During the month of June, we are delighted that our mutual friend and fellow church member, Stan Bevan, is sharing some thoughts on the challenging topic of reconciliation. We commend his reflections to you, and hope you find them helpful.
With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline
When England declared war on Germany in 1939 due to them marching into Poland, all the children in Portsmouth were evacuated for fear of bombing, and this evacuation was arranged by one’s school. If, however, one had relatives or friends in a safe place one’s parents were allowed to organise their own evacuation.
My brother Alan went with his school to Winchester but as I was only eight years old at that time I was sent down to my Dad’s old home in Waterstone, near Milford Haven, South Wales.
I was put in the care of a railway guard who lived in that area and sent on this 300-mile journey taking 12 hours – on my own! But that’s another story!
In my Dad’s home lived an unmarried brother, Uncle Al, also his sister Sadie with three children, Doris, Betty and Marion, her husband having died when the eldest daughter, Doris, was 11 years old. Also living there was Auntie Molly and her husband Uncle George.
And now little Stanley was joining them. Auntie Molly was very loving and caring but Auntie Sadie was bitter, I think because at the hint of trouble my Dad had shipped me down to her, who had struggled to bring up three girls alone.
Anyway, that was my conclusion in the years that followed. Aunt Sal, as she was nicknamed, gave me a very rough time when it was her week to look after me. She was always making biting remarks and made me collect water from the well carrying two 1½ gallon water jugs that bashed against my ankles. She also looked after my food ration books for that week – and the girls benefitted from it. There was no electricity or gas lighting and she always gave me the smallest paraffin lamp to go to bed. So I could go on and on! But I just wanted to point out how much I resented her. To make matters worse, in front of visitors or especially family she became ‘smarmy’ and put her arm round my shoulder and addressed me as ‘Dear Stanley’. Oh, how I came to loathe her.
But the years passed, the war ended, I became a Christian, married and became a father to three lovely children. We used to go camping for our holidays, mainly because it was the cheapest. One year we went to Pendine Sands in South Wales. After a couple of days Pat, my wife, said “What is wrong with you, you seem so restless?” “I think I want to visit Waterstone.” “Right, we’ll go tomorrow.”
I didn’t sleep well that night, but next day off we went.
When we arrived at the old house I sensed something was wrong. Auntie Molly had died and Auntie Doris, another sister, had moved in and she greeted us. But in the front sitting room there was a bed facing the window and in it was a very ill and frail old lady – Auntie Sadie!! She was in her last days suffering from cancer.
She gazed up at me with an appealing sort of look and held out her frail old hand to me. I took it and it was feverishly hot. She had very little strength but I felt a gentle squeeze. I said as gently as I could “Hello, Auntie, I’ve come to pray with you.” I now cupped her hand between both of mine and prayed for her. I didn’t close my eyes and neither did she. She just gazed into my eyes and a tear rolled down her cheek. I thanked God for sending me to her. Without any words a glorious peace welled into my heart. She couldn’t speak but her eyes seemed to say “I’m sorry” – at last Reconciliation, I was at peace with God and my dear Aunt Sadie.
Actions often speak louder than words.
God bless you all
P.S. I went back down for her funeral soon afterwards and I can assure you my tears were genuine. The past was healed.