Most of us have heard of the expression ‘laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.’ 2021 has been a difficult year for many, perhaps worse than the previous one. I know it was for my family. Nine people we knew, some of them very well, died during the year. Shirley above, died in December and I will be going to her funeral on 12 January. I really want to go to say ‘Thank you’ to her, even though the funeral is at a distance. Shirley died aged 91, full of years and full of faith. She and her husband, Gerald (who had died some years earlier) were like my Christian parents, supporting, encouraging and believing in me. For that reason alone I will miss her greatly, although the last five years or so the real Shirley had been buried by the terrible disease of dementia. But I don’t believe her faith ever left her, or indeed her smile.
Shirley hadn’t had an easy life to make her smile. A child of WW2 blitz, she lived through many awful bombings in Liverpool. She married Gerald but they remained childless as a couple after Shirley suffered several miscarriages, they also had Shirley’s mother living with them for the first years of their marriage. Gerald, an engineer, later used his skills in missionary work, joining Operation Mobilisation, they ran their bookshop in South London, which is where I met them.
A typical jaunty Liverpudlian, Shirley could always find the fun in every situation. I remember the time when a lady came into the bookshop looking for Catholic ‘mass’ cards, except I heard ‘mouse’, and proceeded to show her every card in the shop that depicted mice, with Shirley cackling away in the background. A church notice given out in an unfortunate way, such as, Morning service: Preparing for marriage, Evening service: ‘A look at Hell: would mean Shirley had to leave the church before she exploded with laughter! Even if she fell or tripped in later years, Shirley was still able to laugh at herself.
Gerald and Shirley, in working for a missionary organisation, lived a simple life. They never travelled very far or owned very much, but they were content, and took a lot of pleasure in the simple things. For Shirley, this was beautiful skies. She would always comment in her strong Liverpudlian accent – ‘Just look at the sky’.
In remembering Shirley I will try and look upward through my tears and smile. Our loss here on earth is definitely heaven’s gain. Bless you and thank you, Shirley and Gerald.