Notes on Cyril Coker's funeral, 29th March 2004, Rockhampton, which was conducted by his son Pastor Ian Coker.
On behalf of my sisters, Marjorie and Judith, their families, myself and my family, I would like to thank you all for your attendance here today. It is appreciated and it is fitting that so many should have come to honour the life of Charles Cyril Coker and bid him farewell.
Prayer: Dear Lord, we ask your blessing upon this service that we may. honour Cyril's life in a fitting and appropriate way and bid our sad but fond farewells to his earthly remains. We give you thanks for him, the influence of his life upon us, the continuing legacy of that life, and the memories that will remain with us. You give and now you have taken away. Blessed be your name Father, in Jesus name, Amen.
There was a young girl who was ever so constant in her attendance to worship. Someone asked her and she said. "So that when they carry me in one day in a coffin, nobody will say, 'Who's that'?"
My Dad was no stranger to this place, having worshipped here faithfully since it was converted from a bakery into a house nigh on 40 years ago. This is where he wanted this service to be held and we apologise to those of you who are having to stand.
The first thing that needs to be said about him was that he was an upright man, a good man. He was a Christian. He also preached. I'd like to quote from some preliminary notes he had written as part of his memoirs:
"Many now agree with me, that this land of Australia cannot be classified as a Christian country. All may think it is, but look around us and what do we see; what do we hear and what do we witness? All I need to say is how would Christ classify us if He came right now?
Fully aware, that to stand firm at this time, in maintaining a set and distinct religious outlook will gain me more enemies than friends, but like a certain evangelist declared in his memoirs, "Here I stand, I can do no other, may the Lord help me". Certainly it being true, that I most open-heartily embrace the doctrines of Protestantism. To agree to differ by being divided by individual creeds and doctrines worried me, for as I studied Holy Scripture, Bible authority was not there. To conclude my entries concerning the disputes and crimes, even at this day and age, being committed in the name of infallible religion, I must inform my readers I am neither Roman Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Muslim or Jew but just a Christian."
In Num.23: 10 Balaam made the request, "Let me die the death of the righteous".
Death is a fact that cannot be denied and an event that cannot be avoided. We cannot determine when we shall go but we can determine where we shall go. The depth of our life is more important than the length of our life. Many rich blessings are in store for those who die the death of the righteous
According to Ps. 116; 15 the death of the righteous is precious in the sight of the Lord. That tells me that God is concerned when His children experience death and since the passing of the righteous is precious to the Lord, death is not the end of existence.
In addition to that, Rev. 14.13 says, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord". One cannot die in the Lord without first living in and for the Lord. And as Rom. 14:8 says, the righteous belong to the Lord riot only in life but in death as well. Death is the divine signal that our day of work, our struggle and conflict is over. As Rev 14:13 goes on to add, "they may rest from their labours and struggle and their works do follow them". So much of the labour done here under the sun will be in vain but 1 Cor 15:58 declares that labour in the Lord will not be so.
Again in Phil. 1:21 the apostle Paul says that the death of the righteous is gain. Life has its constant losses, but in death all is gain for the righteous. And this gain is far better than what this earthly life has to offer. It needs to be said that we are not speaking of self-righteousness but in righteousness in and through Christ. The text says: "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain". Take out the Christ and you take out the gain and the text becomes “For me to live is do die".
1 Cor. 15:54 says that the death of the righteous is victory and this defeat of death is made possible by the resurrection of Christ.
And it is the resurrection of Christ that makes the death of the righteous an entrance, not into the blackness or darkness forever, but into eternal life which Titus 1.2 declares is a sure and certain hope that is derived from the promises of a God who cannot lie.
So each of us are here today at the funeral of a righteous man, and Solomon tells us in Eccles 7:2 its good for us to be here because we are reminded of our own mortality and that we too must soon pass this way. Let each of us, through obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ, prepare to die the death of the righteous.
Charles Cyril Coker was born in the Rockhampton Women's Hospital on the 26th June 1918. the youngest of 10 children. To quote his own words from some notes from his memoirs he was working on, "My entry into this world was during the time when fierce battles were being waged on the battlefields of France. Being, by no means the best of times to make an appearance on the world's stage, and to further add discomfort to my entry it was announced that I had contracted gastroenteritis my mother was told that there was nothing more the medical staff could do and that, "You'll be taking hime home to die".
She was determined to save him and she did even though he was so thin and emaciated his head was the biggest part of his body and on one occasion he slipped through the bottom rail of the cot to be found by his mother hanging by his head, blue and breathless. She gave him mouth to mouth and he recovered eventually from the gastroenteritis as well to live a long life, full of days, passing away last Wednesday, 24th March aged 85 years and 9 months at Greenslopes Hospital in Brisbane.
His could be called a life of many parts. Whatever he turned his hand to he seemed to have the knack of doing well, although he would consider himself a jack of all trades but master of none. His early years were spent at Kabra growing up in the Depression producing a resilience, an abhorrence of waste, and a knack of being able to fix things with a bit of wire and a screwdriver. Surviving meant he didn't have much time for sport and he always referred to football as "that dog and bone act". His first real job was as a carpenter. This he pursued till the years when he joined the RAAF and was trained as a wireless mechanic. He served in Far North Queensland, New Guinea and New Britain. During the war he married Lillian Jane Sleaford who predeceased him in 1979. That union produced three children, Marjorie, Ian and Judy, who are all present today, along with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
After the war he returned to building and built houses in several places, including Yeppoon, Rockhampton and Theodore. On a trip through there about five years ago he was able to point out to me houses which he had built and which still looked in good shape. Just the other day a letter arrived from Townsville testifying a building he had built for the RAAF over 60 years ago was still standing and still in use. He also built the family house in Eton Street in the late 40s in which he raised his family and continued to live in till his recent illness, which, ironically, was brought on by inhaling asbestos during his building years.
Building houses mainly on his own, his slight frame belying his strength and endurance, took its toll on his back. and he had to find different employment.
With his previous training in the Air Force, he was able to do training and find work with the-then PMG - later Telecom - where he served in the Rocky Telephone Exchange as a technician. I can remember him sitting under the house doing his study because we children were making too much noise. He served there till his retirement.
He was a man interested in many things. On the one hand he loved old handtools and was sceptical of modern power tools, yet was not afraid of technology. He did most of the work on his cars through the years, and he drove his old 57 Chev for the past 37 years and it’s still going. In his 70s he attended TAFE to learn typing so that he could use a computer. He wrote and published a book just last year with several others in the pipeline which sadly he did not get to finish.
He had a love and a knack for drawing and painting from his youth which he never had time to until pursue his retirement years when for several years he had a drawing class on his back verandah as part of the U3A program. He was also involved in the Historical Society.
It also needs to be said that for many years he served the scouting movement with distinction particularly the Warripari Group at West Rocky. But in all his accomomplishments, talents, and service he remained a quiet, humble man, loved by many. We shall miss him.
Though days such as these are the saddest days in the fabric of our life, and these are times when we look for consolation and hope to case our pain, there is good news in such an occasion. I suspect the sorrow we feel is purely for our own reasons _ for Cyril is better off. Death separates us from loved ones, but it has also separated this loved one from the frustrations and pains of a body that was wearing out.
Death is the door that has ushered him into a better life. Cyril didn't know when this day was coming, hut he knew it would come and he was prepared for it.
As the apostle Paul said of himself, so can it be said of Cyril, “I He fought a good fight, he finished his course, and he kept the faith and henceforth there is laid up for him a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, shall give him”
We have come to that time when there is nothing more that we can do, and perhaps to say more and delay proceedings would he inappropriate. Cyril's recent sufferings are over and would we recall him to this vale of tears if we could? As James Montgomery said, Who that has ever been could bear to be no more? Yet who would tread again the scene he trod through life before?
In the words of Job, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; he flees like a shadow and does not continue. As God told man in the beginning, we were made from the dust and to the dust we return. At this time we play out the words of Eccles 12:5-7
Let us pray:
We now commit the earthly house that Cyril lived in to be cremated. We mourn his passing for we have lost a father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother in Christ and friend.
We shall miss him Father, for each of us has our own particular niche in our life and memory for him. We thank your for the contribution his life made to ours and to broad communities. We ask your blessings upon those who remain. May there be comfort in the days and nights that lie ahead when sorrow casts a long shadow over all of life’s pleasures. Let joyful and pleasant recollections rise in our hearts Father to displace the bitterness of present sorrow. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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