On Friday 1 December, the funeral service took place for baby Indi Gregory in Nottingham’s St Barnabas Cathedral. It was an opportunity to celebrate the life of baby Indi and to entrust her precious soul to God’s love.
The Right Reverend Patrick McKinney, Bishop of Nottingham presided and preached the homily.
You can also read Pope Francis’ message for the funeral service.
The gospel reading chosen by Dean and Claire, which we have just listened to, shows us that Jesus had a very special place in his heart for children. As Jesus was travelling around with his disciples, teaching people about the love God has for each person, parents naturally wanted to bring their children to Jesus so that he would bless them. When Jesus became aware that his disciples, his closest followers and friends, were preventing this, he was angry with them: ‘Let the children come to me, do not stop them; for it is to such as these little children that the Kingdom of God belongs.’ This is a strong and powerful message from Jesus. He’s saying that we can all learn so much from children. How? Because children are naturally joyful, open and trusting, they have not yet become closed in and weighed down by the worries of the world. But Jesus is also saying that these are precisely the necessary qualities needed so as to share in his Kingdom of Heaven: openness to God in our lives, trust in his love for each of us, and joy and hope in the way we live our lives and care for others. So, as adults, we have much to learn from children.
Therefore we believe that Jesus has a very special place prepared in heaven for all children, and especially for those who, like baby Indi, die so young. That’s why Dean and Claire arranged for baby Indi to be baptised. They wanted her to know God’s love and to be able to be close to Jesus forever, and I know this truth gives them great comfort. So they, in turn, were able to comfort their second youngest child, Vienna, who is only 6, by explaining to her that baby Indi was now in a very special place called Heaven where she continues to be loved and cared for by Jesus and all his angels and saints.
A real fighter
Dean and Claire described baby Indi to me as a real fighter, as someone who really wanted to live and who, in her short eight months of life, battled through some challenging health issues. Dean will describe something more of her life and struggles in his tribute to Indi later on in this Service. Claire and Dean chose the scripture reading from St Paul speaking to the very early Christian community in Rome, for two reasons. First of all because it is a beautiful expression of their growing faith in God and of their decision to have baby Indi baptised. St Paul is encouraging the Christians in Rome by reminding them that Christ Jesus has overcome death, he is now Risen from the dead, and he has a deep love and care both for the living and the dead. He reminds them of this beautiful truth: ‘if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord, so that alive or dead we belong to the Lord’. Dean and Claire are greatly comforted by this truth that Christ Jesus continues to look after Indi in heaven.
Secondly they chose this reading because the opening words really spoke to them: “The life and death of each of us has its influence on others”. Why? Because, although only 8 months old, Indi’s struggle for life from her hospital crib here in Nottingham touched the hearts of so many people here in the UK and in other parts of the world, especially in Italy, as did the example of her mum and dad in doing all they could to try and give her every chance to live.
Preciousness of life
Indi’s short life serves to remind us of how precious life is, how precious every person is; she reminds us of how precious is the dignity of every human being; that whether a baby in the womb, someone very young like Indi, or elderly, healthy or sick, big or small, each person is of infinite value and is to be respected as such. That’s a wonderful legacy of Indi’s short life on earth.
These last eight months have been, for Dean, Claire and the family, both a blessed time in the great joy and love that baby Indi gave them, and also, as you are all aware, a very difficult and stressful time. But from meeting with them I know that they are very appreciative, while baby Indi was alive, of the support and practical help that they received from their families, friends, and others. Dean will also speak of this in his tribute. They are grateful also, since Indi’s death, for the expressions of kindness, great sympathy and prayerful support they have received. They greatly appreciate all of this because it has both comforted and given them strength to keep going through those difficult times. Your presence here this morning means so much to them. Please continue to keep them in your thoughts, and especially your prayers. To know that people are praying for them will be a great solace to Dean, Claire and family in the weeks and months ahead.
The Order of Service booklet for the funeral of baby Indi Gregory.
Dean Gregory, Indi’s father, wrote this beautiful tribute to his daughter. It was read on his behalf.
Image: © Catholic Diocese of Nottingham