GOD’S PHOTO BOOK OF ENID FLORENCE SHEDDEN
Julie produces a photo book every year. She writes so beautifully about the journey of our family and as the year is captured through her eyes and words I always see and read of the intertwining stories of the generations. Perhaps it is most obvious when Julie visits her Mum with our grandchildren in the Donald Coburn centre, an aged care facility in Sydney.
I have read some well-crafted fragments beautifully woven together from the fabric of our lives in her books, and now our grief will also be shepherded gently into the pages. Enid, my mother-in-law, Julie’s Mum, our children’s Nan and grandchildren’s great nan went home to be with the Lord on Saturday morning, peacefully slipping away in her sleep.
She valued the book Julie made about her husband Colin. She loved looking at his face on the cover and the treasury of photos within became a source of reminiscing of days gone by.
Enid and Colin’s love story, in fact, was like a beautifully crafted novel, but for us it now seems like the last page has been turned, and although we worked out what would happen, the ending still took us by surprise. Perhaps that’s because the story is not quite complete. The Author expects us to capture the moments and write the end of the story.
This week has been trying to find a fitting way to fill the empty pages, and so we, by way of a eulogy and what we share in conversations, create some kind of conclusion to a story that encapsulates Enid’s life in the words we say and the memories we have of her.
For me what is written in my memory is a woman who didn’t like me much when she first met me. My hair was too long and I was too quiet. Still, almost imperceptively, I remember times in the little country town of Tumut, there in her kitchen, opening up to her as she cooked.
Mostly we talked about the Bible, faith and family. She loved Colin so much and I have never seen a couple more in love with each other or more dedicated to their relationship with Christ.
Her faith in Christ was genuine and she had an assurance that she would one day be with the Lord in heaven – “absent from the body, present with the Lord”.
I had never known that such a family existed and wanted to know more. She came to love me as her favourite son-in-law. I know it’s written differently in the memory of the other son-in-laws, but that’s how I felt. Loved. I value that gift.
GOD WRITES A DIARY
God also writes. He has an ongoing diary, especially of our grief. He sees more significance in our sorrow than we do, perhaps because our attention is drawn to eternity.
Psalm 56:7-9 says “You Lord, keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have RECORDED EACH ONE IN YOUR BOOK.”
I was thinking of the way God writes last night, about how God has written a generational diary called the BOOK OF TRUTH, the Bible, and the BOOK OF LIFE where the names of those who believe in Christ as their Saviour are written.
His Book of Truth made such a difference in Enid and Colin’s life and it inspired them to make an investment in the lives of many people. I remember the string of missionaries they supported and the way they were always willing to help us on our journey in life.
Psalm 139:13 speaks of yet another book, a DIARY. It says that “You (God) saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was RECORDED IN YOUR BOOK. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Our life before God really is an open book.
Somehow I think God had a love story in mind, a romance novel, love for Colin, love for her children and their spouses, love for her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren, but undergirding all that was her love for Christ.
The Holy Spirit wrote into Mum’s marriage words such as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.” The fruit of the Holy Spirit characterised their life together. It is expressed best by the words of the verse Julie chose to characterise her Mum. She had “… the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4 NIV).
THE DEDICATION PAGE
She leaves behind the pages of a legacy of faith and love for us, as her children, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She prayed for every one of us to know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour. Enid and Colin would pray every day for us.
THE LAST PAGE
Have you ever read a book that you just couldn’t wait to finish but when you got to the last page it was missing? I once read a version of The Pilgrims Progress and the last few pages had been torn out. It was years later that I finally discovered the ending.
From our point of view, that’s what Enid’s book looks like. We have read only the first part of the book. God holds the other pages for the next chapters of her life. He has totally restored the book, crafted to last for eternity.
THE FIRST EDITION
We have only the first edition copy. It’s way out of date, constantly being revised. The rest of the book will never be finished for us, but God is a prolific writer. There is no ending, no tears, no more crying in eternity for Enid and Colin.
I don’t think that Mum would mind if we plagiarise some of the material for our own lives, especially her faith in Christ. What God writes on the remaining pages of our lives has now become of vital importance and significance as we step up.
I wonder what Julie’s Photobook diary will say about our family this year. Perhaps more significant is – I wonder what it is, in the way we live out this year, that will move God’s hand to write another page of the heritage we share.
Pastor Ross – son-in-law to Enid and Colin