The old Prayer Book Litany had us praying to be delivered from dying unprepared. As we have become increasingly insulated from death it has become the great taboo, something to pretend about, rather than inescapable reality. Surely anyone fair-minded will agree with Archbishop Cranmer, who usually pitches around the phlegmatic or even sour end of the Conservative blogosphere,in his conclusion that “in her living she was vibrant and in her dying she was authentic.” Mark Russell writes:
Like the late Pope, John Paul II, Jade Goody has lived and indeed lived out her death live before the world. In doing so, she has shown courage, fortitude, guts and sheer peace. As she stared death in the face, the world watched as she got her affairs in order, and put the financial arrangements in place for her little boys. I watched her wedding on tv, and found myself deeply moved by her sheer gutsy determination. She was a remarkable person, and I have prayed for her these past weeks. I was struck by her desire to be married, and to have both herself and her little boys baptised. Today, on Mothers Day, Jade has passed away. My thoughts and prayers are with Jack her husband, and her boys Bobby (5) and Freddie (4). I am sure they had their mothers cards ready for her. I hope today those little boys know how proud their mum was of them... and they should be very very proud of her.
Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you;
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.
Often you weep over our sins and our pride,
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.
You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds,
in sickness you nurse us, and with pure milk you feed us.
Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life;
by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.
Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness;
through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.
Your warmth gives life to the dead,
your touch makes sinners righteous.
Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us;
in your love and tenderness remake us.
In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness,
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.
This morning’s C of E gospel from John 20 pictures Mary standing by Jesus’ cross, wanting it to stop, but unable to do anything for her son, then being given away, as it were, into the care of Saint John. Cecil Day-Lewis descrbied such love like this:
I have had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show --
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.
So, a funny old Mothering Sunday, as we celebrate the love that over and around us lies. Life is, in fact, a precious gift, and the measure of it is the quality of our living, not external judgments or length of days.
Millions will also pray for Jade Goody, that she may rest in peace and rise in glory, and that God will give to those she leaves behind courage, hope and the precious gift of love strong as death.