Thursday, December 28, 2006

Out and about

It's great to have a few days of quiet after the pressures of Christmas, to rest and gently catch up on bits of business, domestic and pastoral, which get swept aside when demands are high. Boxing Day, we avoided the sales, and went for an afternoon drive into the Brecon Beacons. Clouds were almost at ground level and it was bitterly cold, but we had a brisk half hour walk on soggy ground, and then went into Brecon for tea at the George before driving home in the dark. After weeks of intense activity, all focussed in the city centre, this was a small welcome respite.

On St John's Day, nobody turned up for the 10h00 Eucharist, so I said Matins, then took communion to a ninety one year old woman, recently housebound and deeply devout. It was a consoling pleasure, for me as much as her. Then, with no other fixed points in my day, I decided to drive up to Slough to see Auntie Celandine, my Godmother in hospital outside Slough, still alive but in and out of consciousness. Her daughter texted me to say that she'd been asleep since Christmas Day, but that didn't matter.

When I arrived she was half awake and speaking the same sentence over and over again, in a firm and clear voice. I greeted her and her responses, including what she said, made it clear that she knew I was there. I read all her favourite Psalms and other Scripture passages to her, anointed her and prayed aloud. Over a period of time, she wished me all the best for 2007, and told me that she prayed for me every day, amongst other things. Each of these sentences were repeated many times over, like a broken record, evidently an effect of pain killing drugs. It was clear that her awareness, and her desire to connect and communicate is a strong as ever. She's always been an outgoing and compassionate person, ever ready to bless others and not to complain about her own hardships in life. She remains strong in spirit, as her body fades away. Her suffering is distressing to her children, and to me, and yet, her will to bless others is still palpable.

By coincidence, Rachel, John and baby Jasmine are staying a few miles away from the hospital in Gerrards Cross, so after my visit, I was able to drive over to have a cup of tea, some Christmas cake and a cuddle before hitting the motorway for home. The roads weren't all that busy, fortunately, so five hours driving in a day wasn't too stressful. Keeping an eye on anything that will raise my blood pressure, I am wary of too much car travel at the moment, yet it doesn't seem to have too bad an effect on me. In fact, it's relaxing enough just to get out of Cardiff. It amazes me to think that twenty years ago I was driving 30,000 miles a year around Wales as a representative of U.S.P.G. A 250 mile round trip several times a week was something I took in my stride. Now in my job, I walk and cycle everywhere. It's a source of satisfaction, but I suspect that I may have suppressed my restless spirit to some extent. Whilst that kind of mobility is tough if it's the only thing you do, equally having a single focus, and location is exacting in a different way. Hence, getting out of town, if only for a while is quite recreational for me. And next week, proper holiday starts!

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