Ian Innes MBE RIP

A few weeks ago my Uncle Ian died. He was my day’s elder brother (by one year) and they were very close. Ian and his wife Marie lived in Headingly, Leeds and used to come up several times a year to spring Dad out of the Twilight Home for the Bewildered and take us all out for a lovely lunch. Ian and Marie were great characters, having lived and worked for many years in Kuwait, with great stories and love for us all. We always enjoyed their visits.

Sadly, just over a year ago, Ian was diagnosed with Alzheimers. Last year was their last visit to Edinburgh and it was shocking to see how quickly he was forgetting things. There was dad with dementia who hasn’t improved or got worse really since his diagnosis 14 years ago, and within months Ian was forgetting us so quickly.

Ian’s wife Marie is a Roman Catholic and decided that they should move house into sheltered accommodation where they could have help on hand. Marie’s church is a convent which has rooms and all the help she needed so they moved in there. But within six months Ian was too much for her to look after and he had to go into the Nursing Home part of the convent where she could visit him every day.

Then he died peacefully with Marie, nuns and a priest by his side. It was a comfort for Marie and I’m sure for Ian, if he was aware. My sisters and I and my youngest son were able to go to the funeral last week which was held in the chapel of the convent. Marie had told her priest, Fr Dan, that I too was a priest and he asked if I would like to take part in the funeral. It was a generous ecumenical offer and so I took my robes.

Fr Dan and I met the coffin at the door of the convent and I noticed that all the nuns had come to watch and pay respect. We processed in with the coffin behind us and as I turned I realised that it was not the undertakers wheeling the coffin in but four of the eldest nuns. It was really so beautiful to see. The chapel was full with standing room only, Marie was brave and dignified, and the overwhelming scent of lilies were in the air. I had been asked to do a reading and the Commendation which was an honour and privilege.

After the funeral the family went on to the Crematorium while the guests tucked into the ‘purvey’ waiting till we returned. At the Crem Fr Dan asked if I would do the prayers. He really was exceedingly gracious to me and I know it meant a lot to Marie.

It was good to leave Marie knowing that in her mourning she will be looked after and cared for my the clergy and nuns in the convent.

Our journey home by train was a complete and utter disaster, but that’s another story!

Rest in peace, Uncle Ian. May the angels lead you by the hand into paradise, a place where there is no more sorrow.

DadIan 2009

Ian on the left and Dad singing, I think, on the right!

A nun’s story

Yesterday I watched the Nun’s Story with Audrey Hepburn – gosh, she is beautiful even with a wimple. It is a film of it’s time and the scenes in the Congo are atrociously patronising. In fact it gave me lots to think about regarding overseas mission work – and not all good.

At the end of it all she decides not to stay as a nun, preferring to be a nurse. Mother Superior, who by the way is described to her as Christ’s representative in the convent – so why do the RC church have such a problem with women priests? Mother Superior tries to persuade her to stay but once she is convinced that she has made up her mind, the frosty face takes over and Sister Luke is made to sign a document, given her father’s dowry back and told to go to a room where her clothes are. No fond farewells, no kind words, no counselling, just banishment. “Ring the bell when you are ready and the door will be opened.”

This is Hollywood, I kept thinking to myself. Drama, that’s all. But then a friend phoned who has recently come out of a convent. “It’s just like that,” she said, “but worse.” No dowries nowadays to be handed back to help you on your way. Still no counselling or support offered. No help given.

And that friend did get a job as a hospital chaplain but is still struggling financially to cope with furnishing a house, buy a car, clothe herself, pay council tax and everything else that life has thrown at her.

The Church needs to do something about this. We are not good at looking after our clergy and those in religious orders, at caring for them pastorally. Who helps the helpers? What they need is a half-way house. Any offers?

There, that’s my rant for the day over.