"When as a child I laughed and wept,
When as a youth I dreamt and talked,
When I became a full-grown man,
When older still I daily grew,
Soon I shall find in travelling on -
O Christ, wilt thou have saved me then?
Henry Twells. 1823-1900
It's been a day for a lot of thinking about time and eternity, life and death, joy and grief. The pretty turtle watch was given to me some years ago and normally hangs on a chain. Today it moved to the orchids where, gazing down on the imaginary worm, it looked as if it were about to pounce.
News had just come in that one of the guys with whom I trained for ministry, a very talented and musical fellow in my year, died suddenly this morning. Alan was one of the wittiest blokes I have ever known and one of the kindest. Four days ago he got married. What a tragic loss to Lisa, to their families, to his parishes and to the whole Church of Ireland. The news has stunned so many who knew him and scarcely a minute goes by without the shock returning. What must his widow feel today? Our thoughts and prayers are with her especially. We have lost a dear friend but Lisa has lost her life's treasure and joy.
The shock paralyses and much of the rest of the morning was on auto-pilot.
This afternoon I was booked to go to my sister's for what I thought was an early birthday tea and we (the three sisters) will all be in different countries next weekend.
What happened was very different.
I arrived to be greeted with cheerful decorations. Nothing unusual in that. Mary always finds some original way to decorate for festive occasions.
The entrance festooned with balloons and signs and, if I may say so, far too many "60s"!!
Then, to my complete surprise, suddenly a number of friends and extended family began to appear. The youngest guest was dwarfed by the huge fuchsia he was carrying. (Photographs of it next week some time).
The table linen was customised to suit my passion for turtles - and there was even a crystal turtle among the pile of gifts that I received.
We began the party with a delightful selection of canapés, including this colourful plate of stuffed peppers. The cherry tomatoes which had been soaked in vodka and sherry were also something special as were the trays and trays of other tasty mouthfuls.
Warren was taken to see the "Fairy at the bottom of the garden" - a very vain fairy who has her own mirror!
At one stage it seemed that cameras outnumbered the guests and much posing was done. Hopefully various relatives will send me copies - and some of them might be posted!! These are the three of us - Ellen (in pink), Me in the middle, and Mary (in black and white). I haven't taken time to edit any of the pictures - what you see is what came out of the camera! I didn't manage to get a picture of the cake but there were so many candles on it that the smoke alarm was set off! True - it really was!! They were those relighting candles which added to the fun and photo opportunities!!
So - an odd sort of day. Getting older (though I have a few more days before the real thing) ... thinking of Alan and his untimely death .... remembering Lisa and her short three days of marriage ... having fun with my family and friends ....
I guess that's what life is - a curious mixture of the good times and the difficult ones. Maybe being able to enjoy one while not forgetting the other. It certainly brings into sharp focus the meaning of life and what is important, really important.
Merciful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is the resurrection and the life of all who believe in him,
and who, by his apostle Saint Paul,
has taught us not to grieve as people without hope
for those who sleep in him:
Raise us up from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that when we depart this life we may rest in him,
as our hope is this our brother Alan does,
and that at the resurrection on the last day
we may be found acceptable to you,
and receive the kingdom prepared for all who love and fear you.
Grant this, merciful Father, through Jesus Christ,
our Mediator and Redeemer. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer.