I shared this brief reflection about my grandmother on my mother’s side at her memorial service in Dunston, England yesterday:
There are two things that my grandmother loved – God…and running. There are of course lots of other things she loved: her husband, her brothers, her children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren, and her friends. She loved sitting in her chair by the window keeping up on all the goings on happening along the street, sipping a good cup of weak tea. But these two things stand out in my memory – Mary Bowey loved God – and running about.
She didn’t run for exercise or to win any prizes, but until quite recently she could always hustle along faster than me. When I was a young child visiting Dunston from America, my sister and I would return back to her house after a trip into Newcastle or to the Metro Centre with a dull ache in our legs from all the hurrying to and fro. Late to catch the bus? No problem for Mary Bowey, she somehow seemed to find the speed to reach it just in time and hop on. She never learned to drive but that wasn’t a concern as she managed perfectly fine on her own two feet.
About ten years ago I came for a visit with my wife and thought for sure she would have slowed down a bit. We still couldn’t keep up with her! She was 89 years old at the time. And last spring I had the great blessing of being able to visit her weekly for about three months when I was living in Hexham with my family. It wasn’t until the second month of visits that she would stay in her seat by the window and let me fix my own tea. And by then she was over 100! She lived by herself past 101. Remarkable!
My grandmother also loved God. When my sister asked her a few months ago what advice she would give her great-grandchildren my grandmother responded that she hoped they would always go to church. Well they would be hard pressed to be as faithful in their church attendance as Mary Bowey was. She was a member of the Girl’s Friendly Society and then later Mother’s Union for over 70 years. And if my memory serves me right I am quite sure that many of my breathless attempts to keep up with her blistering pace up the sidewalk took place on the way here, to this church. My grandmother loved to run — to church.
It was difficult for all of us to see my grandmother grow weaker at the end of her life. After almost a century of running about it was hard for her to find herself slowing down. And so while it is sad for those of us who love her to say goodbye at her death, it is with hope and joy that I turn to the words of Isaiah:
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
In my memory my grandmother will always be speeding off to worship at church. But my vision of her now is of a vibrant, courageous, spirited woman running into the arms of God. For I know that God has delighted in renewing her strength so that she will never again be weary. She is in a good place now – still running; welcomed by the God she has loved her whole life long. Amen.