Twenty years ago I could never have imagined just how many times I would have had to lead people through a long and difficult road to the point of 'goodbye' as departed loved ones are buried. I have learned that to be entrusted with that responsibility is indeed a significant place to be - they are places of immense pain and trauma, sometimes anger, conflict and guilt - and sometimes there are glimpses of hope and sense of peace that goes beyond explanation.
In the past few days I was asked to assist in leading people in a memorial event, for the local drugs project, for those who have died from overdoses, today something similar in the city centre, with many from the 'street community', as we planted a rose bush at his 'pitch' . Directly following that I met with the family of another from our community, who spent somewhere in the region of 25 years sleeping rough, who's funeral takes place in a few days.
To remember those we love and miss continues to be important, whatever the circumstances; to take people by the hand and lead them through the darkest of days is not only a responsibility and a duty, but can also be a very sacred time - sometimes even the most delicate of connections and the most fragile moments of faith are the most tangible and significant. It's when life is messy, confusing and questioning the 'God with us' of Christmas past, present and future rolls up his sleeves and puts his boots on.