day 23…remembering Jean

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.
 
 

13 thoughts on “day 23…remembering Jean

  1. So sorry that prevailing circumstances meant that we could not be there to say our goodbyes, but we remembered Jean and her family in Prayer. Rest in Peace with the Lord.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If I remember correctly Jean Lithgow was in my English class at WHS and on one occasion I was given 100:lines by “Pa Broon “ I completely forgot to do them until he asked me the next day for them .
    To my complete surprise Jean in the next row quickly handed me the 100 lines . I suppose she must have really liked me ( unknown to me ) That was around 1960 and It’s still clear in my mind to this day.
    So thank you once again Jean , rest well . Jim Lockhart

    Like

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