Friday, April 01, 2005

Thank you, Jane and Arthur

Reading through those Commandments again, I remember with gratitude Jane and Arthur.
You won't know them.
He had retired from an army career as a Lt.Colonel (something I always found hard to reconcile with his essentially pacific, gentle heart), she was a human dynamo, one of those endlessly energetic ladies who for generations formed the backbone of the rural church, never sitting still, always baking a cake or providing a taxi service for someone who needed to get to an medical appointment. He was immaculate in tweeds, and used to delight Lucinda by touching his cap to her if he met her in the village.
Jane was surely the one for whom twin-set and pearls were invented.
Both of them adopted my children on our chaotic arrival in Great Rissington 15 years ago.
Can I have been the only woman in the history of that medieval church ever to breastfeed there? (couldn't get out...trapped by the crowds at our first ever appearance in the village, the Carol Service only days after our arrival). I'm sure, with hindsight, they were both appalled at my indecorum, but they never let it show...simply made sure they admired the infant Giles at the end of the service.
The relationship progressed from greetings exchanged as hymn books were handed out, to an invitation to the 4 year old L. to share in the handing out, till one Sunday came the inevitable
"I'm not going to sit with you in Church this week, Mummy. I want to be with Granny Beddoe"
As my children grew, they all came to love Jane and Arthur,- he who struggled to get a word in edgeways, but had such a lovely dry wit. He would frequently find time to discuss life's big questions with Giles,- one nearly 10, the other over 80 but both respecting the other deeply.
At this stage, Arthur was still Church Warden, and there was much theology exchanged as they polished brass candlesticks together. It was so good to see (especially as the early death of my own parents means that my 3 were always short of potential relationships with the older generation).
More than anyone else, they made my children feel that the people at church were truly their family. They lived out each of those Commandments and by nurturing our children, nurtured us too, enabling me to worship Sunday by Sunday, rather than living with the endless child-control exercises that are often the lot of parents in a tiny church where yours are the only children.
Without them, I would never have been quiet enough to hear God say , as the visiting preacher, the first female Canon of Gloucester Cathedral, began her talk
"You could do that for me..."
Arthur died not long before we left the village. At his funeral, the church was packed with friends and family. My children extricated themselves from mock exams and polished their shoes without being asked. Arthur's shoes shone so that you could see to brush your hair.
Their son gave an address, presenting his father's life as an illustration of the truth
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God"
Seeing Him, they enabled others to see him too.
Thank you both.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Kathryn, this made me remember Bob Hutchings, who was in charge of our sidesmen until his death a few years ago, and who on our first very tentative appearance in church, impelled by my then 7 year old son's inexplicable urge to be there, made him feel so welcome - not least by inviting him to help take the collection that very first day - that to my horror he kept on wanting to go back, so I had to go too...... so I had to listen... and eventually hear.... and here I still am! This wasn't the kind of close relationship you describe with Jane and Arthur, but the effect Bob's kindness and recognition, in church and around the parish, had on my son was probably what stopped me from never going back (I hated "that" church: there were guitars, naff songs, the NIV, not much liturgy, a vicar in a suit, people waving their hands ..... really not me at all..... good thing God has a sense of humour....). I wasn't the only person for whom Bob's welcome was important but it was good, when his widow was congratulating me on selection for training, to be able to tell her what a key part Bob had played in that journey. We still miss him.