Tag Archives: bereavement

6 September: Season of Creation VIII: Unloved?

the sun-flower, shining fair, Ray round with flames her disk of seed.

In Memoriam Stanza CI

Unwatch'd, the garden bough shall sway,
    The tender blossom flutter down,
    Unloved, that beech will gather brown,
  This maple burn itself away;

 Unloved, the sun-flower, shining fair, 
    Ray round with flames her disk of seed,
    And many a rose-carnation feed
  With summer spice the humming air;

 Unloved, by many a sandy bar,
    The brook shall babble down the plain, 
    At noon or when the lesser wain
  Is twisting round the polar star;

 Uncared for, gird the windy grove,
    And flood the haunts of hern and crake;
    Or into silver arrows break 
  The sailing moon in creek and cove;

 Till from the garden and the wild
    A fresh association blow,
    And year by year the landscape grow
  Familiar to the stranger's child; 

 As year by year the labourer tills
    His wonted glebe, or lops the glades;
    And year by year our memory fades
  From all the circle of the hills." 

(from In Memoriam by Alfred Lord Tennyson.)

After Tennyson lost a dear friend of his youth, Arthur Henry Hallam, he worked through his grief in his epic poem, ‘In Memoriam, AHH, which took some 17 years to complete. Here he reflects upon mortality, and how the time will come when no-one remembers us, and others will be at home in what was once home to us. Does this melancholy stanza express despair or acceptance of mortality? To have been composing this epic for 17 years suggests that Tennyson’s love for his friend did not fade away, though it will have changed.

The loss of a friend’s love affects how the poet sees the landscape as unloved, uncared for: but others can love it into freshness. Perhaps there are neglected plots near you, in town or country, that would benefit from a little love, a few poppies or sunflowers.

Poppy Bridge, Didsbury, Manchester. Poppy seeds were sown on the land to the right and came up in profusion the following year.

During the Great War, British POWs grew sunflowers for decoration, passing the seeds to their Russian counterparts who regarded them as a delicacy. *

Notes:

  • The beech trees’ leaves turn brown in Autumn, the maples’ become red and yellow
  • Lesser wain, or lesser bear, Ursa Minor, the constellation that includes Polaris, the Pole Star, which appears constant in the Northern sky.
  • Hern is the heron, crake is the corncrake, a bird that nests in cornfields.
  • A glebe is a parcel of land, usually allotted to the village priest.
    • * Where Poppies Blow, John Lewis-Stempel, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2016, p225.

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3 April: If we will hear.

white violets

It’s that in-between day. The day when fresh linen is spread over the stripped altar, when church dusting is done, the floor and brass polished, the flowers gathered in and arranged. Christina Rossetti invites us to Consider the lilies of the field; her message, one we have been reminded of more than once this week, is HOPE. Jesus found Mary in the garden, after all. Consider that one small seed that was laid in the garden tomb.

A Scottish Rose.

CONSIDER THE LILIES OF THE FIELD.

Flowers preach to us if we will hear:–
The rose saith in the dewy morn,
I am most fair;
Yet all my loveliness is born
Upon a thorn.
The poppy saith amid the corn:
Let but my scarlet head appear
And I am held in scorn;
Yet juice of subtle virtue lies
Within my cup of curious dyes.
The lilies say: Behold how we
Preach without words of purity.
The violets whisper from the shade
Which their own leaves have made:
Men scent our fragrance on the air,
Yet take no heed
Of humble lessons we would read.
 

But not alone the fairest flowers:
The merest grass
Along the roadside where we pass,
Lichen and moss and sturdy weed,
Tell of His love who sends the dew,
The rain and sunshine too,
To nourish one small seed.”

From Poems by Christina Rossetti.

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Going Viral LXXIV: Time for Reflection.

St Mildred’s Church, Canterbury.

It was only late last night that I saw this from Revd. Jo: some prayers, offered for the day of reflection on the effects of Covid-19, from the Church of England:

Reflect

Loving God, 
You hold all our times in your hands, our past, our present, our future. Be close to us now as we remember all the difficulties and disappointments of the past year. Be especially close to all of us who are thinking of someone we loved and knew, but see no longer, whether family, friend, colleague or neighbour. Help us to trust that they are at peace with you, and comfort us with your presence. 

Connect

Loving God, 
You place us in families and communities, and we give you thanks for all those around us who serve us and help us in so many ways. Give wisdom to community leaders, to our schools, hospitals, care homes and other agencies who make a difference to our lives. Help each of us to have the courage to reach out with thanks and kindness to those around us and to speak words of faith as we share the good news of your love.

Hope

Loving God, 
As we journey towards Easter, help us to live as people of hope, knowing that beyond the pain of the cross lies the joy of resurrection. Inspire us in our worship, through our churches and in our homes, that we may bring glory to you and joy to others. Be with those who are struggling in mind, body or spirit, and give courage to those who are facing uncertainty and change ahead. Help each of us to keep our eyes fixed on you, that we may reflect your light to all whom we meet.

Prayers

Dear God,
Be with us as we think about all that has changed this year,
And help us to trust that you are always with us.
Be close to us as we remember those who have died,
And help us to trust they are at peace with you.
Show us how to reach out to others with kindness and care,
So that hope shines out in every heart and home,
Amen
 
God of Love,
As we think about all that has changed this year,
help us to trust that you are always with us.
As we remember those who have died,
help us to trust they are at peace with you.
As we reach out to others with kindness and care,
may hope shine out in every heart and home.
Amen

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14 February. Going Viral LXIX: Saint Valentine’s.

Five years ago we shared the following prayer that the English and Welsh bishops had published for Valentine's Day. It's worth transmitting again. We can pray it for other people if we are happily espoused ourselves.

Prayer for those seeking a spouse
 Loving Father,
 You know that the deepest desire of my heart is to meet someone that I can share my life with.
 I trust in your loving plan for me 
and ask that I might meet soon the person that you have prepared for me.
 Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open my heart and mind so that I recognise my soulmate.
 Remove any obstacles that may be in the way of this happy encounter, 
so that I might find a new sense of wholeness, joy and peace.
 Give me the grace too, to know and accept, if you have another plan for my life.
 I surrender my past, present and future into the tender heart of your Son, Jesus, 
confident that my prayer will be heard and answered.
                                                                                                    AMEN.

The Valentine card at the head of the post was sent a century earlier, from a young man in Flanders’ fields to his ‘sweeetie’ in Manchester. They never married because he was killed in action; she went on to find happiness with another man, unlike two ladies I got to know in 1978. Miss M had been unhinged by her experience of loss, or so we were told; Miss P was a good friend to many nieces and nephews and added me to the list, making a beautiful quilt for our first baby’s pram; it’s now a family heirloom.

On this day for lovers, I cannot help thinking of those couples, married or hoping to marry, who are separated by the effects of covid on travel and meeting up. We all have to accept another plan for this period of our lives. And we can hold in our hearts all those who have died, and those who mourn them.

Let us surrender past, present and future into the tender heart of Jesus, confident that our prayer will be heard and answered.

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Going Viral LXVII: another cold and frosty morning.

St Peter’s keys

Another glimpse of life in Lockdown Canterbury.

Good morning to you all on another cold and frosty morning – it is very icy out there – going for my walk yesterday I rather glamorously slipped over on the ice, whilst heading up St Thomas’s Hill, all is well but be careful!
Morning prayer: https://youtu.be/E3J53B5PCtk
Today in Morning Prayer, we have been asked to remember another character: St. Scholastica, so a little bit about her… I love how we get to hear of these folk down the ages…
Scholastica (c. 480 – 10 February 543) is a saint of the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion. She was born in Italy. According to a ninth century tradition, she was the twin sister of Benedict of Nursia.Her feast day is 10 February, Saint Scholastica’s Day. Scholastica is traditionally regarded as the foundress of the Benedictine nuns. Ref and more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scholastica


Plastic Free Lent: With Lent beginning next week, Sami (from St Dunstan’s), Caroline Blamely who heads up our eco-church committee and myself are compiling a series of tips to help us reduce the amount of plastic we use in our lives – so much is changing a habit. So watch this space, as we will be publishing these tips in my daily brief, on our website, twitter account, instagram & Facebook – so watch this space.

Ash Wednesday: 17th February: This will be live-streamed from St Dunstan’s in the evening (7.30), 
Meanwhile, keep warm, it’s freezing, and am heading off to Barham Crematorium so prayers for another family mourning the loss of a loved one – it is so tough. Keep connected, keep well and keep praying!

God Bless, Jo

Rev Jo Richards Rector of the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury

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Going Viral LXVI: Virus and Vaccination at Lichfield Cathedral.

This links to an article by the Dean of Lichfield, Rev Adrian Dorber. Lichfield was the first cathedral to host a mass vaccination centre. Dean Adrian begins:

Dear Friends,

I was asked to write the following piece for a daily newspaper.  Whether it gets printed, or it is mangled into something unrecognisable by sub-editors, is beyond my control, but I thought you might like to see the article.  Here it is:

Last week the UK death toll from Covid-19 crossed the 100,000 mark: a grim milestone in our reckoning with the impact of the virus.  The swathe of bereavement the virus brings is terrible.  The mental and spiritual desolation of 2020 has shown us the fault lines in the way the world is currently ordered: pointing us to the inescapable truth of our relatedness and obligations to each other.  One charity dealing with bereavement has predicted a “tsunami of unresolved grief” that will take a long time to heal.   Compound the death rate with the anxiety, stress and isolation lockdown and home-schooling have brought, to say nothing of lost jobs, business closures and a contracting economy, then we are right to welcome the NHS’s vaccination roll-out.

The link above will take you to the whole interesting article.

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10 December: Loss and Hope in Challenging times

Loss and hope in challenging times

About this Event

Another joint event between the Irish Chaplaincy and Caritas Westminster.

During the pandemic, we have each experienced some form of loss; whether that be close contact with friends and family, a sense of purpose due to changes in work and volunteering opportunities, redundancies, unemployment, the disruption of routine, of your holiday plans, or loss due to the illness or death of someone close to us.

Join us in this time of music and prayer to reflect on these losses, and to look forward together in hope.

Register on Eventbrite here!

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2 November, All Souls: How soon will all my lovely days be over …

reed bed
One of the joys of the web is access to books that the local library will not have on its shelves.
The Canadian poet Bliss Carman translated Sappho into verse; this poem is a challenge to a believer: like Sappho I am a ‘fragile lamp of clay’. But am I burning with the Light of the World, witness to a great wind from the light?
There may be occasions in this month of November to speak a word of hope to a bereaved neighbour; do not be shy of saying it.
How soon will all my lovely days be over,
And I no more be found beneath the sun,—
Neither beside the many-murmuring sea,
Nor where the plain-winds whisper to the reeds,
Nor in the tall beech-woods among the hills
Where roam the bright-lipped Oreads,* nor along
The pasture-sides where berry-pickers stray
And harmless shepherds pipe their sheep to fold!
For I am eager, and the flame of life
Burns quickly in the fragile lamp of clay.
Passion and love and longing and hot tears
Consume this mortal Sappho, and too soon
A great wind from the dark will blow upon me,
And I be no more found in the fair world,
For all the search of the revolving moon
And patient shine of everlasting stars.
LV Soul” (from “Sappho: One Hundred Lyrics” by Bliss Carman)
*Oreads were wood nymphs.
Start reading it for free: http://amzn.eu/9CjK33P

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25 September: Letter upon a mournful occasion.

Doctor Johnson

A letter from Doctor Johnson to a friend and publisher of his work, sent on this day, September 25, 1750.

To Mr. JAMES ELPHINSTON.

DEAR SIR,

You have, as I find by every kind of evidence, lost an excellent mother; and I hope you will not think me incapable of partaking of your grief. I read the letters in which you relate your mother’s death to Mrs. Strahan, and think I do myself honour, when I tell you that I read them with tears; but tears are neither to you nor to me of any further use, when once the tribute of nature has been paid. The business of life summons us away from useless grief, and calls us to the exercise of those virtues of which we are lamenting our deprivation. The greatest benefit which one friend can confer upon another, is to guard, and excite, and elevate his virtues. This your mother will still perform, if you diligently preserve the memory of her life, and of her death: a life, so far as I can learn, useful, wise, and innocent; and a death resigned, peaceful, and holy.

I cannot forbear to mention, that neither reason nor revelation denies you to hope, that you may increase her happiness by obeying her precepts; and that she may, in her present state, look with pleasure upon every act of virtue to which her instructions or example have contributed. Whether this be more than a pleasing dream, or a just opinion of separate spirits, is, indeed, of no great importance to us, when we consider ourselves as acting under the eye of GOD: yet, surely, there is something pleasing in the belief, that our separation from those whom we love is merely corporeal; and it may be a great incitement to virtuous friendship, if it can be made probable, that that union that has received the divine approbation shall continue to eternity.

There is one expedient by which you may, in some degree, continue her presence. If you write down minutely what you remember of her from your earliest years, you will read it with great pleasure, and receive from it many hints of soothing recollection, when time shall remove her yet farther from you, and your grief shall be matured to veneration. To this, however painful for the present, I cannot but advise you, as to a source of comfort and satisfaction in the time to come; for all comfort and all satisfaction is sincerely wished you by, dear Sir, ‘Your most obliged, most obedient, ‘And most humble servant, ‘SAM. JOHNSON.

from “Life of Johnson, Volume 1 1709-1765” by James Boswell, available on-line and on Kindle.

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20 August, Readings from Mary Webb XXVI: Treasures (For G.E.M.)

trees-reflection-chris

These are my treasures: just a word, a look,
A chiming sentence from his favourite book,
A large, blue, scented blossom that he found
And plucked for me in some enchanted ground,
A joy he planned for us, a verse he made
Upon a birthday, the increasing shade
Of trees he planted by the waterside,
The echo of a laugh, his tender pride
In those he loved, his hand upon my hair,
The dear voice lifted in his evening prayer.

How safe they must be kept! So dear, so few,
And all I have to last my whole life through.
A silver mesh of loving words entwining,
At every crossing thread a tear-drop shining,
Shall close them in. Yet since my tears may break
The slender thread of brittle words, I’ll make
A safer, humbler hiding-place apart,
And lock them in the fastness of my heart.

Mary Webb reflecting on her Father’s love and her bereavement. Hope to balance the feelings of despair she recorded in yesterday’s poem.

Picture from Brother Chris.

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