It has been a nearly a month now since mum died. I’ve been able to think about the process a bit, which I share with you now.
It is a not very pleasant fact of my life that for one reason or another I left home as soon as I could. After study I want to Melbourne to work, and was ordained there. I was pretty angry.
But I remember that for nearly all of the 1970s I hardly spoke to mum and dad. Later things improved a bit, but I would say that relations with most of my family, apart from my older sister could e described as being ‘polite but distant.’
The fact that I was ‘away’ did not make things much better. Other members of the family, who stayed in Brisbane, had mote opportunities to grow in their relationship with our parents, and they with us. But I sort of stagnated.
So when I received the news that mum was gravely ill, I considered whether or no I should go up to see her.
But then I thought, ‘Is there anything that can be achieved now, that has not already been achieved? I know that my relationship with mum is not perfect, it is not as I would wish it to be, but I don’t think that much more can be done now.
So in thinking about my relationship with mum, I am aware of some sadness, that the standard of love and intimacy that I might have wanted for me and mum, was not possible while she was alive.
This is one relationship I will have to leave in God’s hands.
But then, at the funeral, and later on, I heard of a whole range of things that mum had done: how she was continually involved in training herself, starting with aged care. How generous she was to just about everyone, and how her grandchildren have mourned her deeply. I heard how, during some of the more difficult times that all families face, mum (and dad) showed such love, openness and grace that supported those who might otherwise have been left out of the family circle.
My admiration grew for the kind of person that mum was. So many other people saw her great qualities of person. I had missed out on seeing this, but I am so glad that I had the chance to look at my relationship with mum through the eyes of those people who had received a blessing, because they had known her.
The same was true for the connection between me and dad. During the course of planning mum’s funeral, and over the weekend that we celebrated mum’s life, with the party she would have had for her 90th birthday and the Holy Communion that we celebrated on he following Sunday, I got to know dad in a way that allowed me to offer my priestly skill set to the family, and to see the depth of dad’s devotion and genuine faith, which I had not seen much before, although I knew it was always there.
So then I imagined, “What would it have been like had I or they died earlier?” None of the blessings that I received over the course of hearing about mum’s illness and subsequent death would have been available to me. That would have been a great shame.
So now a prayer comes to me. It is from the Book of Common Prayer 1662 version. It is from the form of absolution, and goes like this:
The almighty and merciful God
grant unto you pardon and remission of all your sins, time for amendment of life, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
That is what has happened to me. God has granted me time for amendment of life.
St Paul in the letter to the Romans addresses the question that might have been put to him “Well why are you just telling us about Jesus now?
Why did not God set up this kind of salvation right from the beginning?
St. Paul’s answer is that God was being patient with people, in giving them time, and that this patience should not be presumed upon.
I used to think that this was a kind of ‘made up’ argument, but from the other side of mum’s death, I think that I have a better understanding of it now. The weekend was so good, that I am glad that I had time for amendment of life, which in fact happened.
The other thing that comes to me in this context is Charles Wesley’s hymn (Number one in the old Methodist Hymn Book) “O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing”
It has a line in it, strange to our ears which goes “He breaks the power of cancelled sin” This line refers to the fact that the forgiveness of sin has been made possible by Jesus’ obedience and death. But the power of that sin, forgiven once and for all, but also be broken in us. It is like St. Paul saying ‘If we are driven by the Spirit, then let us walk by the Spirit.“
It is another way of talking about the amendment of life that follows upon forgiveness. I am glad that this is coming true for me.
Your companion ‘on the Way ‘