99 and out!

I also remember being seconds from death myself – about the same time as the “You’ll never Walk Alone” experience (in the house mentioned above) and I really thought I was about to die (I’ve been a drama queen ever since)!! I was sucking on a large boiled sweet called “Mummy” – (after the Egyptian Pharaohs, not creepy mummy’s boys) – and the damn thing lodged in my throat. I was purple before the cavalry arrived – my mum and grandma – I can’t remember who was responsible for saving my life, but someone thrust and yanked me so hard the sweet shot out and hit the old dog on the nose. It was such a waste too, 2-3 minutes into a sweet and all hell breaks loose. My colour went from purple to blotchy red to healthy pink. All was well. You’ll never walk alone!

I am a Christian and a pastor, and a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am really not sure what my grandmother believed about ultimate meaning, God and cosmological origins and all that. She certainly wasn’t a believing Christian during my mother’s childhood, but I do know this: God loved her, and God still loves her. She had a curious arrangement with her local Baptist Church in Rutland where she lived, as so many do. She attended various social functions with food and flowers and talked about God in the fourth or fifth person, as though, well, you know, He’ll understand! Of course He’ll understand, but that’s not the point. It was like a hedging your bets kind of game, and she thought she was pulling the wool over my theological eyes! Be sweet, mention a few hymns and say the word “nice” at least thrice about the vicar and other people (not every one), and all will be well. To be fair, the flowers did look lovely.

My grandma is my last surviving grandparent. It seems a big deal. She stopped her 40+-fags-a-day habit about 30 years ago and and has increased in the health and vitality department year on year (why else do you think I was on the doorstep listening to the footy – one has to breathe right?)! My granddad on my dad’s side died in my mid-teens, aged 65, which was pathetically unfair for him and me, and my dad. And now, with my mother’s mother’s death, the seasons they are a-changing. It’s all normal and yet so utterly abnormal.

I do remember eating a meal with my mother and grandmother in a Rutland pub. That was the last time I ate with her in public, and it was such a beautiful memory, for so many reasons.

I guess I want to mark this moment as familiarly significant. It is. But in the end, it’s a life of one person in one family and we’ve all been there. We all belong in a family; and we all belong in the family of God. I guess some prodigals take longer to come home than others. Either way, they all come home, because You’ll Never Walk Alone. It’s more than a footy chant or pop song. It’s got some deep stuff going on too: “I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

That’s good enough for me. I love you grandma (1922-2021) xxx

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