopsided grin.
If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me
become night, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as
bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
And now we find ourselves in the midst of a dark time. It seems as
though the darkness is threatening to overwhelm us, the pain, the
grief, the sorrow all seem unending. The darkness of our grief hangs
over us. It seems as if perhaps the psalmist was talking about our
grief, rather than the love of God, in writing this psalm. And now it
may seem that your grief is closer, more real, than the presence or
comfort of God—where can I flee from the grief? If I ascend to heaven,
it is there. If I make my bed in Sheol, it is there. If I take the
wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even
there grief haunts me, it holds me fast.
But I am here to remind us today that God does not abandon us. God does
not leave us in our darkness. We are not alone in our grief. God is
present. God does not forsake us. And I want to affirm to you this
promise—as real as the grief is, as painful as it feels, and as
difficult as the loss of George is, there is hope. This is not a hope
which tries to ignore the pain. It is not a hope that says that you
have to have a smile on your face and say everything is fine. It is not
a hope which forces you to pretend that you are not sad. No, this hope
exists in the midst of all that—it is the hope, the assurance, that
there is nowhere that we can go that God won’t be with us. In the
darkness of this time, even in this darkness, God is present. The God
who created you, who formed you, —that same God is present with you,
with us, and with George. The God who has searched you and known you,
who knows when you sit down and when you rise up, who is acquainted
with all your ways—it is that very God who comes alongside you in this
time, in this darkness of the grief and pain.
George’s death was sudden and it was too soon, as death often is. The
light of his life no longer shines in ours. And our hearts are heavy,
trying to hold the loss. But it is there, it is here, in the midst of
this pain and this loss, that God meets us, that God is with us.
And we are assured by the words of Jesus, “I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light
Each summer George and Ann would live down by the beach in Balboa. This
particular summer two of his buddies were living in apartments
downstairs. It had been raining all that day—unusual for Southern
California in the summer. George had been moping around the
house—because of the rain they were not able to go out fishing. Ann had
started praying that the weather would clear, just to get him out of
the house. The day faded away and still, the weather did not turn.
Later that night, George went outside to get something out of the car.
Upon walking outside he started yelling—guys! I see stars! The stars
are out! Let’s go!
We struggle, in this time of darkness to see any hope. But the stars are out. There is light. There is hope.
For even the darkness is not dark to you, the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.