Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the death of one of my favourite parishioners from S. Giles-in-the-Fields. She was ninety years old, and had rejoiced in the name Evangeline - I'd never met one of those before, nor anyone else quite like her, either. She and her late husband Michael were stalwarts at the 8 a.m. Holy Communion service but joined in church life in other ways too - Evangeline even joined the PCC, despite the rector's dislike of old people in general and old women in particular. I doubt she even noticed.
Michael grew frail over time, and when he could no longer manage the chancel step, and then the journey to church itself, I had the privilege of bringing them communion at home, in their huge four-storey townhouse in Great Ormond Street, opposite the famous children's hospital. Being decidedly Prayerbook, there were relatively few short cuts, and they pretty much got the service as written, all attended to most reverently, but the fun part of the visit - at least to me - was learning a little about their lives. They came from a very different world from mine - there was a portrait on the wall of the mansion house in the country which they'd sold to move to London when they thought they were getting too old for hunting; one was descended from a cavalier general, the other from a regicide; at the foot of the stairs there was an embroidered banner with a few Latin words "Oh, that's Michael's family motto, I did it one time when I was pregnant - I was SO bored! - haven't a clue what it means"; and Evangeline herself was a Daughter of the American Revolution, and a mover and shaker in the Benjamin Franklin Society. There was much to listen to.
One late morning I arrived with my sacramental kit from church and found Evangeline flapping about collecting nicknacks for the jumble sale at her sister's church - which was S. Mary Abbots, Kensington, so it was no ordinary jumble sale - and all sorts of bits of porcelain and silver were being scooped up. "But I didn't have a box, and I couldn't think where on earth to find one, and then Michael had such a brilliant idea". And he piped up from his bed, which had by now been moved downstairs, "I telephoned my wine merchant, and they're sending a case over". I'm not sure I would have believed this if the delivery man hadn't knocked at the door there and then, and Evangeline rushed out to greet it. As I sat by the bed listening to the wine being unceremoniously hurled aside in the hall, Michael said with a charming smile, "I get the wine, she gets the box. It's been a very happy marriage."
For Evangeline and Michael Hunter-Jones, rest and resurrection at the last, and thank you, God.