My mother, Peggy Mason, died peacefully on 11th December after a short illness. She had led an extraordinarily active life, and although in recent years short-term memory loss took its toll, her loving personality remained intact until the end.
Yesterday, Friday 23rd December, a service of thanksgiving was held at Chapelfield Road Methodist Church, Norwich. One of my sisters, Catherine, spoke of our mum’s life generally, and I had the privilege of saying a few words about mum’s Christian faith.
Here’s the substance of my tribute.
I would like to say a little more about Mum’s Christian faith.
She was, of course, a life-long member of this church. She and Dad were married here, as were her own parents and grand-parents.
In her younger days she taught in Sunday School. For 32 years she was a member of the choir. She struck up life-long friendships here. She represented the church as an unofficial, but highly effective, visitor of those who were lonely or in any kind of need. It’s clear from this and from everything that Catherine has said that mum was committed to the practical outworking of her Christian faith. In fact, she was always wary of those who could ‘talk the talk’ but didn’t, to use her own words, ‘live the life’.
But to all of this was added another dimension in the early 1970s. This was a time of renewal and deepening of Christian faith for mum and many others.
This led, amongst other things, to a fresh commitment to the Bible as the word of God. And so to the setting up of a Bible study meeting that was held once a month for some 20 years at our house in Buckingham Road. Mum would encourage friends, relatives, and neighbours to come along and hear some of the best Bible teachers in town. Up to 30 people would be crammed into our front room, some sitting on the floor and others perched on window sills. And, then, when the washing-up had been done and everyone else had gone home, mum and I would sit in the kitchen late into the night, discussing that particular evening’s topic.
And then, of course, there was the bookstall here at Chapelfield Road, which mum managed for 27 years. She had not been much of a reader in earlier life. But later on she developed a passion for understanding and sharing the Christian faith through the written word. She personally read many of the books that she offered for sale, and often reviewed them for the church magazine.
Mum’s Christian faith, then, was always a practical faith. And it also became a thinking and enquiring faith.
But there is more aspect that I must mention.
She would not want you to think that she found faith in Christ easy or straightforward. She was far too aware of what she sometimes referred to as her ‘dark side’. Her faith was particularly challenged when her twin sister Mary died in 1976. So inseparable had they been that when it happened mum felt as if she had been cut in half. She didn’t know how she would be able to carry on without Mary for one more day, let alone another 35 years. It was at that time, when she was at her most distressed, that God touched her in a specially reassuring way. I think she felt as though she had been caught up to heaven, and given a glimpse of the beauty, the glory, and the overwhelming love, of God. And she said that when the moment was over, the words that came to her lips were simply these: “My Lord and my God!”
How did her Christian faith sustain her during her last, less active years? It’s difficult to say, because she rarely spoke about it. But then she rarely spoke, in those later years, about her husband or her sisters; yet no-one could have doubted her enduring love for them. It was almost as though a big part of her had already gone to be at rest with Jesus, while the rest of her was waiting to catch up.
Well, now she is completely at rest with Jesus. That Lord whom she glimpsed so vividly in her darkest days she now beholds face to face. And so do countless others who have gone before, not least her beloved husband Ted, and her dear sisters Kathleen and Mary. “Our loss is their infinite gain.”