Today I reach the grand old age of 62. Where have the years gone? I am going to keep a blog of the day as it progresses. A fairly typical day – it is the 2nd Monday of the month, which means it is clergy chapter. And in July we always have a walk. I also have a funeral this afternoon. Not an easy one as it is for a one day old baby. A sad story that has a note of joy about it…. more of that later.
My day started with opening cards and presents, along with the first cup of tea – and my darling husband. He bought some turtle push pins for my notice board and a bottle of my favourite liqueur… King’s Ginger. I shall look forward to a tipple later.
My morning prayer was quiet and uneventful. Just a simple sense of God’s timing at work in my life and thankfulness. It is also enjoyable to see all the Facebook Happy Birthdays coming in and an e card from my brother (in America) and a chat via Messenger with younger daughter, which then became a video chat.
I also arrange the red roses Terry bought me.
Some admin at the computer: updating website and putting church adverts on Facebook, uploading yesterday’s sermon (visit http://www.rdch.org.uk if you want to read it), plus a faculty application update (church planning permission).
The clergy chapter annual walk at Dimmingsdale near Alton (of Towers fame) was very pleasant. Good company and the temperature had risen to a very comfortable level where we didn’t need coats. We chatted on the way round and then called in at a pub for a drink in honour of my birthday. The usual clergy discussion ensued covering a range of topics. I am blessed with good colleagues with whom I can relax and be myself and who are supportive.
On the way back home we spotted some cows cooling off in the river and so stopped to look at them.
A cheese and tomato sandwich and cup of tea (would have liked another lager but not in view of funeral later) for lunch and pleased to see the e card that daughter No.2 had sent had been delivered. Very good – a company that I haven’t come across before, which I have signed up to and sent her a thank you. email@example.com. I also contributed to a Facebook thread about clergy day off/rest day. It is very difficult to have a balance as the ministry ebbs and flows in an irregular way. There is always something to do and there will always be people you should visit etc. But I do manage to have one day off from parish and ministry each week in which I rest, go for a walk, do the garden and generally chill out, preferably with my husband. We usually manage a drive out and a walk, even on days when he is busy sermon writing. Now my lunch break is over and it is time to review the service for the funeral, pray and prepare myself.
During the preparation for funeral I had a phone call with a pastoral matter to discuss and service rota swap request. But it didn’t make me late – one of the reasons for starting to get ready early. The funeral went well. Everyone seemed appreciative of what I said. Took a while for people to disperse and then I had a conversation with the verger about wedding registers for Saturday. I was hoping that she would take on writing them up, but she wasn’t happy so I have brought them home for our administrator to do. Back home at 4pm and ready for a drink – of tea? Perhaps something a little stronger. But first email the administrator to see about her writing the registers before Wednesday when we have the rehearsal so they can be in church ready for Saturday. But they will actually be taken up to Denstone College where a wedding is also taking place on Saturday, half an hour before ours. So there will be a tense few moments while we await their return on Saturday for our wedding couple to be able to sign. I am sure it will all be OK. Now – for that drink. … poured it and them remembered I hadn’t sent the email. So did that and interrupted by phone. someone who’s mother’s funeral I did a little while ago. I have a form for him. Arranged to drop it off. NOW… for that drink.
While I drink my Peroni in the garden I cut out crosses ready to give to the pupils leaving the middle school. We have the service tomorrow. We will be using an assembly I’ve had on my computer for several years but never used. It refers to Oscar Romero and just by coincidence there is a Romero cross in the school reception area. So I got an image off the internet and have reproduced it – 4 per page – printed them out, cut them out and then laminated ready to cut again. 60 are needed. Just finished and somehow we only have 59! So print out another page. I would rather have too many than be one short. My lovely husband has helped with the production of them. Also while in the garden I chat with the very kind man who cuts the grass. Whenever he does the churchyard he also calls in and does the vicarage lawns. Such a blessing.
Terry and I have ordered an Indian takaway from a restaurant in Ashbourne that we haven’t tried before so hope it will be tasty. While he fetches it I have 40 minutes to finish this off (insert some photos and write a bit about the funeral) and round off the day, including a last check of work emails. I will then switch off computer and relax and enjoy the evening. Prosecco is chilling in the fridge.
The funeral wasn’t the easiest I’ve done but nevertheless I got through it without crying – well, only a little tear or two. It is not the same as an adult funeral and I am not sure how much to reproduce here. It doesn’t feel right to put a lot that is specific about that baby so, I will just leave you with Psalm 139, a few bits of what I said, the commendation prayer, the song of Anselm that I used just before we got to the graveside and the committal.
1 O Lord,
you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night’,
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end[a]—I am still with you.
Grace Poppy will live on in her parents’ hearts, she will live on in her twin, and she will live on in God’s presence, where she is now.
There’s been a sense of God’s timing surrounding the arrival and departure of Grace Poppy. She could have died during pregnancy or during delivery. She may have only survived a few hours. But she was a fighter and a feisty one – she didn’t give up easily. Her parents had the gift of those precious 19 hours in which to hold her and to show her their love and to receive so much from her. Grace Poppy was blessed in hospital and committed into God’s care then.
Isaiah said: But Zion said, “The lord has forsaken me, the lord has forgotten me.” Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palm of my hands.” Isaiah 49:14ff
Her parents will never forget Grace Poppy because she will live on in their memories and hearts. Grace Poppy also lives on in her creator’s heart. She is engraved on the palm of God’s hands – a part of God
At the Graveside
written about 1,000 years ago: A Song of Anselm
Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you:
You are gentle with us as a mother with her children;
Often you weep over our sins and our pride:
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.
You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds:
in sickness you nurse us,
and with pure milk you feed us.
Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life:
by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.
Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness:
through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.
Your warmth gives life to the dead:
your touch makes sinners righteous.
Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us:
in your love and tenderness remake us.
In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness:
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.
Heaven has been described as a wedding banquet – a great party – one day you will see Grace Poppy and join in with her in that great party in heaven, along with the angels. Till then, she will be for-ever in your hearts and in God’s safe keeping.
Go forth tiny one on your journey.
May the holy angels and saints of God protect you,
may you be carried into the heart of God,
and there find life completed in a paradise reserved for the spotless.
May God bless you,
may you be holy and strong and know joy,
may you dance in bright splendour,
and breathe the breath of the Holy Spirit.
May God’s glory continue to grow in you gently, powerfully and tenderly.
May you be cradled in warmth, and held in God’s loving arms forever.. Amen.
May the love of God and the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ
bless and console you,
and all who have known and loved Grace Poppy,
this day and for evermore. Amen.
When people ask how I cope with a baby or child funeral all I can say is that I do it with the grace of God at work in and through me. I feel it a great honour and privilege to be alongside people in their times of grief. And we were also blessed by the presence of the surviving twin in her pram. She is tiny, fragile and beautiful. I regret now that I didn’t think to pray a blessing for her. I did ask if I would be doing a Christening for her. I think I probably will in due course. When she’s grown sufficiently to fit in a gown.
I’ve had a lovely day, with lots of Facebook messages, some e cards and some physical cards. I feel blessed. I feel a bit tired. I feel loved. What more can I want? I have a loving husband, family and friends. I have a loving God in whose everlasting arms I am sustained and held. No matter what life throws at me, I know he is there and will never let me go. Tomorrow brings more challenges – a 9am communion, a middle school leavers’ service, calling in on a small children’s group in one of my churches where a volunteer is having her last session, and in the evening I go to art group. And I know that there will be various bits of admin, emails and phone calls to deal with – and who knows what else?
So – if you’ve got this far – thank you for reading. Just one day in a vicar’s life. Fairly typical, but fortunately the age of the departed is not typical these days thanks to modern science and medicine. I must remember tomorrow to drop off an anniversary of death card to a lady who lives a couple of doors down. I think that was the first funeral I did when I arrived here. He was 86 – a much more typical age.
Ready to switch off computer, relax, look at the latest Facebook messages and another e: card that’s arrived. And get the cutlery and glasses out. I wonder what film we will watch?