In Mum’s case, we especially give thanks for a deeply loving wife and mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, but also for a dearly loved friend and soul-friend, lay minister, Mothers Union leader, and member of St Thomas’ Church. In her case, she too is united in the communion of saints with her parents Arthur and Ruby, and her older sister Molly.
Together, my parents saw, enjoyed, and suffered, so many different aspects of life. As children they grew up in the shadows of world war. As a boy, Dad particularly knew the cost that that inflicted – seeing this firsthand in the disabilities of his father, invalided out of the first world war. He would also watch wartime planes leave from this county’s airbases, creating lasting memories and feeding his interests in Lincolnshire and wider history, and a profound commitment to human cooperation. For he rejoiced, not least, in international links between Market Rasen and Germany, and his experience of rural poverty left him with a lifelong compassion for those who are left behind by those fueled by money and power. Indeed, having grown up in such challenging circumstances, Dad was always amused by the pomposities of the better off. He would point out the lane in which he spent many of his early years – it was always called ‘Tintown’ he would say, with a laugh, but now they’ve renamed this area North Greetwell and they pronounce it with such superior pride. Thanks to the educational opportunities offered to working class people after the war, he bucked the trend, and was the first in his family to go to university and to take up a professional vocation. On Mum’s part, she also succeeded in training and work as a secretary. Mind you, her brother David says his first memory of her was of her sitting on the staircase at home not wanting to go to school – not helped by having a very bright older sister. Of course, she then went on to marry someone who was such a fine schoolmaster, and more than held her own. Indeed, in those decades when women had less freedom and legal equality, she also contributed richly in teaching and nurturing others, not least as a diocesan leader in the Mothers Union and as a licensed pastoral minister in this parish and deanery.
Dad and Mum were such a very good match. They met in London, when Dad began his working life as a research chemist, through amateur dramatics, at a time when Mum was named ‘Ealing’s most promising amateur’. They married at Holy Cross Church in Greenford, and it is from around this time that their wonderful lifelong friendship with Pat and Derek Goddard also began. They moved, with Glaxo, to Barnard Castle, where their first two children were born. Then, as Dad began his teaching career, to Hadleigh in Essex, a county in which both had been born. However, when a post at De Aston school became available, the lure of Lincolnshire was too strong, as it always would be for Dad.
My parents had so much in common. Yet they were complementary rather than mirrors to one another, and that is part of the secret of their life together. Indeed, there is a family theory that, if he could, Dad would never have moved far at all – maybe not much further than the house and garden really, other than the odd trip on the bicycle down the town, in the car to Lincoln, or to see close family. Family holidays were often in remoter parts of Britain, in order to be far away from the crowds. It is true that Dad did move house quite a few times at one point – to three different houses in Market Rasen alone – but they were all in the same street! Work - De Aston School - was also in the same street. Even their final physical resting place is, so to speak, just three or four doors down. Mum however was different. She was always looking to the next adventure. Where could she, Dad, and her beloved ones, go next? Thankfully she had Pat and Derek on her side in this, allowing delightful holidays much further afield. Thanks to Mum, and not just because of her health, soggy camping in the Durham Dales or Scotland, also gradually became caravanning, and then, later, some wonderful cruises. When some family members moved to Australia, she was then able to encourage Dad further, even to fly in advancing age, in a tiny plane, over the astonishing wilderness of south west Tasmania.
Mum was thus an extraordinary wellspring of joy to Dad, her family, and so many other people. This came partly from a natural appreciation of life, of beauty, and of the things of the Spirit. She loved colours, clothing, and caring carefully for herself and those around her – all of which made her final years so hard to bear for those who loved her when so much of that was lost. Yet Mum always had the gift of finding grace in difficult situations, with so many years of earlier suffering with arthritis, before her stroke. The collection of books in her spiritual library remains witness to profound depth and sensitivity, and – above all – the possibilities of joy in the hardest of places.
Dad’s extraordinary determination and strength of character was thus beautifully balanced by Mum’s lightness of being. His loving ingenuity and resilience helped keep them together, though occasionally his stubbornness could become a little fixed from time to time. For Dad was not at all conservative in many matters. After all, he was a good scientist, and keen local historian, and always interested in many new developments, especially where it concerned his growing family. On most theological issues, he, and Elizabeth, were also very open, generous and profoundly ecumenical. Sometimes however he could have determined views about what he liked or disliked, and could be a little socially conservative, out of instinct. That, I think, partly came from a sense of protectiveness towards his children, as when, to our frustration, popular music was banned at home for many years, in reaction to perceived accompanying drug and lax culture. Possibly the biggest difference he and Mum had over the years was also over the ordination of women. For whilst Dad was truly a gentleman, in so many of the very best senses of the word, he took a little while to catch on. He did do so however, helped by friends and experiences as part of his EMTEC priestly formation - and with ultimately immense joy. This was particularly handy, when one of his daughters-in-law became one of the first female priests in England. In such ways, Mum’s heart was always ultimately united with Dad’s head – and, as such an extraordinary handyman, Dad would always come up with something to help out.
But that is the core of it though - isn’t it? – that a true house of love can always make space for new life, for new rooms, or reconstructions; for all that is good, beautiful and life-giving. There were so many metaphorical rooms in Elizabeth and David’s house of love. Some of these have been closed up for a while but are still present in all kinds of parts of Weelsby House and their loved ones lives. There was acting, photography, making airplanes and models, gardening, hospitality, travelling, friendship, teaching, tracing of family history, ecumenical pioneering, grace-filled priesthood (in various lay and ordained forms), and other loving service to others – we could go on. There is so much to give thanks for today, and we will all have our special memories.
And then, there was laughter…
Mum at one time kept a piece of paper with names to make David laugh. The great comic magician Tommy Cooper was the first on the list, followed by a number of footballers prone to extraordinary mistakes – like the former Leeds and Wales goalkeeper Gary Sprake, and the QPR player Ron Abbott. These names almost invariably brought great giggles, but it was the last name that always brought down huge howls of laughter – Norman Corner. For Norman Corner was the most bumbling expression of the horrible Lincoln City football teams of the 1960s. For, if you are a dedicated Lincoln fan, like Dad was, as many of us know, you usually have to see other sides to life.
Sometimes, when times get tough, you just have to battle through, and do it anyway. That is part of what both Mum and Dad displayed so powerfully, each in their respective ways. Without laughter however, without the profound lightness of ultimate being, we are lost. If you live through war, or grow up in poverty, or bear decades of crippling arthritis, and then a stroke, never mind the other accompaniments of old age, and then, to top it all, a pandemic – well, you know that too. That, I think, is part of why it was very fitting for Dad to take his leave of his family in the hospital recently in the midst of laughter – as his children shared reminiscences and something of the joy they were given. Mum followed so soon afterwards – of course she did! - for two hearts bound so tightly for 64 years could do nothing else. After physically living recently in, literally, different rooms, it was time to be together once more on the latest adventure, a new holy-day, of the Spirit.
Love and laughter: speaking last night with Mum and Dad's dear friend Pat, she kept repeating those words - 'love and laughter,' she kept saying, 'that was what filled your parents' lives and their deep friendship with Derek and I.' Their family know that so well. In ancient times, laughter was known as a great sign of the Resurrection. Early Christians used to celebrate Easter with such joy, jokes and laughter. For in the end, that is the thing about Christian faith - the ultimate source of life which nurtured Mum and Dad and which they so lovingly shared with others. It is never, ultimately, about suffering or death. It is always about life, and the possibilities of new life, come what may. My parents’ sufferings are now at and end. They have run their race, so closely together, and the harvest they have reaped will continue to enrich those who have known them. Their passing brings such sadness and sorrow to us at this time. Yet perhaps, with all they have known and gone before them, and with Tommy Cooper, and Norman Corner, there is also laughter in heaven today. So be it. Even today, may we know slivers of that eternal joy in our lives, and may it grow afresh again in the days to come. It is no less than Dad and Mum would wish for us all. Amen.
Josephine Inkpin, 22 December 2021, at St Thomas' Church Market Rasen