My mother was born in 1933 in Aberdeen, Scotland. Two years before the start of the Second World War she and her mother relocated 600 miles south to Portsmouth, following her grandfather, James Robbie McDonald, who had moved to Portsmouth a few months earlier.
By moving south and into foreign English territory James Robbie McDonald set into motion a chain of events that resulted in his grand-daughter meeting my father some years later when Dad was based in Portsmouth while serving in the Royal Navy. I believe that God prompted James Robbie’s move south, and the set of circumstances that resulted in my parents meeting, falling in love, and remaining in love. There is of course photographic evidence showing that my father was a good catch, cutting quite a dashing figure in his naval uniform (almost as dashing as I was in mine!).
After completing his national service my father began to train for Baptist ministry. In those days student ministers were not allowed to marry. Consequently, my parents had to wait for Dad to complete his studies in 1956 before they could get married. I arrived on the scene just under eleven months later! Three sisters followed, spaced out over the next ten years. In time Dad left the ministry to work first for the Leprosy Mission, and then for a Christian broadcasting organisation. Four children left home, grandchildren arrived, and retirement beckoned.
Having signed up as pensioners my parents eventually moved to a bungalow in the small idyllic Devon village of Holcombe where my paternal grandparents used to live. It is a five-minute walk down Smugglers’ Lane to a path and steps that lead under the railway line to the beach. God has blessed Mum and Dad with a wonderful retirement but not all of it has been spent on the beach. Their involvement in church life has never diminished. Dad continued to preach in the local Methodist circuit until October 2019 when Mum’s health started to falter. Since then all of Dad’s energy has gone into caring for Mum.
It was my privilege to be alongside my father in Torbay Hospital on the afternoon of Tuesday 3 March 2020 when Mum finally stopped breathing. Before Christmas Mum told me that she just wanted to be with Jesus. I replied that perhaps Jesus wasn’t ready for her yet. It took Jesus almost three months to prepare for Mum’s homecoming. I rejoice that she is with Him now, all earthly suffering over. A Thanksgiving Service will be held for Mum at Teignmouth Methodist Church on 18 March (Coronavirus permitting). It’s going to be tough for Dad. He’d appreciate your prayers. We’d all appreciate your prayers.
Mum left written instructions for her Thanksgiving Service. No mourning clothes; bright colours only! Mum asked for two readings, one of which is Ecclesiastes 3:1-11. Mum also requested the following quote from a John Donne sermon to be read at her service. In case you are wondering, John Donne was Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London from 1621 until he died in March1631. John Donne experienced many trials during his life but in a sermon preached in 1629 he said:
‘Our last day is our first day; our Saturday is our Sunday; our eve is our holy day; our sunsetting is our morning; the day of our death is the first day of our eternal life. The next day after that … comes that day I shall show me to myself. Here I never saw myself but in disguises; there then, I shall see myself, but I shall see God too … Here I have one faculty enlightened, and another left in darkness; mine understanding sometimes cleared, my will at the same time perverted. There I shall be all light, no shadow upon me; my soul invested in the light of joy, and my body in the light of glory.
Wow! It appears that John Donne knew Jesus almost as well as my Mum and like Mum could not imagine eternity without Him. Do you know Jesus?