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Reform Magazine | April 27, 2017

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On the pilgrim way: ‘Helped by these “angels”, my sap rises again’

Sheila Maxey seeks hope amid fear

Another year lies ahead and I want to know what it holds, personally and politically. When I was younger, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what each new year was likely to bring. My diary was already filled with commitments, holidays, family birthdays – and I think I was confident that they would all happen more or less as planned. When describing my future plans, I may have, lightheartedly, used the conditional phrase: ‘Unless I get run over by a bus’, (which is now an old-fashioned saying, as I am much more likely to be injured in a car crash!) But now, with ageing and increasing infirmity all around in my contemporaries, I feel much less confident.

Many of the cards we received last Christmas brought news of ill-health and a few announced the death of an old friend. The political drift, at least in Europe and the US, seems to be in a direction both wrong and dangerous. Some days I find myself overwhelmed with apprehension and with sadness.

But then, another new day dawns. The days seem to get a little longer and all over the garden new life is pushing through. I visited a church member of 92 years who has been bed-bound and lives in a care home. Although he began by saying that he did not feel very optimistic about life, his eyes soon lit up as he pointed to the photo of his latest great-grandchild. ‘I am really looking forward to meeting him,’ he said with real passion in his voice. A good friend of my age has recently downsized to a flat in a town some miles away. She talks about her new life – volunteer gardening, joining a welcoming new church, theatre group, book group – with such zest.

Helped by these ‘angels’ God sent me, my sap begins to rise again. Although fear and sadness are never far away, a renewed zest for life is now doing battle with them. There are friends to meet and care about, shopping to do and meals to cook, church commitments, family to email and phone, a cheerful husband with whom to talk things over, and even world news to face – and to search there for the occasional good story. Good books begin to help me again and, at last, I find myself defiantly booking things into my 2017 diary: a retreat in March; a theatre trip in April and in June; my husband’s 80th birthday weekend in May; a canal boat holiday in July.

The verse from Minnie Haskins’ poem that was quoted by George VI in 1939 at the start of the Second World War, seems to speak directly and helpfully to me just now.

 I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year:
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied:
‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.’

Sheila Maxey is Book Reviews Editor for Reform

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This article was published in the February 2017 edition of  Reform.

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