On Wednesday we held a service to remember Jean Thomson, one of our own. It wasn’t the service we had intended, with the sudden closure of church buildings throughout the country. There were many folk who really wanted to be there, but were denied the opportunity because of the risk.
So we are making space here to remember Jean, and making available some of our reflections
How might Jean have us remember her today? Not I imagine, as if we could tell her story cover to cover. I never saw her as someone who needed to constantly announce to the world What she was doing on Facebook or twitter. Her natural independence, Her thoughtful, seriousness of mind, And the ease with which she kept company with herself, Shaped around Jean a friendly reserve Free from the anxiety of needing everyone to know her story. If Jean sometimes seemed a closed book, There was a great story lived inside, But one whose pages she would share when and where she chose, With those she loved and were her friends. So, remembering Jean today Is not telling more Than she would have us say, But remembering just a few of the pages She shared with us from her story – in her matter of fact way. As we know Jean loved to cross stitch, and knit And many a gift was generously made for a new born or a wedding hanging in someone’s home in a distant part of the world. What if we remembered her life today As if it were one of her intricate and beautiful pictures Patiently, and lovingly stitched with the thread of living. The first thread appeared in 1947 born to Tam and Eileen Lithgow, Growing up with sister Isobel The stitch of her childhood Woven at Bellside, in Clelland From happy days shared with their parents, spinster aunt and bachelor uncle and the menagerie of haulage lorries Belonging to the family business. No surprise then that Jean Was confident behind the wheel of a car before she gained her licence to drive. Even from an early age, There was a thread of fearlessness That ran through Jean; She and her friends thought nothing of cycling the miles on the main road from Clelland to Edinburgh just to see the Forth Rail Bridge and then back home again. Now if that expedition involved a race Then I’m sure Jean would have wanted to win - Because competing was stitched through her story: Jean loved to compete - not least on the badminton court. She was a skillful and highly competitive player Beginning with the Wishaw Badminton Club before later qualifying as a coach, when for many years she and her good friend Anna Anderson coached children at Law Primary School and were stalwarts at Law Badminton Club. For many years’ badminton was a hobby and a passion for jean, And she only finally gave up when ill health frayed the thread of her game. The stitch of Jeans working life was woven with pleasure as a Medical Laboratory Technician, and other than a short spell as a school technician Jean gave herself to that role with delight, skill, and attention detail Both at Law and Wishaw General Hospitals. It was in 1969 Jean and Campbell were married And together they brought into the world their two daughters, Isla and Morag. Over the years the cross stitch of family life Had many patterns But on Sunday, as we spoke together, Among the memories that found us Were of the lovely times spent as family on holiday at St Andrews; Year on year in the static caravan - not to mention - the adventures of trampolining As well as the trips to Jersey and over to Ireland. And although Jean and Campbell separated some 12 years ago sewn between them was the stitch of friendship and she would never hear anything said against him. Where we to ask Of late, what was the favourite part of her picture? There’s little doubt, being a gran to Max, Donald and Duncan. Jean was the kind of gran who would whisk you off to Lapland Or have a boat tree house anchored in your garden; Its fair to say, the obstacles of Lanarkshire buses And the alchemy of their time tables Never got in the way of her going to look after her grandchildren. Jean quietly delighted in being a gran And was equally a delight to her grandchildren. Jean had good friends in the village Whom she regularly met At the church, in the guild or at the craft club That she was a founder member of. She enjoyed the company of her family But was equally content on her own Knitting, tackling a seduko puzzle, potting a hyacinth. What were some of the colours You saw threaded into the life of Jean? A dignity and quiet self confidence That could matter of factually find its voice and speak her mind. Not one to wear her heart on her sleeve Jean never gave herself to effusive displays of affection, But what is easily seen is no measure of what is truly there and reality cherishes the hidden as much as the obvious. There was a deep care, a generosity and kindness in jean These were threads running through the whole of who she was, Along with a tenacity and stubbornness Both of which were to stand by her When she was diagnosed with a life changing illness Some five years ago. There is a line in John O’Donohues Blessing for presence Which says: Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles That seek no attention. The way Jean chose to live with her cancer, The way she outwitted the prognosis of the consultants And still found her way to Ireland and Australia each year And to spend precious time with her family Was a quiet miracle. And supporting that miracle Were the many good friends in the village, particularly Anna, Elspeth and Jennifer. Whose care, friendship and support she greatly valued. As was Isobel Who for the past thirty years, lived next door to her sister. And without this bond, commitment, patience and sisterly affection, Jean would have seriously struggled in recent years. And during that time, she received devoted care from the local community nursing team who became her close friends. And Jean looked forward to their visits, as much for the chat than the nursing care. To keep calm and carry on Is now something of a cliche But that’s how Jean lived with cancer… She carried on doing what she wanted to do Carried on solo trips to see her family oversees Carried on meeting with her friends and family She carried on Sunday by Sunday Drawing strength from worship and prayer. The poet Emily Dickinson Was someone who kept unpublished in her lifetime Some of the greatest poems of the 19th century, And one of her poems strikes me As how Jean took her leave of this world: “Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me – The Carriage held but just Ourselves – And Immortality.” In the ancient poem from the book of psalms The writer speaks a prayer: "You have searched me, Lord, And you know me, You when I sit and when I rise You perceive my thoughts from afar. However much Jean’s story was unpublished to most What she lived, Who she was, Her dreams and losses Her hopes and loves Were no secret to God page by page line by line word for word and what was left unsaid between are known to him. And God can only know by love. So today we give thanks That the Story of Jean Is not finished But finds a telling and goes on In the space Christ has made for her Through his life, death and resurrection. As St Paul once told the church in Colossians “you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." That is where all our stories find their true telling Where each of our stories will be kept and held and told in God.