My beautiful Gran went to be with Jesus. My Mum gave the most beautiful eulogy. What struck me was not what she left behind in earthly treasures but what she left as her spiritual legacy of faith.
My Mum was born on 30th October 1924 in Calcutta, India where her parents lived. Her father was Scottish and her mother British both had a Victorian outlook on life and Mum together with her younger sister Colleen, were kept in a strict regime. At an early age she was taught that to do one’s duty was paramount and this is something that stuck with her all of her life. Because of her Scottish background Mum was always excited when she heard the bagpipes playing saying it was something that ran through her blood and was part of her.
At the age of 5 Mum was sent back to England to be schooled at Jersey Ladies College; she was there for 2 years in Kindergarten, under Headmistress Miss Popham. At that time, she was a boarder in the school dormitory even in the holidays and didn’t go back to India. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like to board with the Headmistress at age 5 and how lonely it was for her in the holidays. Her mother’s brother and sister who shared a house in England thought it was wrong for Mum to be left at school and offered to take her into their home as a day scholar. At 8 years old she attended Warden Court School in Sussex.
When Mum was 9 years old her parents travelled from their home in India to holiday in England. They planned a European trip to Italy and Switzerland and later to Germany Denmark Sweden and France, taking Mum and her sister with them. Up until she was 16 years old, Mum was chaperoned by her Aunt Boo, three times to India via the Suez Canal to Bombay/Mumbai, then by train to Bengal/Nagpur, where she would spend her holidays with her parents. In 1939 they returned to live permanently in England.
Once school days ended at 17, Mum attended Battersea Polytechnic and chose Hospitality as a career path where she was employed by the Cumberland Hotel in London as a Floor Manager. She loved working there. As part of the WW2 effort Mum joined the Land Army, and it was in 1943 she met my father who was a Glider Pilot during the War. He was captured in Germany and spent time in a prison camp. Upon his release at the end of the War my father returned to Rhodesia and started writing letters to Mum and 4 years after first meeting him she had agreed to marry him and to go and live in Rhodesia.
Six months before going to Rhodesia to marry my father in November 1947, Mum lived at home with her parents. It would be the last time she would see her father. I remember Mum telling me that as soon as she stepped off the Dakota that flew her from England to Rhodesia and she saw the sun shining, she instantly fell in love with Africa, and knew this was her home, the country for her.
My Dad became a broadcaster and Mum was subject to many moves around Rhodesia as a result of his work. They had 2 children, my sister Maureen and me, and eventually they settled in Salisbury now called Harare. My Mum took her role as wife and mother very seriously and in 2014 when Mum turned 90 I wrote a letter to her listing all the wonderful memories she gave me as I was growing up. Here is this Birthday letter:
90 years have seen you through many joys and many sorrows, but all things considered, you’ve had a really blessed life because of your faith and commitment to the Lord since you came to know Him in your 40s – that was over 50 years ago! During those years you had been faithful in your witness to those around you, teachable when studying the Bible and disciplined in prayer.
You were the most loving mother in the world – you always protected me from Dad when I was growing up as we didn’t get along especially during my teenage years. You always showered us with affection. I could depend on you to always be at home when we came back from school.
You were the most beautiful looking lady in town – you always dressed well and loved using Charles of the Ritz make up. We loved the scent of it and the other scents you used. Later in life you loved wearing bling and lots of flashy rings.
The best cook in the world. You were very industrious in choosing new recipes and making up menus in advance. As a spontaneous, happy people-person, you opened your home to others being a great entertainer; having learned Hospitality after school this stood you in good stead, as you knew how things should be done.
I remember you being taught how to use a knitting machine by Rory’s granny. From this you made all of our school cardigans. You loved conventional knitting and made us all sorts of sweaters and jerseys. Sewing wasn’t your thing but you persevered and learned to make all our school uniforms during our junior years.
I remember how much you enjoyed gardening and what a beautiful garden we had. You would get up early and look after all those boxes of seedlings transforming every season. The pansies and daffodils in winter and a herbaceous border teeming with plants of all varieties and I loved the flowerbed you planted under my bedroom window.
I wouldn’t want to forget the animals we had – Maxi the golden cocker spaniel puppy followed by Tempest. Then there was Yeoman and Rover. Rover was your dog and he was just the best definitely the exception, his happy nature being his trademark. Scuttles was our black cat and Pretty Boy our blue budgie who could tweet “Hip-hip-hurrah, I’m a budgerigar” eventually being eaten by Scuttles!
We always had to go to church early on a Sunday morning and I resented this. But you were strict and not to be ignored on this issue! When I left home and went overseas you became a born-again believer, I thought you were over the top! I certainly didn’t share your newfound faith, finding your letters quite strange. Of course a few years later because of your relentless perusal of me and repeated requests for me “to just go and hear this preacher” that I relented and subsequently came to know Jesus as my Saviour as well.
You were so kind and faithful to the African people and cared deeply for their welfare. You fed and clothed families and gave them the Gospel encouraging them to go to Bible studies so that they could understand God’s word in their own language. Throughout your Christian life you supported the church, and The Leprosy Mission, The Bible Society, Barnabas Fund and for many years, New Hope Villages in Zimbabwe, together with Messianic projects.
For me, this is what I will always treasure the most. Your stalwart faithfulness to God and to the church; your witness which rippled through the family and beyond is without doubt your legacy. Your intercession for people for their salvation, together with all those years of prayer for Dad which eventually paid off and, your continuing to support God’s kingdom on earth in whatever way you could, assures you of a ‘well done’ in my book at least.
There are so many things I could write about, some of the saddest times you’ve had to live through, losing Maureen and her family along life’s journey. Missing weddings and not seeing your grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow up who you prayed for and longed to see them come to know the Lord. Having to farewell your many friends and family, when you left Rhodesia, the UK and South Africa. Losing Dad after 62 years of marriage and giving up the unit you shared with him in Perth. How strong you’ve been through these tests and trials.
There is another jewel, which you gave to me that I cannot pass by. Something I never thought would become so central to my Christian walk and that is to love Israel and the Jewish people. Without those seeds concerning Israel being sown into my life, I’d never have known the richness of the inheritance we have in understanding our faith in this way. For me, this is worth more than any financial gain. It is a true treasure, something that has changed my heart and life forever and so, to you, I will be eternally grateful for passing this baton on to me. I know your heart is for every member of your family to find this treasure too. This ends the birthday letter.
My Mum was a great prayer and Intercessor, she wrote down many thoughts about what God was saying to her through prayer and sometimes just from her heart she would write her own thoughts. Looking through my Mum’s Bible I found some spiritual thoughts she had written down concerning Heaven.
“Heaven will give us the fullest possession of God and heaven will give God the fullest possession of us. But heaven is only for those who are God’s possession here. The word GLORY means splendour, brightness, magnificent excellence, dignity, and majesty in the sense of absolute perfection. No one goes to heaven whose heart is not already there.”
To love Jesus is to long to be with Him. To love Jesus is to think about Him. To love Jesus is to obey Him readily and implicitly, not feebly or reluctantly. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” To love His appearing is absolutely necessary for loving His person. Jesus is the joy and glory of heaven. To desire heaven is to desire life. Heaven signifies a place of exaltation and glory. It is God’s dwelling place. It should fill our hearts and brighten our hopes.
Heaven is called a kingdom for its immense greatness a city because of its great beauty and population. Lord Jesus King of Paradise, O keep me in Thy love, and guide me to that happy land of perfect rest above.” End of quote.
Mum is now with the Lord in His presence where there is fullness of joy forevermore. She’s with Maureen the daughter she loved and lost so long ago. She’s with Dad and friends and relatives past. She is walking in beautiful gardens hearing the sweet music of eternal praise being sung by the hosts of heaven revering God, her Lord and Saviour, her Messiah.
In closing I remember a poem sitting on Mum’s dressing table:
“God has not promised skies always blue, flower-strewn pathways all our lives through; God has not promised sun without rain, joy without sorrow, peace without pain. But God has promised strength for the day, rest for our labour, light for the way; grace for trials, help from above, unfailing sympathy un-dying love.” Annie Johnson Flint
Rest in His Shalom my Mum until we meet again.