Monday, 24 August 2015

A Good Week Part 2: A Safe Haven

Where the trains used to run
Everyone should have a special place they can go back to, a place that offers stability and security in the midst of a world where so much is uncertain. For the last 21 years, Station House in Stixwould has been such a place for us. Back in the early '90s, Graham and Val Byers converted their beautiful home into a Guest / Retreat House, where they practise their special gift of hospitality. Our first visit there with a newborn Jono helped us to reorientate ourselves to the adventure of parenthood, and we've being going there ever since. I've been there pregnant, bereaved, joyful, depressed, feeling well and feeling exhausted. I've watched my children love it and its human and animal owners more and more each time they've visited. I've seen Mike relax and leave refreshed every time we go. So a week together there, with the newest Mrs Peatman too, just at this particular point, couldn't have been better.
There really are no neighbours . . .

For a couple of days, while everyone else went out and about, I did very little except sit at the window of our room (on the side of the main house in the picture) writing, dozing and thinking. And one of the things I found myself thinking about was the many people I've met over the years while I've known this view who have helped to prepare me for what this last few months has been all about. As a priest, you get to spend time with a lot of people who are having to get to grips with the reality of illness and the imminent possibility of death, so I'm in quite a privileged position. As I was thinking about those people, and thanking God for them, and remembering their warmth and depth and humour, the empty room was filled and flooded with life. Whatever I am on this journey, it's certainly not alone.

Of the many friends I found myself remembering, there are five women I feel particularly close to whose companionship at this point is crucial Though their deaths range from 2001 to 2015, they were all of a similar age to the age I am now when I knew them; they all died as a result of cancer - some after only months but others after long years of living with it; they all suffered the indignities it brings with strength and humour; they were all able to be bewildered and scared as well as heroic; they all cared far more about what the people who loved them and needed them were going through than about themselves. They all desperately wanted to live. But faith in the creative, loving power of Goodness - the Eternal One to whom Jesus draws us -  gave each of them a context in which to live where death is not the worst thing that can happen. Or the end of the story.

And here, at the window of a disused station house loved into a new and transformed life, they live on.

Sunset over Stixwould 18th August 2015

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