Mum is the most devoted mother one could ever have the privilege to know as Mum. She is the epitome of self-sacrifice and unconditional love. I cannot think of a single occasion that she has ever put her needs before her children and she has certainly shown, throughout my life, the meaning of that beautiful conclusion of Paul that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7). When Dad died she was only 43 with teenage children and no family around the corner. She went back to work full time as a nurse doing twelve hour shifts that started in the early hours so she could meet us after school or would go late into the night so that she could be with us in the morning. I am not sure how she coped but she was determined that she would do whatever she could to ensure that there was no opportunity in life that we would miss out on. I love you Mum so much, and words can never adequately express my gratitude for the start you gave me in life, how you have never stopped being there for me and believing in me, and never stopped giving to me all you have, all that you are. I love how you delight in the natural world, from your vocation as a theatre nurse to your amazing skills as an artist, gardener and seamstress, flower arranging, home making and cooking. You prepared the way for me to hear of God’s faithfulness, love and self-sacrifice. Thank you. I know that God was with you in a very real way, which I know you sense in the peace that passes all understanding. God bless you my dearest Mum. I thank God so much for you. You have been the greatest blessing in what has been a very blessed life. I was so thrilled that in1996 Mum married Harry. Harry is such a good Dad and has been there for Mum ,Nicky and I as only a Dad can in the joys and tough times. I love you Harry and I am so grateful for the way that you protect and support Mum in all the ways that I wish I could. Words are inadequate to express the love and respect I have for you. I am always in awe of the talent that Harry and Mum have for stewarding the preservation of village life ,from looking after the church ,setting up a village shop and cafe when the post office was shut ,and supporting the primary school ,all whilst creating a stunning garden that I love seeing around on the video tours that she has made for us all during lock down. Harry and Phyllis had two sons just a few years older than us ,and it has been amazing what they have done with their lives: Rob is a headmaster of the premier prep school in Scotland and Alex is general in the army and head of legal services.
I love how gifted an artist Mum is
I have had the total joy of looking forward every so often to Mum sharing a little unedited and personal video portrait of what she and Harry had been working on by way of a walk around the garden and chatting to Nicky and I about what was happening, whether it was new growth or flowering, and the year begins so appropriately on the ninth of May when our family began back in 1972. I love how Mum’s horticultural knowledge and her delight and care for partnership in God’s creation shine through.
9th of May - Nicky's birthday
21st June - midsummer day
26th February 2021
Nicky was born two years before me and has shown me the way every step of my life. I have always looked up to her. My life has been marked by big highs and big lows, plus too much self generated uncertainty and insecurity but Nicky’s character and love has been a constant stabilising influence in my life.
Nicky has a lovely knack for making good choices and knowing what will make her happy. (I used to have an annoying habit common to so many younger siblings of copying her choices because I knew she was so good at it. I remember one meal out when she ordered, I copied her and as the waitress was leaving she quickly changed her order having sold me a dummy!) Even though as a boy and girl we were not in each other’s pockets growing up, we were very very close, especially on our family camping holidays, which were always the highlight of the year for us all. I attribute to Mum and Dad’s immense love and sense of family, picked up by Nicky from an early age, to the joy freedom and security I knew throughout my childhood years.
I have always been in awe of her staying power and perseverance. Without seeing how she approached her revision for her GCSEs and the success it brought her, I would not have followed suit and done well enough to get into Oxford so I have her to thank for that (as well of course as mum who I will write about separately).
What’s more she has been there for me as only a beloved sister could be at every high to give me support and rejoice with me and every low to give me support and grieve with me. I love her so much and I cannot imagine my life without her presence and faithfulness and encouragement in every season.
The only time that I have felt like the roles were even slightly reversed, and I was able to give her support, was in 1999 when she came to live with me in Mortlake after she had had a tough time abroad. Unsurprisingly, with Nicky near me once again, those two years were (along with subsequent years in Durham) the most stable and free years of my life. She bounced back so quickly from a difficult year and inspired me as together we love saw our faith in Jesus and sense of calling ( her to the nurture and education of young children and me towards ordination ) grow. This beautiful gift she has as a primary school teacher and now a mum has been there from her earliest years when she helped mum look after me as a baby and a toddler and then helping with children’s church as a teenager.
What I have realised as I look back over my life is that Nicky has kept that protective nurturing aspect of love for me into adulthood because I will always be her younger brother to look out for and after. And she will always be my adored older sister who I look up to, and am thankful for beyond words,and love so deeply that again words are not enough to express what I feel about her.
Nicky gave me this key ring for Christmas and it really touched me
I love these photos of Nicky and I
I loved visiting the Lewis’ in Easter holidays 2014. It was the last time that I was able to run and so I love this photo with Imogen in the park behind their house, and reading stories with Imogen on the sofa.
One added bonus of the loveliness of longborough is that it is only an hour away from Oxford. During a holiday with Harry and Mum, Mum and I spent a lovely summer afternoon visiting my favourite places in Oxford. Top of my list of places to go were always the river and New College gardens
Christmas was always a special time too. This photo from Christmas 2017 was a very happy memory, enjoying the beautiful Carols from King’s College service on tv in front of a lovely fire.
Mum and Harry
Nicky, Ed and Imogen
Granny and Imogen
Imogen being creative
Dad was an amazing high jumper. He won the AAA championship in Crystal Palace with a jump of 6’1” which was his own height. He did so in the days before Fosbury Flop was possible because one had to land in a sand pit!
Dad was a gentle man who felt and thought deeply about the needs of society and especially teenage children who struggle behaviourally due to family problems or other issues. Having trained as a solicitor, he longed to work with social services. He was a man of great integrity who was not afraid to speak out if he felt compelled to do so on a point of principle, but he found animosity very hard to cope with. I wish with all my heart that this integrity had rubbed off on me more, as it did on Nicola. What did make a deep impression on me was the intimacy of the love that he knew with his heavenly Father and Shepherd of his soul, Jesus Christ. My bedtime prayers and little conversations with Dad introduced me to the Lord of all compassion and mercy, whose heart was tender to all that he had made, yet was furious about the suffering of the innocent and so passionate that no one should be lost to Him that he came to die in our place. I was given the children’s Bible on my Christening day, July 21st 1974 (which to this day Mum gives thanks for by lighting the original candle that she was given with these words from the baptism liturgy ‘ ‘ ). I remember looking through my Bible with Dad and coming to know through its pages the living God who parted the Red Sea to save his people; who saved Daniel from the lion den and who was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the furnace; who helped a Shepherd boy defeat Goliath and lead a nation; who was merciful to Jonah and to Nineveh; who leaves the ninety nine to search for the one lost sheep; who never gives up on the Prodigal son or the legalistic and insecure elder brother who is struggling to accept a love that’s not earned; who calls us to have fearless compassion, kindness and generosity like the good Samaritan and the widow in the temple, who Jesus knew had given all she had. I knew that this was a living God because he sent his only begotten Son to be one with us in every way, to face every temptation we face, to be baptised of water and the Holy Spirit, even though he was God, and to die for us and rise again – the moment in history that changes everything. I didn’t learn doctrine systematically but in the very Anglican way, I think, of liturgy and worship. These are the two hymns from Holy Trinity Cuckfield that I am very formed by:
There Is A Green Hill
There is a green hill far away,
outside a city wall,
where our dear Lord was crucified,
who died to save us all.
We may not know, we cannot tell
what pains he had to bear;
but we believe it was for us
he hung and suffered there.
He died that we might be forgiven,
he died to make us good,
that we might go at last to heaven,
saved by his precious blood.
There was no other good enough,
to pay the price of sin;
he, only, could unlock the gate
of heaven and let us in.
Lord Jesus, dearly you have loved,
and we must love you too;
and trust in your redeeming blood,
and live our lives for you.
Lord Jesus Christ you have come to us
You are one with us, Mary’s Son.
Cleansing our souls from all their sin
pouring Your love and goodness in
Jesus our love for you we sing,
Lord Jesus Christ now and every day
Teach us how to pray, Son of God.
You have commanded us to do
this in remembrance Lord of you
Into our lives your power breaks through,
Lord Jesus Christ, you have come to us
Born as one with us, Mary’s Son.
Led out to die on Calvary,
risen from death to set us free,
living Lord Jesus help us see
You are Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ I would come to you
live my life for you, Son of God.
All your commands I know are true,
your many gifts will make me new,
into my life your power breaks through,
When we were ready to pray, Dad would fold his hands around mine and say “My hands around your hands, God’s hands around our hands.” His hands around mine spoke of the security of faith. We often said Psalm 23 together as a prayer, and to this day I pray it in my mind (in the authorised version of the Book of Common Prayer that Dad loved so much) at times when I need courage and assurance. I remember praying it on the start line of my Boat Race in the nervous moments when the coxswains are trying to line their boats as the stream of not so still water gushes beneath the boat. Dad would always finish with the Lord’s Prayer and the blessing given to Aaron:
The Lord bless you , and keep you : The Lord make his face shine upon you , and be gracious unto you : The Lord lift up his countenance upon you , and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).
I have always found this to be a comforting reality. Nicky and I like to think that as Jesus intercedes for us in heaven (Hebrews 7:25), Dad’s prayer is the same for all of us.
Thanks to my father and my heavenly Father and the example of our vicar who visited us the morning Dad died to convey such compassion and assurance that dad was safe in the Father, I felt a call from God to be a parish vicar; to share this love and conviction of the sure and certain hope that only Jesus can give us at times such as this. Later on this calling deepened through the profound experience of serving Him as an acolyte in the preparation of the bread and wine to remember together the Lord – one full and perfect sacrifice. I felt the truth and reality of what we were participating in. Likewise, at baptisms I felt a tangible sense that the reality of Jesus’ resurrection life is present to us by the Holy Spirit in a profound way as we turn from death to life in repentance and faith, confessing the gospel that Jesus Christ is Lord – my Lord and Saviour, my God. I am so thankful for God’s grace in leading me to know his way, truth and life from these formative moments, and I thank God for a mother and father who were committed to bringing Nicola and I up in a loving Christian home.
Dad was 42 when I was born and whilst he loved to recount the scrapes that he and his brothers Norman and Raymond would get up to as children, I knew very little of his late teens and adult life until after he died when we found a photo album he had made and a drawer that was full of athletics and National Service awards for physical training and marksmanship. There was a collection of pocket diaries from his 20s that mainly had a record of the score of the Saturday game of ‘rugger’ for Old Reigatians! But there was an odd comment here and there which gave me treasured insights into what he was up to in work, church and socially. One comment that spoke of his awe of the nurses he had met over the years, and how he would like to marry a nurse, always used to make me happy because of course a decade later he met Mum in Oxford, where she was working at the Radcliffe Infirmary and he was working as a trainee social worker. They were married a few months later and set up home in Headington, where both Nicola and I were born.