I thought, stupidly, that my life could not get anymore complicated or busy. Silly me.
I thought to myself just the other day, wouldn’t it be nice to get away from everything for a break for a couple of days somewhere sunny and familiar? Silly me.
What is the lesson I have learned this week, boys and girls? To be oh so careful what you wish for.
Very sadly, an old friend died last week. Scoop, (Brian Wilson Chalker) was the father of one of my oldest and closest friends. He was a husband, father, grandfather and brilliant friend. He was one of the good guys and it is so sad that the world is a Superman down now.
I was honoured to be asked to take the funeral. This meant going back home to Guernsey, Channel Island where I grew up in the 1980’s and where I went to school, The Ladies College, with my closest friends – Jo (Scoop’s daughter), and the third member of our troublesome trio – Jacky.
The three of us may not speak for months, but the moment we do it is like we are 15 again. Jacky lives in Guernsey, Jo in London and me in Aberdeen, but, as with all girlfriends, when one is in need the others are there. And we were there this weekend for them.
So these last few days have been a whirlwind of travel, emotional highs and lows, nostalgia, longing and belonging. From the two flights that it took getting to the island via Birmingham, to the glorious sunshine that greeted me, I guess I had my wish for travel, sunshine and home granted. But it was not the way I wanted to come home. Not at all.
My weekend was spent being with the family, writing the eulogy, liasing with the funeral directors, the church and so on. And I now have a burial permit for the Island for the next 25 years, which is always handy as there seemed to be quite a bit of willing future trade at the Wake afterwards.
I managed to get a couple of hours to do the obligatory nostalgic drive round the island, it’s only 21 square miles so didn’t take long. Every corner, every view, every shop, there was my past. More poignantly, there were memories of my parents (my mother died the year after we moved back to the mainland), and, more worryingly, memories of teenage angst and unrequited love.
I found myself spending most of the weekend feeling either bereft or determined. Bereft – for Scoop’s family, and, for all that I had lost the minute my parents decided to leave Guernsey. Determined – to find a way to return home one day, and, to make damn sure I gave Scoop the best send off I could.
But it was on the flight back to Aberdeen that it finally hit me how sad I was. Not only was I grieving for a good friend, good man and for a family I love, but also for my own family, for the loss of home.
Echos of the past and of loss hit again today as I went back to my home church in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, to say sad farewells to another close friend’s parent. I found myself surrounded today in that familliar church by the people who had nurtured and supported me and my family. First, during my degree and then, during my ministry training. Yet again it felt as if I had come back to where I belonged. Yet again, I longed to go home.
My dilemna now is – which home does God want me to go back to? For events of the past few days have shown me that this is a decision waiting for me in my future. St Andrews or Guernsey,? Or can I be really greedy and ask for a return to both?
I await, as ever, the Master’s reply. I fear it may be radio silence for the next few years. But if there is one thing I have finally learned, it is to be ready and open to be surprised by God. I have been overwhelmed by my longing to belong to somewhere familiar and its given me a problem I didn’t realise I had. My wish now, like ET, is simply to go home. But you know what they say, be careful what you wish for…