Memorial Service

For James Livingston Swalm

July 5, 1922 - January 18, 2010

Rev. James P. Cooper   

A human life is a complex thing, made up of many different parts. Some of the parts are the public persona. Others are those private elements of character that are known only to close friends and family. Finally, there are those parts that are known only the individual (and God) alone.

How do you make sense of another person's life when you cannot really see the whole picture? How is that person being led by the Lord, and to what end? Something that seems like a tragedy may, in time, turn out to be a blessing.

    "I have heard angels talking together about the Lord's Providence; … They spoke wisely, saying that the Lord's Providence is in the veriest singulars of all things, but not according to such an order as a person proposes to himself, because things to come are both foreseen and provided; and that the case is like that of a person building a palace, who first collects materials of every kind, and lays them together in heaps, where they lie without order, while the kind of palace to be formed from them exists solely in the understanding of the architect" (AC 6486)

This is an appropriate illustration of the Divine Providence, for this is exactly the world in which he lived, construction projects. To the untrained eye, most construction projects seem like complete chaos.

Great piles of dirt here and there. Heavy equipment seemingly moving the same dirt back and forth. Over there, a great pile of steel bits. Over here a temporary shed filled with many apparently related things. And yet when we repeatedly pass such a construction site we notice that bit by bit, little by little, some kind of order begins to emerge out of the chaos. There is evidence that someone actually had a plan, and it's coming together. 

The same thing is true of the chaos in this world, and the plan of the Divine Architect. It's hard for us, as untrained civilians, to see how it's all going to turn out, but we need to have confidence that it will.

"The operation of the Divine Providence for the salvation of man is said to begin at his birth and to continue right on to the end of his life. In order to understand this it should be known that the Lord sees what the nature of a person is, and foresees what he desires to be, and thus what he will be; and in order that he may be a person and therefore immortal, the freedom of his will cannot be taken away.... Therefore the Lord foresees a person's state after death and provides for it from his birth right on to the end of his life. With the wicked the Lord provides by permitting and continually withdrawing them from evils; while with the good He provides by leading them to God. Thus the Divine Providence is unceasing in the work of saving a person" (DP 333).

So, in Providence, James Swalm has come to the end of his life in this world, and his spirit is even now being resuscitated.

"'To be buried' means in the Word awakening into life and resurrection, because when a person dies and is buried he is awakened or raises again into eternal life. For after death a person continues to live equally as in the world, but he lays aside the earthly or material body, which served him for use in the natural world, and continues his life in a spiritual body. Burial, therefore, is only the rejection, as it were, of the outer covering that he carried about in the natural world. Burial means awakening into eternal life or resurrection, because the angels do not know what the death of a person is nor what his burial is, since with them there is no death and therefore no burial, but they perceive all things spiritually; when, therefore, the death of a person is mentioned in the Word, instead of death they perceive his passing over from one world into another; and where burial is mentioned they perceive his resurrection into life" (AE 659).

James Livingston Swalm was born July 5, 1922. His parents were Clara and James Percival Swalm, and he had one sister, Marion. 

Growing up in Toronto, his life took a tragic turn when he was just 10 years old; his father died in a motor vehicle accident. Frank & Lois Longstaff adopted the widow Clara and her two children and introduced them to the Olivet Society in the 1930's. This was the basis for a lifelong association and friendship with the Fountain and Longstaff families, and particularly Jim's affection for the outdoors in general, and the Muskoka region in particular. When Jim and Maud were married, they honeymooned at the Longstaff cottage on Clear Lake.

As a young man in Canada on the eve of World War II, he was eager to enlist as soon as he turned 18 in 1940. He was disappointed when he was not accepted on account of his poor vision. However, we was able to join a reserve element of the Royal Canadian Engineers and as a Company Sargeant-Major, he served his country by teaching men to build bridges and demolish structures.

After WW2, he worked in many different parts of the Construction industry and Town Planning. While with Etobicoke Township in 1954, he helped with the emergency efforts during and following Hurricane Hazel, and he spent 10 years as a Construction Inspector for the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority. During this time he also worked with such people as Toby Longstaff and Tom Bradfield.

Maud and Jim moved to Muskoka in 1974, and were extremely active in the Town of Gravenhurst until Jim's health started to fail in the early 2000's. Eventually they moved to Ottawa to be closer to their son Jim.

While he travelled much in his life, he was really only truly content being near his beloved Muskoka lakes. Jim's greatest love was the family cottage on Echo Lake, next to the Bruce Scott and Ray Orr family on Gull Wing Lake. Even long after he was not allowed to drive a car, because of failing eyesight, he continued successfully to navigate his boat for some time thereafter, even if it did cause some concern for the family from time to time.

What was it about the "cottage life" that was so attractive to him? Probably the close associate of good friends with whom he shared many things, many similar experiences, many things of substance to talk about.

Jim Swalm was a gregarious, generous man who love to visit his friends. This gives us an indication of the kind of experience he is having now, as he is being introduced into the life of the spirit in the World of Spirits. We are taught that,

"Angels and spirits … are able to meet any they like of all those whom they have heard of. They see them and talk to them in person, when the Lord allows it. And what is remarkable, those people are with them in an instant and very much in person. Thus they are allowed to speak not only to friends, who normally find one another, but also to others whom they have admired and revered" (AC 1114)

Let's end with that image of Jim Swalm. While we knew him on this earth he was fond of travelling around, visiting friends, and talking to them. This passage from the Arcana tells us that when such people awaken in the spiritual world, they are permitted – even welcomed – to go about finding family members that have gone before, finding old friends, and making new friends. And so, in the Lord gentle care and under the leadership of the Divine Providence, Jim will pass his time in the World of Spirits, until he is eventually joined by his wife and they will be ready to find their eternal home. Amen.

First Lesson:

(PSA 23) The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. {2} He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. {3} He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. {4} Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. {5} You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. {6} Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

(PSA 24) The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein. {2} For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the waters. {3} Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? {4} He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. {5} He shall receive blessing from the LORD, And righteousness from the God of his salvation. {6} This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face. {7} Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. {8} Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle. {9} Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. {10} Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory.

Second Lesson:  JOH 16:19-24

"Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, 'Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, 'A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see me'? Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labour, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full."

Third Lesson:  CL 28

…It has not been known in the world till now that a person lives as a person after death … and what is remarkable, it has not been known even in the Christian world, where people have the Word and therefore enlightenment regarding eternal life on account of the Word, in which the Lord Himself teaches that the dead all rise again, and that God is not God of the dead, but of the living (Matthew 22:31,32, Luke 20:37,38).

Moreover, in respect to the affections and thoughts of his mind a person is in the midst of angels and spirits and is so associated with them that he could not be severed from them without dying. It is still more remarkable that this, too, is not known, even though every person who has died from the beginning of creation, after death has gone and continues to go to his own, or, as the Word says, has been gathered and is gathered to his people.

In addition, people also have a general perception … which causes them to perceive truths inwardly in themselves and, in a way, to see them, and especially this truth, that one lives as a person after death, happily if he has lived well, and unhappily if he has lived ill.

For who does not have this thought when he elevates his mind a little from the body and from the thinking nearest his senses, as happens when he is inwardly in a state of Divine worship, or when he lies dying in his bed and is awaiting the end. Likewise when he is told about the deceased and their lot. … Everyone has an inner perception that one lives as a person after death. What man who has loved his married partner and his infants and children, does not say to himself when they are dying or dead, if he is in a state of thought raised above the sensory things of the body, that they are in the hand of God, and that following his own death he will see them again and join with them once more in a life of love and joy?