John won't sit on the riverbank anymore. He won't tell any more fisherman's tales. He won't cast his fly again and though his creel may be empty our eyes today are filled with tears.
I think he would be surprised if he saw so many people gathered here to mourn him. John was, after all, a quiet man. He liked the solitude of fishing. He liked to be one with nature. It wouldn't occur to him that he was so popular, that he will be missed so much. Yet the very fact that so many have gathered to celebrate his life says much more about him, and his kindness, than mere words.
John, you see, did his good deeds by stealth. He never advertised the fact that he helped so many people in so many different ways. He never talked about his numerous acts of kindness. Yet I believe that almost everyone here today has been at the receiving end of that kindness. He may have loaned you a book that was especially relevant to your life. John was a great reader and liked to share the treasure he found. He may have helped you fix your car. He could do almost anything with an engine. He might have been a colleague of yours and helped you in the office or, more likely, stayed behind to help you catch up on that extra work. He might have said a quiet word of appreciation that meant a lot to you.
One thing he didn't do though is sing at your parties. John was tone deaf and he whistled tunelessly all the time. He often said that if he had been given one gift he would have liked to be able to sing. He found great pleasure, I know, in the song of the bird, the sound of the streams.
He loved children and they loved him. This shy man had no trouble at all in conversing with a four year old. Children, you see, are the best judges of character. They mightn't be able to put names on words like decency and honour but they knew that John was a good man.
John would never be accused of being the entrepreneur of the year. He would not take chances or make quick decisions. John liked to weigh everything up carefully. Yet when he gave his commitment he did it wholeheartedly. You knew exactly where you stood with John.
Today many people mourn him. His family will, of course, miss him most of all. I hope though that they will take comfort in the fact that so many others too will miss him too for many different reasons. His family members knew he was well respected but it is gratifying to see how many others will genuinely miss John.
I will miss him as a fount of general knowledge. If I ever needed to know anything there was always a good chance that John would know the answer. If he didn't he'd make sure he found the answer for you. I will miss him on walks because John was a great walker and his knowledge of the countryside made such hikes a pleasure. I will miss him most of all as a friend because good friends like John don't happen often in a lifetime.
Somebody as attuned to nature as he was knew that there was always another Spring around the corner. Every time I look at the ripples on the lake I will think of John and the memories will bring sadness, then like that Spring, they will bring new gladness.
Christ, as we know, called the fishermen to follow him. Today I am sure John has taken his place with the apostles.