I think everyone knows I grew up in a pastoral home, and from an early age, we children participated in the wide variety of human experience found in a good community. This included funerals. We were not protected from the grief of others and learning how to ‘mourn with those who mourn’ was regarded as an important lesson in fellow-feeling with the people we knew so well.

It was not a comfortable lesson, but a vital one. We learned that a touch, or a warm hug, was more important that words, even Christian words, these too often being reduced to platitudes to hide the speaker’s own discomfort. And once I was old enough to become the church organist, my repertoire included all the hymns that were used on these occasions. Probably the most requested hymns were ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’ and ‘Oh God our help in ages past’. At the graveside ‘Safe in the arms of Jesus’ was the song of choice, this time unaccompanied, and I can still hear the haunting 4-partharmony of people for whom this was part of the ritual, loved and comforting. Sadly, I have heard some mock those traditions now, as if, somehow, we have outgrown the need to link the present loss of loved ones to the great chorus of past grief.

Today I grieve the death of someone I cared about a great deal. In my early days at CfaN she and I did a lot of shopping and laughing together! Lydia Meshoe was a godly, beautiful woman, gracious and dignified in all her ways. I am far from my home country and I will not be ableto show my respect and love in her community. This is for you dear friend:

‘Safe in the arms of Jesus…there by His love o’er shadowed, Sweetly your soul shall rest’.

Till we meet again at Jesus’ feet.