Today I received in the post a book from Canada. It was written by John Bligh, my former professor at the University of Guelph, and entitled, Gospel Challenges. As those of you who read my blog will know, Dr Bligh was one of my favourite professors and I have fond memories of my time at Guelph University as well as my time as one of his numerous students.
In the book, Dr Bligh had inscribed, ‘This reminder of days gone by’. Reading the inscription made me feel a little teary. Despite the passage of 30 years, my memories of times spent poring over Shakespeare and The Bible as his student and discussing the same with him stand clear in my mind. Call me a sentimental fool, but maybe this is what happens when one grows old. No, let me correct that: this is what happens as I grow older!
One thing occurs to me: do you not think it odd that small and seemingly insignificant moments in life can assume important relevance when one starts to look back at them in later life? When I joined the choir at St Paul’s and St George’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh, one of the people I met during choir practices was the organist, who also sang in the choir when he was not playing the organ. I was at that time new to the church and found it a little daunting as a stranger amongst so many people who already shared a history with each other.
Interestingly enough, it was through the organist that I met his twin, who is now my dear Hubby. I still remember clearly that we had made what I thought was a loose meeting amongst the three of us to go swimming. Well, what do you know! Hubby did not tell his brother that we were all three going swimming, so guess who went swimming alone with me? The rest is history, as they say.
Memories are peculiar ephemeral things. They seem to have the power to move one to extremes of emotion or not at all. One of my abiding memories of my time at Guelph was not so happy. I had flown to San Francisco at the end of term to spend the majority of my university holidays with my family, who had flown from Singapore to the States on a whirlwind tour. I had already missed the Hawaiian leg of the tour as I was in Guelph and sitting for my exams at the time. However, I did spend the rest of the tour with them which finished on Christmas Eve. My family were flying back to Singapore the next day.
So, 25th December saw me on the plane back to Toronto, from whence I proceeded by bus to Guelph. I was the lone passenger on this enormous plane. I cannot remember how many other people were on the bus with me, but suspect that there were precious few. By this time, I had sunk into a kind of numbness, as Christmas had always been a special time with family for me ever since I was a child. Now I was returning to an empty apartment in a university town where most students had gone home for the Christmas holidays.
Nobody ever knew about my lonesome Christmas except for my immediate family. I remember Mum giving me a hug when I met the family in San Francisco and telling me that I would just have to think of my ‘Christmas’ as being the time before Christmas that I was going to enjoy with them, rather than the day itself. However, old habits do die hard.
As I said, seemingly small matters do sometimes have a profound effect on how one responds to the world. At Blenheim Lodge, although we do not generally open at Christmas time, we have twice now hosted two individuals who came to stay with us in 2002 and 2011 respectively. The first was an elderly gentleman whose wife had died and who had been recommended to us by another guest house. The other was a Taiwanese lady who wanted a break from her busy routine at a Taiwanese scientific establishment. Both were on their own and both were delighted that they had found a guest house which would allow them to live and fit in with the family routine as they wished. Our reason for facilitating this was simple: I remembered my lonely Christmas in an empty apartment in Guelph all those years ago and did not want anyone else to experience the same especially as we were in a position to help.
Memories and experiences move us all in different ways. I hope that my experiences, both good and bad, will shape me into a better person that I might be a comfort to others as the Lord has been a comfort to me especially when I have sorely needed Him.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
(2 Cor: 3-4)
Well, this post has been kind of meandering and a fitting reflection of how my own life has meandered over the past 51 years over three continents. I do not have a particularly glamourous life, but I have learnt that little as well as large occurrences can enrich the tapestry of one’s life, even though it might be lived quietly in service to God and family. Memories are formed and stowed away during this time; and when we take them out again, often quite by chance, we find that the emotions originally attached to those memories can still bring equal portions both of joy and sorrow as the case may be.
Blenheim Lodge . . . panoramic Lake views, peace and tranquillity, nestled against acres of beautiful fields and woodlands, in the heart of the English Lake District National Park.’