Well, it's just over a month since I dropped off the clerical production line and landed as a shiney new curate in the parish...A month of new experiences, new people by the hundred (all of whom know ALL about me, including probably where I've put the keys to the vestry) and more joy than I would ever have believed a "job" could entail.
But today is different. My boss, who is truly wonderful (gentle reader, I refer to the vicar, my more immediate boss, rather than the Boss whom you might presume to be the sole employer of even infant clergy) phoned to say that Sheila died yesterday.
She was a wonderful lady. A former PCC secretary who had huge reservations about the ministry of women, she had battled with a particularly unpleasant form of cancer for nearly 10years, suriving on liquid meal replacements ever since diagnosis. When I first went with Michael to visit her, he warned me that she might be a little cool, given her strong views on ordination. Instead she was both gracious and welcoming, and over 4 weeks we became very good friends as we explored life, death, ministry...and the mysterious attractions of Big Brother. A quick visit last Friday morning turned into nearly 2 hours, we had so much to say to each other. A return trip was in the diary for today...but it's too late. She waited until her daughter and family returned from holiday in the States on Tuesday...fell into a coma on Wednesday and moved on yesterday afternoon. She'd allowed us to come so far along the road with her, it hurts that neither of us were there at the end.
Go well, Sheila, straight into the loving arms of God. Thank you for your friendship and your inspiration. I'm so glad I knew you.