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A TRIBUTE TO MARGARET HENDERSON
Catholic Church, 29 Tutt Avenue, Kingswood, SA
Friday, 21st September 2018

“What we are is God’s gift to us; what we become is our gift to God.” These insightful and uplifting words very aptly and succinctly encapsulate the life, the mission, and the achievements of Margaret Henderson. By all standards, hers was a life lived to the fullest and in the service of God’s people: first, as a wife and mother; second, as a devout and truly committed Christian, and, third, as a devoted friend and selfless social worker, who focussed sensitively and selflessly on the disadvantaged and the deserving. “What we are is God’s gift to us; what we become is our gift to God.”

It is my firm belief that each and every person comes from God on a mission, with a message and an extraordinary act of love to share. And, like all of us, Margaret did believe that she had come from God on a unique mission, with a special message, and an extraordinary act of love to share not just with the immediate members of her family, but with the wider circle of relatives, friends, acquaintances, and well-wishers. Her investment in the social apostolate of the local parish was most exemplary and notable.

Said Jesus in his classic Sermon on the Mount: “When you do good, do it so secretly that not even your left hand knows what your right is doing. And you heavenly Father, who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.” This was the prime principle, the leit-motif, of the long and eventful life and outreach of Margaret. In the words of a Spanish proverb: “Noise does no good; good makes no noise.” Margaret believed in doing good both secretly and anonymously. Her reward, therefore, is absolutely guaranteed. She is where she rightly belongs – in heaven, with God and Des, and forever.

This comes as no surprise, because it strikingly confirms what Jesus himself said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust in me. There are many mansions in my Father’s house; if there were not, I should have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me, so that where I am you may be too.” (Jn. 14:1-6) Thanks to Christ Jesus, our victorious Saviour and Risen Lord, each and every one of us is assured of an eternal reward. Today Margaret receives hers and deservedly so.

Again, to the grieving sisters, Martha and Mary, this was Jesus’s categorical promise: “I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (Jn. 11:21-27) In a word, for all of us, without exception, there is life after life. Margaret, like Des, is alive and has been gloriously transformed. Always hereafter we can count on their continuing presence and invaluable help. “What the caterpillar calls the end of the road, God calls a butterfly.”

Helen Keller once said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, or touched, but are felt in the heart.” That has invariably been the most memorable experience of one and all, who were fortunate and privileged to enjoy the company, the friendship and the encouragement of Margaret, a gentle and compassionate soul, who consistently demonstrated that God has two homes – one in heaven, and the other in a loving and caring heart.

It was my privilege and joy to know both Margaret and Des, and, through them, the members of their close-knit, warm and welcoming extended family. In 1991, I was appointed as an Assistant Priest in the Parish of Glenelg. In the very first week, I vividly remember entering the local branch of the Commonwealth on Jetty Road as a new and nervous customer. As I looked around curiously, a very kindly lady smiled with an invitation to come over to her. That was my very first meeting with Margaret – a very sensitive, understanding, and ever helpful person. And that encounter was the beginning of many more with her, Des, and the family, both in Glenelg and Kings Park.

In the recent past, I was privileged to minister to Margaret in The Lodge of Southern Cross Care, Lourdes Valley. Very fervently and trustfully she received the Sacraments of the Anointing and the Holy Eucharist, and the Apostolic Blessing. The peace and joy that descended upon her clearly indicated that for Margaret that was a foretaste of heaven, where she is eternally and inseparably united with our Triune God, the angels, the saints, and her beloved husband, Des. May God grant them eternal rest!

How very true are the song-writers, Howard John and Theodore Morse, in their glowing tribute to the greatest person in the life of any and every individual – MOTHER! Aptly entitled MOTHER– A WORD THAT MEANS THE WORLD TO ME, these are the specific lyrics:

“M” is for the million things she gave me.
“O” means only that she’s growing old.
“T” is for the tears she shed to save me.
“H” is for her heart of purest gold.
“E” is for her eyes with love-light shining.
“R” means right and right she’ll always be.
Put them all together they spell MOTHER,
– a word that means the world to me.

It has always been my customary practice to conclude a Funeral Oration on a personal note. Having suffered the pain of bereavement often, I never fail to boost the faith and buoy the hope of the bereaved with this reassuring fact. I firmly believe that through death life is changed, not ended – thanks to Jesus, our Risen Lord and Saviour! This was Margaret’s firm and unshakeable belief as well.

While we will miss Margaret’s physical presence, we know for sure that she has been gloriously transformed and will always hereafter watch over the immediate members of the family. In a word, always hereafter, Margaret will be their closest and strongest intercessor with God, invoking nothing short of the best blessings that they could ever hope for. This is the assurance that was given to us by Christ Jesus, as we heard in the Gospel, and this is the consolation that will be ours always hereafter.

And so, while we are saddened at the passing on of Margaret, we are heartened to know that she is now beyond all the limitations and tribulations of our earthly state and eternally happy in the heavenly mansions – thanks to Jesus, our Risen Lord and Triumphant Saviour, who once said, “I am going ahead to prepare a place for you…so that where I am, there will you be too.”

May God grant Margaret and Des eternal rest!