The Rector writes:
6th October is a significant date for me. It is the date of my mother’s death and my dad’s birthday. Powerful memories of her final hours in a hospice in Kent are stirred each year. I picture the scene: as I said the prayers of commendation, my dad’s face crumpled and my sister stroked her brow.
My mum died on my dad’s 65th birthday, a salutary reminder not to take for granted the years ahead. Thankfully, he had retired early at the age of 58.
Whereas I do remember the anniversary of my dad’s death, this is something appropriate about honouring them together on the same day. That’s why I choose 6th October for a joint entry in the Book of Remembrance in the parish church.
Though this act of remembrance is essentially the same, it does feel different every year. My own current experience, along with a greater understanding of how life unfolds, results in a more sympathetic and deeper appreciation of my parents. There is a famous quote – its ascription is uncertain – which captures this changing perspective: ‘When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.’ Part of growing up, and not just older, is a growing humility and wisdom. Besides an increasing self-awareness, we know that life is complicated, and how hard it is to live up to our own expectations, never mind God’s. We know that we need God’s constant mercy and support.
November is, of course, the month of national remembrance. Remembering those who gave their lives in their country, and their families, deserve our gratitude. Calling to mind their sacrifice together by the war memorial and in church is a fitting way to signify our appreciation and solidarity. This annual reminder of the awful cost of war leads naturally to a recommitment to strive for peace.
The Sunday before Remembrance, 1st November, we mark ‘All Souls’ with a special service in the parish church at 4 pm. Everyone is warmly welcome to this gentle service that includes an opportunity to remember someone who has died whose absence is still poignant.
These shared days of remembrance, as well as our own particular dates, confront us too with our own mortality.
This evening collect taken from the Book of Common Prayer speaks of our need for God’s support in our griefs and sorrow, and of our own eternal home in God’s Kingdom.
O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in thy mercy grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last. Amen.
Team Rector of Saffron Walden