Today our family's beloved Granddad has gone to glory.
He leaves behind so many memories.
Headmaster at the Grove School in days when some of the pupils lived in grinding poverty. Children dismissed as delinquent, he understood, taking the trouble to know them. He knew that some who failed to hand in homework had no electricity at home except for a cable slung in through the window from a neighbour’s house.
His degree was in physics, and he ran maths lessons for children who got slung out of class. I remember him talking about one boy sent to him for misbehaving. This boy was hopeless at maths in school, but Granddad discovered the boy was saving to buy some boots, earning pocket money scoring for darts matches. Darts scoring is complex – there was nothing wrong with the boy’s arithmetic, he just needed a more imaginative approach from his school.
But then Granddad knew what it was to struggle, and to cope with adversity. His mum died when he was a little boy. Every morning his dad went out to work leaving him sitting in the greenhouse until it was time to go to school; and there he sat and waited for his dad to come home in the evening. After supper, he went to bed while his dad went down to the working men’s club. To understand him, you had to think of that child.
He grew up practical, self-reliant, and determined to establish a life of security. Doggedly, deflected by nothing, he watched over and protected those whom God gave into his care; his family. He was the most dependable man I have ever known. You could rely on him. Trustworthy, loyal, never judgmental. Cautious, discreet, observant. Private, independent, persevering. He was, to the core a northern man – a Yorkshireman.
His faith in Christ was steady as a rock; unswerving, unhesitating. But he thought deeply, and did not fear to question.
With his wry humour and pragmatic approach to life, he was not over-demonstrative; yet he loved deeply. He is one of very, very few people of whose love I have felt confident, always.
I shall remember him, forks stuck in the earth in three different locations in the flowerbeds, so that he could get a little gardening done when his grandchildren gave him five minutes peace.
I remember him sitting outside the tent at camp on a summer evening, a towel over his head to keep the midges away.
A lifelong Methodist, and a preacher since 1952, he nonetheless cheerfully abandoned his restraint around all things alcoholic when he took up making his own (delicious) wine.
I remember him making Margie’s wedding cake with Grandma – how they couldn’t agree on the sugarcraft flowers – but it turned out that was because they were each following a different picture in the recipe book.
I remember him saying of each child born, once she got to about three months, “Well, I think it’ll live.”
I remember him saying to me, “All right, lass?” There is nobody left to say that now. No one in the south calls me “lass”. I treasured it.
I remember him leading Boys Brigade Bible Class – and preaching on Parade Sunday about “Nothing”. “ ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Nothing!’ ‘What are you eating?’ ‘Nothing!’ What have you got in your hand there?’ ‘Nothing!’ ‘What did you just put in that desk?’ ‘Nothing!’” The kids loved him. Everybody loved him. His whole self preached the Gospel. But canny, reserved, watchful, loyal, he didn’t let that many close to him.
So many memories.
In these last months, weeks, days of his life, he has had to be very brave. He faced death quietly, uncomplainingly and with great dignity. He said he was comfortable, and peaceful. Grateful, appreciative, saying “thank you” for everything, accepting of what was happening to him: “It’s time to go home,” he said.
And in these last days, one morning when it was just him and me, I read him the words he loved from the epistle to the Romans, and the Shepherd psalm, and we said the Lord’s prayer together. Then I asked him if he wanted me to bless him on his way with the prayer for the dying; and yes, he wanted that. So I prayed this prayer for him:
“Go forth upon thy journey from this world,
O Christian soul,
in the peace of him in whom thou hast believed,
in the name of God the Father, who created thee,
in the name of Jesus Christ, who suffered for thee,
in the name of the Holy Spirit, who strengthened thee.
May angels and archangels,
And all the armies of the heavenly host,
Come to meet thee,
May Christ be thy Pilot and give thee safe crossing,
May all the saints of God welcome thee,
May thy portion be in gladness and in peace,
Thy dwelling in Paradise.
Go forth upon thy journey, O Christian soul.”
And he said, “Amen.”
Well done, thou good and faithful servant.