CHURCHES IN BRAMHALL have been praying for many months for Kay Howe. Her grandparents are dearly loved members of the congregation at St Michael & All Angels Parish Church. Kay’s Godmother is a member of Bramhall URC Church. Her family home is in Holland.
Kay has been battling with leukemia, lovingly supported every step of the way by her parents Rob and Marion, her siblings, grandparents and an unseen host of people in different parts of the world who have been inspired by, moved by the story of the Howe family’s courage, grace and dignity.
Kay died this morning. And the news came as a physical punch, a blow to the stomach. And accompanying the dizzying stars in all of our eyes there were, and are, hundreds of question marks. Why? Why? Why?
And I want to write for all to see: I simply don’t know.
But I DO KNOW that the source of life and of love in Kay, in her family, in the tender hearts and hands of medics and of other carers, in countless pray-ers in these long past months, has shone in and through them in a way that leaves me more assured than ever, even in the midst of their and my most anguished questions, of a loving, benevolent, knowing God into whose depth and mercy Kay has now entered fully and in the most perfect peace … one that is beyond all our present imaginings, and yet almost as near to us as we are to ourselves. And the knowing has enabled tears to flow from my eyes for much of the day.
QUESTIONS, wonderings, reaching out into the unknown are the stuff of our days. I question, in company with others, the theological position and judgment of the Church I love and serve, and, amongst other branches of that Church, that of the Roman Catholic Church. And yet in spite of the questions I offered loving and grateful thanks tonight as I waved at the tv screen, with a lump in my throat, and wished Pope Benedict XVI a safe flight home to a well earned rest. I find myself humbled anew by his grace, by his perseverance, by a love that drives a man of 84 years of age still to strive to proclaim a gospel of peace, a gospel of faith, of hope, of love, notwithstanding that he, like me, sometimes, and in certain situations, has his “Achilles heel”, blindspots personal and corporate, and sometimes appears to some to fail.
For whilst questions are the stuff of all of our days, heartache is too. And whilst I’ve frequently seen evidence of highest love in the hearts, and actions and lives of some of the most ardent atheists one could ever meet, I know also that I recognise in the sacrificial lives and examples of countless “religious people” a necessary Faith, a longed for Hope, and an indispensable Love.
I am moved and grateful tonight for the conversations that have taken place the world over between people of faith and people of no faith. May there be ever more respectful conversations between the rich and gloriously diverse peoples of the earth. May it be that those who are presently angry, or grieving, or marginalised are brought especially to the highest and most honoured seats in the halls of those conversations. I hope and pray that we will continue to find common ground, common love between us: because when any of us find ourselves asking Why? Why? Why? (as all of us must) when faced with wrenching anguish – like that felt when we’re parted from dear loved ones like Kay, we NEED EACH OTHER.
We NEED GOD. We NEED LOVE.
Kay: rest in heaven’s peace. You ran the race. You win the prize. Pope Benedict: sleep well, and thank you for your prayers.