It was July 26, just over two weeks ago, when Paul and I, along with Paul's cousins, Stephen and Sam, and two friends, Arthur and Liz, drove high into the Malvern Hills, a place of immense beauty, to scatter Uncle John's ashes.
(A quick aside: I found a link here to some breathtaking photographs that capture the dramatic and glorious landscape.)I've wanted to tell this brief story ever since.
I had met Arthur and Liz, Uncle John's friends, in the past, but I only knew them slightly and knew nothing about them. I just knew that they respected and loved Uncle John.
The weather on the hills changed every few minutes. While we prayed and scattered the ashes, the rain held off, but before the storm clouds shadowed the fields below us I took advantage of what sun I could, and ran around taking photographs.
For me, I had to ask, "Please tell me your story;" for it's the story I never get tired of hearing.
So he told me, at least this bit, that I have to share.
Arthur, back in the late 1970's, was an executive in the Austin Motor Company, part of British Leyland in Longbridge during an era of turbulence and tremendous upheaval. He was involved in the intense political situation with Derek Robinson, referred to in the press as "Red Robbo," due to his membership in the Communist party.
Dad and Rob were among the vast number of employees at Longbridge. Robinson was a proponent of the measured day work system rather than piecework, which explains why Dad was always in trouble with the union for working too hard. Robinson was reported by the BBC to have been behind over 500 walk outs at Longbridge, costing over 200 million pounds in lost production.
It was during this time of intense pressure that Arthur, one sleepless night, got up and went out for a walk at 4.00 a.m. He was at a point of desperate stress, and found himself throwing out an invitation to the God he didn't believe in: "If you exist, please show me."
He had no idea where those words even came from, but he immediately noticed a man was walking towards him. The man stopped and said, "You seem lost."
"Yes, I am a little lost," said Arthur.
The man was a Franciscan; a member of a Roman Catholic order; and he invited Arthur back to his home to talk. That was the start of Arthur's faith story--almost a sort of Damascus Road experience! I wish I had asked more questions but the rain was starting and everyone was scattering in all directions.
One of my favourite portrayals of God speaking to someone is found in this Call and Response song from the movie, The Color Purple, where Shug Avery hears God's call and responds! I cry when I watch it, just as I wanted to when Arthur told his story.