We’ve had a glorious week in South Devon, up a muddy bendy lane, in a warm converted cowshed overlooking beech trees and a trout-stream valley. What a full few days! I'm getting used to the idea that even in retirement holidays are worth having.
The view from the cottage was great, with the autumn leaves just clinging on for us despite the westerly winds. I didn't notice the pylons; the nearby wildlife was a lot more interesting. I reckon there were blue, great, coal and marsh tits, as well as greater spotted woodpeckers and nuthatches on the bird feeders, green woodpeckers, pheasants and squirrels in the garden - and Jane counted 14 herons in the field across the valley. Then at night the trains down in the dip would pass back and forth with the lights of their carriages on.
On the Sunday we made for Exmouth to seek out Christ Church - the home church of some New Winers we met this year. Though the people we'd got to know best weren't there, we received a great welcome. The worship and whole service was led by young people. Excellent. I can even remember the 'talk's' three points still: we need consistency, cooperation and confidence in following Christ.
After that we drove down to the estuary where Jane walked Jess to the river, while I discovered the car of the third in line to the throne, as I deduced from its registration K1NGH. In fact, when it passed us later, it contained an elderly couple (even older than us). We moved on to the promenade which was remarkably busy for a cool autumnal day. Dog-walkers, kite-fliers, promenaders, and even kayakers. It was of course sunny, and actually we joined the procession on the prom. Lovely.
I won't bore you with a blow-by-blow account of the week: Seaton - overrated but nice clifftop garden; Jane's parents - impossible to overrate; Axmouth - brilliant picnic by another estuary and lots of waders and seabirds (curlew, little egret, redshank, sandpiper et al); plus a visit from my favourite journalist, walks for Jane in the area with the dog, the autumn colours, blue skies, and evenings watching 'Poldark'...! I came home reflecting how fortunate I was still to be mobile enough and able to enjoy such a beautiful place and how blessed we'd been with bright November weather.
In my inbox, among the emails, was on from my co-author, Jozanne. I don't think she'll mind my quoting from it:
"Since my last mail, I have regressed considerably. I am no longer able to use my computer and spend most of my days in bed. My body is weak and my breathing is very shallow. I have lost most of my muscle mass and probably weigh between 35 & 40 kg's. I am on a 4 hourly dosage of morphine which brings me great relief from the pain I have been experiencing in my neck and shoulders. I am not able to eat anymore due to the weakened muscles in my mouth and swallowing process. I take all my feeds through a tube in my stomach. I am completely paralysed and I am grateful for the two full-time caregivers that assist me during the day and for Dave who helps me at night.
"My greatest challenge now is speech and communication. This is very frustrating for me because I can no longer verbalise any words. It is difficult for me to express how I feel or what I need and also for those around me to understand what I am trying to say. We do seem to find ways around this but with much difficulty and effort.
"Despite all these challenges God has been so faithful to us. He daily gives me the strength to carry on, but not just that, He fills my life with joy as He reveals Himself to me more and more everyday...."
That's the reality of MND for all but a few.
|David & Grace (Liverpool Echo)|
And then there were two about my cousin, Grace Sheppard. She has been having treatment for widespread cancer. Last month, six years after her husband David had done the same, she preached at Liverpool Cathedral's Pause for Hope service. It's for cancer sufferers, families, carers and medics. One email told us she was in the hospice; the second that she had died, five years after David. Only a few months ago she'd stayed with us. She was, and is, a lovely person. I shall treasure her book, Living with Dying, which she inscribed for us when she was here. http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2010/11/12/bishop-s-wife-grace-sheppard-dies-after-cancer-battle-100252-27646634/
Finally there was the news of a new Wenham born into the world, daughter to my nephew and his wife - with the nice name of Marianne. And I also saw, with delight, an entry on Jill McCloghry's blog that after 35 weeks she's still carrying her baby girl. You may remember the extract I included in I Choose Everything from her blog of her months of agonised grieving after the loss of her first baby, Max. She's another remarkable woman of faith.