RIP Alistair Alpin Innes

When I was ordained one of the first things my dad said to me was: “Jolly good, darling. Can I book you for my funeral now? Is it free to family?” (Actually it’s free to all but don’t tell him that.) For seventeen years he’s been in a Care Home with dementia and over the years we have chatted about his funeral. He’d chosen his hymns: Courage Brother Do Not Stumble and the Lord’s My Shepherd. The first one we’d never heard before but I understand it is well known in CofS circles. Dad used to sing it in the choir at Howgate Kirk in his youth and promised he’d sing the bass line from his coffin. The organist at the Crematorium said she’d play loudly and sing a long, which she did. Vigorously. We’d written down his life story as he remembered it and this is the eulogy I gave yesterday:

On the 11th April 1929 Alistair was born in Polmont to Georgina and John Innes. He had an older brother Ian, now deceased, and a younger brother Ronnie. A few years ago we all asked dad for his memories and his life story but bearing in mind he had dementia, we can’t verify all of the facts as you will hear them. If you knew him, you will know my dad was not averse to telling a good story so there is a chance that some of this may be entering the realms of fantasy but we think it is true.

His father taught at the Borstal in Polmont and then moved to be Head of the Wellington School near Penicuik. Dad remembers Penicuik seemed huge compared to Polmont. He passed his 11+ and went to Lasswade Senior Secondary and I asked him what he wanted to be when he left school. “Free of school!” was his reply. He proudly told me he started smoking at the age of seven, and pinched apples from the Headmaster’s garden and came close to being expelled for smoking in the back of the Latin class. He loved cricket and rugby and in his 4th year was made Captain of the Rugby Team. It was at school that he met my mum, Isobel, and they started going out together. I think that involved her mostly standing on the edge of a field in Penicuik watching him play rugby.

Dad and tiger moth 1952When he left school he did his National Service, first at Glencorse Barracks where he could go home every night, and then Aldershot for basic drill and then Southampton in the Royal Army Medical Corps where he trained to be a Physiotherapist. After his National Service he joined the RAF in Cranwell for officer training as a pilot and was posted for two years to Rhodesia, Kenya and Nairobi where he flew Chipmunks and Harvards. However he was invalided out for flying a plane upside down without a seat-belt, fracturing his skull and thereafter blacking out when he reached a certain height.
He loved being in the RAF – they were some of his happiest memories – and met Princess Margaret when she attended the passing out parade. Dad was delegated to dance with her, which he did – a quickstep, we’re told.

In 1954 he married my mum Isobel at St Mungo’s church in Penicuik. She worked as a mum and dadNursery Nurse in Edinburgh and he would pick her up on his Matchless motorbike and take her home for lunch and back, all in an hour! No helmets in those days and they were once stopped by the police and dad was given a ticking off for going so fast with a pillion passenger. He also once took a corner too tight and they crashed. His bike ended up in a ditch and mum on the verge. She put out her hand for him to help her up but he ran straight past her to his bike. In his defence, he did say he thought it might burst into flames.

He went back to the Wellington briefly to keep his friend Bob Crocket’s job of PT Instructor open for him when he went off to get his qualifications. Dad teaching PT! Imagine that!

There now follows a long list of jobs, not necessarily in the right order…
He went to work with the British Engine Insurance Company as an Underwriter. Then he became an apprentice Quantity Surveyor for two years but never finished his qualifications. He worked for Procter & Gamble, joining as a Rep so he could get a car, but they gave him a Ford Popular which he said he hated. With his friend Dougie Crombe they left and set up a business Innes and Crombe in Stafford Street selling costume jewellery and Scottish goods. According to my birth certificate I think I was born then when mum and dad lived in a flat in Morningside which coincided with him getting the new Ford Anglia which he loved. He joined the Scotsman as an Ad Manager where he met a lifelong friend Ali Ross.

Mum, Dad and I moved to Kingsknowe and they quickly made friends with the neighbours. My sister Carol came along and the family seemed complete. Then Dad met File 11-04-2017, 20 50 54Barbara at the Ideal Home Exhibition in Aberdeen and fell in love again. Mum and Dad got divorced and Dad insisted that his old family and new one should all get along. So Dad took my mum along for lunch on the day of their divorce to have lunch with Barbara at the Caledonian Hotel. Mum said that neither she nor Barbara could eat for nerves, but Dad tucked in to his beloved smoked salmon and kept the conversation going. And Mum and Barbara did indeed become good friends.

By this time Dad had found a new interest – advertising – and he worked for Nevin de Hurst in Walker Street. They moved to Kilmaurs Road in Newington and Lesley and Joanne came along. Lesley spent a lot of her early years in a plaster cast to keep her hips in place and he’d gaily swing her from the bar between her legs. Not recommended by the hospital, by the way.

Dad was asked to open a new branch of Dixon Compton, part of the Saatchi Group, in Leeds. They moved to live in Knaresborough and my sister Carol remembers going down to visit during the holidays and dad picking us up in an old Humber Super Snipe.
“Do you want to go faster?” he’d say.
And we’d shout “Yes!”
“Then hold on to your tin hats, put your feet in a sand bucket and I’ll tell you a story about the desert,” he’d say as he put his foot to the floor.
“And don’t tell Barbara!”
Carol says we reached the giddy speed of 105mph, all sitting on the bench front seat with not a seat belt in sight.
The family moved back to Currie when dad took over Dixon Compton Advertising Agency in George Street. These were his hey days, his cars became bigger and faster. Oh how he loved his cars. His business entertaining took him most days to the Café Royal and he was always a very generous host.

Eventually he opened his own business in Rutland Square doing advertising and File 11-04-2017, 20 52 30marketing. His clients included Peter Scott Knitwear, the Borders Development Agency, Glayva (Oh how we had fun making up Glayva cocktails for that one!), Head and Shoulders and the rumour is that Dad came up with the phrase ‘Pick up a Penguin.’
Lesley has memories of going to do secretarial work for him there. Unfortunately Dad was a little too trusting with people and his company folded when the Accountant was rather creative with his finances.

Undeterred Dad planned his next venture – and there were many. Waterless toilets featured heavily, I seem to remember. He’d meet someone in the pub who had a good idea and off he’d go on his next new business opportunity. For a few years he worked for his friend Blair at Edinburgh Cameras; and his son-in-law doing anything and everything from putting up suspended ceilings to marketing the business. Dad and Barbara separated and he moved into a flat in Haymarket.

Then in 2000 after a series of mini-strokes he had a big stroke – just the week before my finals at Edinburgh University. Quite quickly he recovered physically but we noticed that things were just not quite right. He’d had to give up his driving license when he had the mini strokes but he seemed to have forgotten this. “I’ve left my car in the car park,” he’d say when we visited. “The keys are on the dashboard.”  “No Dad,” we’d say. “You sold your car, remember?” But he never remembered that. And every time we visited, every single time, the subject of his car came up. Right up until he lost consciousness two weeks ago he was asking Joanne where his car was and did she have the keys. “They’re right here, dad,” she said. “In my bag.” And he’d relax.

He was diagnosed with vascular dementia and we realised that he wouldn’t be able to look after himself again. He went into the Tower Care Home at Murrayfield where Steve then Veronica became his Care Worker and he settled in. His short-term memory was gone, he kept forgetting his mother was dead, but he seemed quite happy. He did escape once and was found at the Ellersly Hotel across the road, having ordered a large gin, and reporting his car had been stolen. Luckily one member of staff recognised him from the family meals we had there and he was escorted back to the Tower.

File 11-04-2017, 20 50 33A few years ago the Tower closed and Dad moved to Drumbrae Care Home. Sadly, a few weeks ago he had a fall and broke three ribs which brought on pneumonia and he was taken into the Royal but it was too late and nothing could be done. He died peacefully on the 8th April, just three days short of his 88th birthday.

Really we lost our dad seventeen years ago when he had that first big stroke.
We lost his ‘life and soul of the party’ personality;
his loud infectious laugh;
his ambition and determination to be successful;
his short-term memory;
his unfailing generosity.
But occasionally we got glimpses of his wicked sense of humour as he continued to crack jokes and make cheeky remarks at inappropriate times.

Our dad was always late, never remembered a birthday unless one of his wives reminded him, and often forgot our names and we were introduced as Daughter No 1, 2, 3 or 4. He was a romantic, loved all women and was an outrageous flirt, to our eternal embarrassment when we were young. He loved his daughters, I have no doubt of that, and would have preferred that my sister Carol and I had daughters instead of sons.
He never really knew what to do with his grandsons Craig, Gareth, Davy and Stevie but I know he loved them and always asked what they were up to. Then Joanne produced his beloved granddaughter Hannah and he was over the moon. He had two precious years with Hannah as a baby before he had his stroke. Joanne remembers that he’d often arrive at her house, mid-afternoon, when she was still in her pyjamas, saying he was ‘just passing’ (which he wasn’t) and he would take over and send her off for a shower in peace and quiet. Hannah and Dad adored each other.

Our Dad had a passion for:File 11-04-2017, 20 49 08
classic cars;
classical music;
good old fashioned manners – he always stood up when a lady entered the room – it just took longer lately;
smoked salmon;
gin (with just a dash of water);
his elder brother Ian, who was also his best friend;
and the finer things in life.
And of course he will live on in all of us who follow as we each have inherited some of those genes, and I’ll leave you to work out which we each have.

He battled illness over the past seventeen years and bounced back time after time, against the odds. From his hospital bed he would grin and say, “I’ve got more damage to do yet.” But this time it was just too much, even for him.

Alistair Innes, our dad, a much loved father, brother, grandad, uncle, and friend to many of you. Today we are here to say goodbye to a man who touched all of our lives. So let us give thanks for dad’s life, and look forward with hope to what is to come. Eternal life.
This is the hope that we hold, and it’s in this hope, that we commend his soul to God, who created him in love and now receives him, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

And now in a moment’s silence I ask you to bring to mind your own memories of Alistair, and give thanks for his life and love…

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Death is not the end

2016 has had a sad start for me. At the end of 2015 three members of my little flock died. Each one of them was shocking and heart-breaking.

G died first. I had been visiting her for over five years since I’ve been here, taking her communion in her wonderful top-floor flat with views of the Ochils. G had a wonderful sense of humour and we shared a love of the same authors so got on well right from our first meeting. However, a stroke and then the loss of sight through macular degeneration left G deeply frustrated and unhappy. When her beloved only son died earlier in the year she felt she had nothing left to live for. G only had a granddaughter left but she lived in Glasgow and we never met. The first we heard of her death was when it appeared in the newspaper. We had talked about her funeral, G and I, and I knew that she wanted a simple service of the Committal. She wanted no eulogy, no hymns because she thought nobody would be there. When you get to your nineties there are not many friends left. No matter how often I told her that friends from church would be there she was convinced that there was no point in anything ‘fancy’. We agreed on a simple service. Perhaps her granddaughter didn’t know she was a member of Christ Church. Perhaps she was convinced by the Undertaker that they could take care of it all. So we gathered in the Crematorium, we friends of G, and listened to the Undertaker read two poems and say one sentence of the Committal. It was terribly, terribly sad.

A few weeks later I got a phone call to tell me M had died suddenly, found beside her bed. I’d seen her the day before bustling along Kerse Lane heading into town as she did every day. For M loved to shop. She loved to buy presents for all her family, friends and for me. Flowers Molly 2011 She looked well the day before she died. Her death was sudden and a shock. M had a large and loving family who grieved deeply at her death. Her funeral was on Christmas Eve in church and then at the Cemetery. The church was full and there were tears and laughter. M used to do the flowers for Christ Church and I know there was great concern that we should do her proud with a glorious display. It was a difficult funeral to take and I think that was partly because I couldn’t believe I wouldn’t see her again with her full head of chestnut hair, even in her 80s – and  it was all natural, unlike my own! I couldn’t believe I wouldn’t get more tipsy glasses or a request for fluffy polar bears in the nativity. I couldn’t believe I wouldn’t see her every Thursday at Mass and be greeted with her eternal optimism.

Then there was the death of B, another huge shock. B had recently been diagnosed with cancer but it was treatable and was certainly not going to get him down. B was a character, a very private man with a loving wife, with a caustic sense of humour who never failed to make me laugh. He was People’s Warden all the time I’ve been here, loved opera and theatre, and more than anything loved to entertain with food. Afternoon Tea for the CHURCHCHRIST.RP.SERVICE.21housebound were catered for with bone china tea-sets, tiered cake plates and real linen napkins, flowers on the table, all thanks to B. His platters for the Quiz Night were famous and wherever there was food to be served, B was at the forefront organising it. After just one round of Chemo, B caught pneumonia of the worst kind. The kind which is resistant to any antibiotics. So just a few weeks after his diagnosis and after just one week of chemo he was taken into hospital, then ICU and then a few days later on the day before Christmas Eve we sat at his bedside while all the life-support was switched off. Too soon. Too soon. Again another shock that we wouldn’t see him again, taste his little amuse bouches. His funeral was the first I took in 2016 on the 6 January and we catered for his funeral tea in his memory. The joy of Epiphany was overwhelmed with sadness. A star had fallen from our skies.

Three lovely people gone. Each one a beloved child of God. Each one unique and each one a character. Each one missed by us all.

And then this week I began my post-Christmas holiday. I was tired. Tired of death. Tired of being strong and carrying on when all I wanted to do was sit down and weep. Tired of loss. Tired of shock. I knew it would be a holiday of sleeping and reading and thinking back over these few weeks of great loss. I didn’t want to go away. I just wanted to coorie down and wallow in sadness.

bowie_aladin_sane_1000pxAnd then David Bowie died. Not a man I knew, but a man I had adored since I was a young teenager. A man whose music was the soundtrack to my life. A man who shocked my parent’s generation but who thrilled us. A man who cared nought for gender or rules and no, I didn’t understand all of his music and lyrics but I loved them all the same. I know them all still. My boys grew up listening to his music and also know and love him. That made me strangely proud. Memories of listening to his LPs on our little record player over and over again, of dressing like Aladdin Sane at the local disco, of dancing a strange dance to Rebel Rebel with my first boyfriend at a wedding, of wishing I had straight hair so I could have mine cut like his, of crying at Murrayfield when he walked on stage in that blue suit on the Serious Moonlight Tour. And I didn’t even know he was ill. I was totally unprepared for his death. I found a radio station playing all of his music and I sat in the kitchen all day and listened and sang along. Why on earth was I so moved by a pop-star’s death? Because so much of my life had been accompanied by his music. Because he had been theatre and a legend for me.

Then two days later Alan Rickman, the actor, died. Another shock. Another person whom I admired and watched avidly. That voice, that intonation, that humour. I seldom cry at movies but I did at Truly, Madly, Deeply. And his death seemed like the final nail. Too much death. Too much shock and loss.

It has been a sad year so far. Yes I know each one will live on in my memories. I will never forget G and M and B. We will keep on telling their stories. And Bowie will continue to be yelled (I won’t say ‘sung’) along to in my car and whenever I hear him. I might even make a Spotify list of my favourites. And I think I may watch all of Alan Rickman’s performances again and laugh at his Slope or Snape. Dead but not forgotten.

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!

In which Ruth ponders her obituary

No, I’m not dead yet. Not even ill. A bit of catarrh but nothing a dozen pills a day won’t help. However, after that wonderful talk on Dying Well I’ve been pondering matters funereal and eulogies and obituaries.

I came across this one on Twitter yesterday which made me laugh and laugh. I really want to do something similar for me. Planning it now… In the meantime, here’s Walt’s:

Walter George Bruhl Jr. of Newark and Dewey Beach is a dead person; he is no more; he is bereft of life; he is deceased; he has rung down the curtain and gone to join the choir invisible; he has expired and gone to meet his maker.

He drifted off this mortal coil Sunday, March 9, 2014, in Punta Gorda, Fla. His spirit was released from his worn-out shell of a body and is now exploring the universe.

He was surrounded by his loving wife of 57 years, Helene Sellers Bruhl, who will now be able to purchase the mink coat which he had always refused her because he believed only minks should wear mink. He is also survived by his son Walter III and wife Melissa; daughters Carly and Paige, and son Martin and wife Debra; son Sam and daughter Kalla. Walt loved and enjoyed his grandkids.

Walt was preceded in death by his tonsils and adenoids in 1935; a spinal disc in 1974; a large piece of his thyroid gland in 1988; and his prostate on March 27, 2000.

He was born in Philadelphia, Pa., April 20,1933 at 10:38 p.m., and weighed in at a healthy seven pounds, four ounces, and was 22 inches long, to Blanche Buckman Bruhl and Walter George Bruhl.

He drifted through the Philadelphia Public School System from 1937 through 1951, graduating, to his mother’s great relief, from John Bartram High School in June 1951.

Walter was a Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War, having served from October 1951 to September 1954, with overseas duty in Japan from June 1953 till August 1954. He attained the rank of sergeant. He chose this path because of Hollywood propaganda, to which he succumbed as a child during World War II, and his cousin Ella, who joined the corps in 1943.

He served an electronics apprenticeship at the Philadelphia Naval Yard from 1956-61; operated Atlantic Automotive Service Stations in Wilmington during 1961-62; and was employed by the late great DuPont Co. from 1962-93. (Very few people who knew him would say he worked for DuPont, and he always claimed he had only been been hired to fill a position.)

He started at the Chestnut Run Site as a flunky in the weave area of the Textile Fibers Department, and then was promoted to research assistant, where he stayed from 1963-72. In 1972 he accepted a position as an equipment service representative with the Photo Products Department at the old DuPont Airport site (now Barley Mill Plaza).

In 1973 he was promoted to manufacturing engineering technologist and was employed in that capacity until, after 31 years with The Co., he was given a fine anniversary dinner and a token gift and then “downsized” in December 1993. He was rehired as a contract employee in June 1994, doing the same job that he had been “downsized” from, and stayed until July 1995.

He started his own contract business and worked at Litho Tech Ltd. from 1996-99.

There will be no viewing since his wife refuses to honor his request to have him standing in the corner of the room with a glass of Jack Daniels in his hand so he would appear natural to visitors.

Cremation will take place at the family’s convenience, and his ashes will be kept in an urn purple-urn-for-ashes1-200x200until they get tired of having it around. What’s a Grecian Urn? Oh, about 200 drachmas a week.

Everyone who remembers him is asked to celebrate Walt’s life in their own way; raising a glass of their favorite drink in his memory would be quite appropriate.

Instead of flowers, Walt would hope that you will do an unexpected and unsolicited act of kindness for some poor unfortunate soul in his name.

A memorial luncheon in Walt’s honor will be held Saturday, March 15, at 1 p.m., at Deerfield, Newark.

Query Corner

You’ll remember that I have been going through the archives at Christ Church. In the magazines there are editions of The Sign which appears to be a publication from Mowbray which churches could add in to their own magazine. It is full of stories, articles about the Anglican church and Our Query Corner: Hints for some of our Correspondents.  Here are some of my recent favourites.

Need one go the Church when it is really very dull, except for Holy Communion?

You are no doubt aware of the obvious dangers of that neglect of the ‘assembling together’ which is the special temptation of the educated in all ages. It was the case with those to whom the Epistle to the Hebrews was written. Our attendance at the normal services is for corporate duty, and to help us not to forget the common good. We can put a good deal into our public worship, and use it for social needs, intercessions, organised worship and work, and the like. It is possible to become too selfish.

(oooh! Take that!)

Should one sit for the Epistle when others do not?

If you seat yourself quietly when the Epistle is read, it is right, and others will join you soon.

(You reckon?)

Why do strange clergy come instead of the vicar at special times?

One reason often is that a fresh voice in a pulpit may reach dull ears, or that a stranger may speak plain truths without being thought to know what has occurred in particular individuals and families to call for it. A stranger sometimes stirs up people not reached before.

(I’ve seen some strange clergy in my time, right enough.)

Mr X says women should not go to funerals; is there any rule against it?

If women want to go to funerals, why should they not go?  Though it should be remembered that in days when certain classes of women made “scenes” there was a wide-spread opinion against the practise. It is, as you may know, the growing custom for the bodies of children and adult communicants to be taken into the church (over night if there is to be a celebration of Holy Communion), and in such cases only intimate friends and relatives as a rule attend the conclusion of the service at the graveside.

(Now, don’t you want to know what those certain classes of women were and how the “scenes” manifested itself?)

Should one make a deep reverence to the Cross?

The deep reverence or bow is reserved for our worship. One does not worship a cross, but one may salute it. A man salutes it by a slight bow, and a woman by a slight curtsey. When going up to communion we ignore the cross, but we make a deeper reverence in honour of the Presence of our Lord in the Sacrament. On coming back we may ignore (or many people do) all signs and symbols, going straight back without a reverence to the place where we kneel down to speak to our Lord Himself. We hope that these suggestions may be helpful to you. They are not rules, but pious customs of some reverent-minded folk.

(Better get practising my curtseys.)

Could one tell a preacher that one thought he was wrong?  preaching

One would scarcely go up to a man directly he had finished preaching and tell him that one did not agree with him, and local circumstances and social opportunities might never make the conversation possible or desirable. We suppose one could consider for oneself the points as to whether one was free and able to go elsewhere; whether one only personally differed from the vicar’s temperamental point of view (as may most easily happen in this world of opinions) or, whether on one side or the other, one really did not consider his views were within the wide limits of the Church of England. “For every evil neath the sun, there is a cure or there is none.” One thing is, if you can’t find the cure, try to possess your soul in such patience that your devotions are not spoilt.

(I dare you. Really, I dare you…)

An altogether quieter funeral

Today is the funeral of Margaret Thatcher. I was not a fan but I’ve always been taught that ‘if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all.’ I don’t always manage to hold to that tenet but today I shall.

holding hands elderlyToday instead, I shall think of Ivy. Ivy was an elderly member of this congregation. Ivy was lost. I mean that when I first came here Ivy was not at home and we had no contacts to find out where she have moved to. I think it took a year to find her in a local care home. She was estranged from a nephew, the only member of her family left. By the time I got to visit her she was very deaf and had dementia so could not understand who I was or why I was there. We held hands instead.

Ivy died a few months ago and we learned from her lawyer that Ivy had planned her funeral, chosen her hymns, and even sending a car to the care home to pick up any staff who’d like to come. I think about 8 members of staff came which was pretty impressive, I thought. The only other people there were members of Christ Church, many of whom had never met her but knew her name from the prayer list. Usually at a funeral my homily tells the story of the deceased for it is there we learn all the things we wish we’d known before they died. I do this in the hope that we do tell the stories before its too late. But sadly, for Ivy there was little information. And even better, the stories we did have all conflicted with one another. One story was that she had lost her hearing during the war. Another that she had contracted measles as a youngster which left her deaf. Another that she inherited it from her mother. And her parents died either in a plane crash, or on holiday, or when they moved to Falkirk. I think Ivy enjoyed telling stories. And I’m told she did it well.

Later the lawyer contacted us to say that Ivy had left all her money to Christ Church. Ivy loved her church and I think it became her family. She had no children of her own and she felt that the relatives she did have were only ‘friendly’ because they wanted her money. Ivy was very fond of a previous Rector and knew that if it weren’t for the church she wouldn’t have any friends at all. The lawyer did tell us that it probably wouldn’t amount to very much. Ivy didn’t own her own home so it would be just savings after all the other agencies had their cut.  The lawyer also said that there some personal effects which were to come to us.

So this week, before the Vestry meeting, we gathered to look through the contents of an old suitcase and a large brown box. It was full of VladimirTretchikoffChineseGpaintings which were done by Ivy’s late husband. Mostly they were copies of other paintings, including a ‘Renoir’ and the ‘blue lady’. But there were also some of flowers and landscapes. One of the portraits had us guessing who Masel was until someone pointed out it was a self-portrait. (Get it?!) There was also an album of cigarette cards, full sets. And an album of photos and cuttings from the newspapers of events that obviously meant something to her. And of course, there was a photograph album and that is the saddest thing of all. We don’t know who the people are and it seems so hard to just throw them away. The paintings can be sold at the summer fair, the cigarette cards perhaps sold, but the photos which tell Ivy’s story lie on the meeting room table waiting their fate.

Any suggestions what to do with them?

So today while the country focuses on a very large funeral which costs a lot of dosh, let us think of Ivy. A woman who was someone in her day and ended up with dementia. By circumstances alone, Ivy ended up alone with just a few visitors and a few mourners. I wish I’d known her before she became bewildered. May she rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.

Why signing for the deaf should be so moving for the hearing

Yesterday I took a funeral for a member of my little flock. I have visited Dorothy at home since I came here because she had a stroke 6 years ago which left her speech badly affected. It was really difficult to make out what she was saying and frustrating for her too to make herself understood.  I’m told she stopped coming to church because she was embarrassed and that people were ignoring her. Not good.

Dorothy had a hard life and was a hard worker. She has a great brood of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and one great-great. They are close to each other, supporting one another and Granny Cakes. Three of Dorothy’s children are deaf and so it was that we had an interpreter at the funeral yesterday. I had to supply her with all the words I was going to say the day before so that she could have a look through them. When we met, she said she loved doing church services but hymns were hardest, especially if the language was old-fashioned.  And so it was that we began. Me at my prieu-dieu at one side of the Sanctuary and she at the other, dressed in flowing black in front of the family, looking them in the eye.

signingOh my goodness! Very quickly I realised that I was not going to be able to watch her sign because the tears had already sprung to my eyes with the beauty of it all. It was just so exquisite. Ballet of the hands. Elegant gestures which involved not just her hands, but her whole body leaning into the meaning of them. I knew that if I watched her I would be unable to go on for the tears were flowing down my chops. And so it was that I turned away and faced the congregation who were not watching me but were engrossed in the wonder that was going on alongside me. And that was just fine.

I’m afraid to say I didn’t catch her name, this signer. She was young and pregnant and already had a three year old. We talked about why she began signing, for she isn’t deaf herself, and she also told me how signing can be used to great effect with truculent three year olds too. And we spoke about the effect that her signing had on hearing people. A friend of hers had even done a dissertation on this effect, especially in church services. There is something about it adding to the sense of spirituality. All I can say is that it works for me.

The first time I came across such a thing was at the Haddington Pilgrimage many, many years ago. In the afternoon there was always a huge ecumenical healing service in the old church and there used to be a man who came and signed for the deaf community who came along. That was the first time I’d ever seen someone signing to hymns and it was incredibly moving and beautiful. I remember being strangely moved to tears then too and not really knowing why. Ever since I have wanted to learn how to do it but never got around to it. Perhaps one day…

How about you? Have you ever encountered it and found it beautiful?

 

Girl power

Last Friday I took the funeral of a very important woman. As is often the case, I didn’t quite realise how important that person was until after they died. Jinty Kerr was secretary to the Vestry when I first came here but never came to church in the whole year I’ve been at Christ Church. The reason was that she developed cancer just before I came and although she did a splendid hand-over and kept me informed of what had happened in the past, I only met her at her own home when I regularly took her home communion. I knew that Jinty had been a police officer and had attained promotion throughout her career but I had no idea that she was responsible for so many ‘firsts’. She led the way for women in the police force breaking through the glass ceiling on many occasions. There are splendid obituaries for her here and here. Jinty was a pioneer for women in a man’s world and rarely spoke about it to me. We spoke about churchy things and about chemo things and about family things. I was there at her death when she whispered the Lord’s Prayer with me, received communion and died. There were about 300 people at her funeral which spoke volumes about how much she was loved and respected.

Today a link on a blog took me to One Hundred Women: The unseen powerful women who change the world. Each of them has a story like Jinty’s. Stories of women who make change happen, sometimes in very small ways but all in ways that make our world a better place.  If you ever think you are too small to make a difference then you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito, sayeth the Dalai Lama. Read some of these stories and you will be inspired to greatness.

 

Funerals

In a few moments I shall leave to take the funeral of Willie Jamieson. I have been friends with Willie’s son and family for years and he was a kenspeckle character. On this occasion Willie’s son Bruce wrote the eulogy for me and all I had to do was top and tail it. Such joy! But don’t you just love hearing people’s stories? I find it absolutely fascinating and that’s one of the reasons why I just love doing funerals.

Rest eternal, Willie.

A Funeral at Rouen

While clearing out some cupboards here in Christ Church we came across bound copies of The Scottish Churchman, which seems to be the 1937 version of Inspires. What an interesting periodical it is too. Letters from Bishops; Scottish Church News; Letter from a Library; Our Book Shelf; Our Serial Story; Bible Studies; Chanda Notes; Obscure Scottish Poets; Aspects of Scottish Church Work; the Children’s Page; and Churchwomen’s Missionary Association are all there. I may share some of the articles with you.

This one, in particular, caught my eye…

A Funeral At Rouen

The whole of the outside of the west door at St Ouen was hung with heavy jet-black curtains, edged with broad white braid, and behind the High Altar three great black panels had been set up, which filled nearly the whole of the spaces between the pillars. The High Altar was also hung with black, and lit with innumerable candles, both electric and wax. An immense black catafalque was erected at the foot of the chancel steps, a great many candles burning round it. At the south-west corner of the church, just inside the door, a “Chapelle Ardente” had been constructed, all very black and sombre looking, in this the coffin had lain all night. At the appointed time a procession came down the south aisle from the sacristy, headed by young men and boys carrying a cross and candles, followed by choir-boys and men, and priests vested all in black, all chanting psalms in Latin, and proceeded to the “Chapelle Ardente”. The procession then preceded the coffin up in the middle aisle, with a great many mourners following. The coffin, which was of oak – the only bright spot! – was deposited in the catafalque. The priests said a Low Mass at the High Altar, the choir continuing to chant all the time. During the offertory a priest and a verger both came down the church and took a collection. When the Mass was over the procession came down into the chancel and the officiating priest walked twice round the catafalque, first sprinkling it with holy water, then incensing it. This ceremony concluded, the choir and the clergy preceded the coffin down the aisle to the west end of the church; there it was deposited on trestles just outside the “Chapelle Ardente” (which by this time had been almost dismantled!). One of the priests now turned round and addressed the mourners for a short time, after which he again sprinkled the coffin with holy water. The choir and priests then returned to the sacristy, except one little acolyte with the holy water vessel and sprinkler, then nearly all the friends and relations of the deceased went up and sprinkled the coffin with holy water. At last it was taken up and put into the hearse, and the mourners entering the waiting carriages. Fortunately the hearse and carriages were motors, for a funeral procession in France with horses is a very doleful sight. The black horses, with flowing tails and manes are draped with enormous black cloths which nearly touch the ground, while on their heads tall black plumes wave, the hearse also had several waving plumes, and the coachmen wear very deep mourning.

M.H.D.

Now that’s what I call a funeral. Love the idea of everyone coming to sprinkle holy water on the coffin.  Although I have noticed of late that the family and friends will often come forward at a burial to put a shovel-ful of earth in.