A Funeral Homily For David Boughner

3 Dec 1966 – 9 May 2023


Unfortunately I am sometimes called to lead a memorial service for those I have never met, and this is one of those occasions, which I especially regret in this case, as I think I would have liked David very much.   His infectious smile on the cover of this order of service, and the stories told me by Alison and Samantha, all tell me that this was a man who was a blessing to those around him.   He will be missed.


Every death is sadness and loss.   No one is an island, as the poet said.   Each passing diminishes those of us who are left.   But same deaths hurt us more than others.  Last week I was at a funeral for a man who died in his eighties, after a rich career, a long and happy marriage, and involvement in a myriad of groups and charities.   It was truly a life to celebrate.


But while some passings seem natural and even expected, others feel like someone has been cut down, stolen from us.    Today I think we need to acknowledge that aspect of David’s passing.


The other day I saw a truck with a sticker in the back window.  It spelled out the “cancer”, but the letters had a long wood screw driven sideways through them.   It was a slightly more polite version of another slogan you see sometimes, and I thought when I saw it, “damn right”.


I wondered briefly what story, what personal tragedy, led that person to choose that sticker.    Truth be told, I’d like one myself, because I’ve lost a loved one to cancer and its a brutal, hateful foe.  I suspect that many of us feel that way.


There’s an idea we often turn to when we confront cancer, that it is a an enemy that the sick must fight courageously, as we the loved ones close ranks around them.  We see that idea often expressed in obituaries and tributes, or by poets, as when Dylan Thomas famously wrote, “rage, rage against the dying of the light”, or as another ancient poet wrote, “hearts must grow resolute, our courage more valiant, our spirits must be greater, though our strength grows less”.


But strength does fail and courage alone is not enough.   Alison gifted me with a story about David, that at a certain point in his battle, he said that he wanted to lay down his sword and spend his remaining days peacefully with those he loved, and so he did.


In the Christian faith there are lots of images of spiritual life as combat – St. Paul at the end of his life writes that he has “fought the good fight”.  But there is also the promise that God will finish the fight that we can not win, and win it for us.   “Peace be with you”, says Jesus when he appears to his disciples after his resurrection, and the wounds in his hands and feet are the wounds that he has taken for us in the final battle.


Here at All Saints we’ve started a project to work our way through the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, and the final novel, as you may recall, is called “The Last Battle”.   Lewis brings all the beloved characters of Narnia, children and unicorns and centaurs, together to resist an assault by a death god named Tash.   The heroes fight valiantly, but they are only saved by the great lion Aslan, whose role in the novels allows us to see Narnia as a reimagining of Christian faith, a kind of Bible 2.0.


At the very end of the book, after the final battle, Narnia as we’ve come to know it ends, and Aslan invites the good characters to go “further up and further in” to a new and eternal Narnia, and as Lewis writes, “But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” 


You may find these words merely a lovely piece of wishful thinking, or, you may find in them a retelling of the Christian story.   Either way, let us give thanks for David, who fought the good fight against an evil foe while he had strength, and who has gone peacefully into a greater story than we can imagine, but in which we hope one day to join him and all those we have loved who have gone before us.