By Adrian Hawkes, Special to ASSIST News Service
BIRMINGHAM, UK (ANS – November 23, 2017) — I was hoping that my mother would make it through to November 24, 2017 — her birthday. If she had, I would be able to say “She made it to be 102 years old.” Sadly however, her funeral took place in Birmingham, England, on Friday, November 10, of this year. She had missed being 102 by just 14 days or so.
My feeling was that if one has been around for that length of time one would have lots of fascinating stories to tell. So I took my grandson, Owen, my mother’s great grandson, and a TV camera, and we recorded some of those stories. A little bit up the road, I will hopefully put some of the best clips on YouTube and readers can take a look, lend an ear, and give a smile.
I was not disappointed, nor was Owen. The stories ranged from walking through the World War II blitz in Birmingham and visiting my father in hospital, where he had ended up after climbing a fence to put out an incendiary bomb fire that had just been dropped by a German bomber in the garden of the house next door. Incendiary bombs in those days were designed to cause fires and light up an area so that the bomber pilots could see clearly through the pitch black of night and target better. For my father, however, it was not the bomb that gave him a problem, it was an old rusty nail on the fence that caught my father’s eye and caused him a great loss of blood. My mother was escorted home by a policeman as the bombs continued falling. She seriously explained to us how she refused to lie on the ground for safety while the bombs fell, as, she said, “I had a new coat on.”
Listening to my mother’s stories, it was fascinating to hear that she was quite a tearaway as a youngster. Then, when she was 15 years old, she attended a meeting, as did many thousands of people in Birmingham, organised by a young man called George Jeffreys. This changed both her behaviour, and her whole life, going forward throughout the rest of her days bringing up her family to desire also to become Jesus Followers.
The official history of that decade following Jeffrey’s life and activities, i.e. the 1930’s, records perhaps Jeffrey’s most amazing work in Birmingham, where 10,000 people were converted to Christ and around a thousand people baptised. And well over a thousand people testified to having been miraculously healed. Within six years there were eleven new church communities in Birmingham as a result of Mr Jeffrey’s time in the UK’s second city.
Many of my mother’s other early story’s concerned running large Sunday Schools in 1930’s and 40’s in Birmingham’s Sparkbrook area. “Large” in those days meant a couple of hundred children every Sunday afternoon. In those pre-TV/pre-Internet days, I can still remember my mother telling a serial story each week at the end of the class. It was usually about some person like Mary Slessor. She always found a serial ending each Sunday afternoon that made you want to come back to hear, “What happened next?”
My mother was very ready to move on from this life. In truth, she complained about the fact that she was still here whilst her friends and immediate relatives had all gone on before her. She told me how she planned to ask God, why she was left behind for so long. I am not sure that it will be an important question when she arrives, or even if it will be a question she remembers.
From my perspective, I will miss the stories I got told each time I visited her in the last year or so of that almost 102 years.
Photo captions: 1) Memorial for Edith Rosamond Hawkes. 2) George Jeffreys. 3) Part of the Sparkbrook Sunday School in 1953 celebrating the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. 4) Adrian and Pauline Hawkes.
About the writer: Birmingham-born Adrian Hawkes is married to Pauline — Dan Wooding was best man at their wedding — and they have three children, 10 grandchildren and three great grandchildren. He is still part of the Rainbow Church north London which he used to lead and he also works with Sri Lankan churches in France, Switzerland, Norway, Canada and Sri Lanka. He helped to form Phoenix Community Care Ltd, which looks after some 30+ unaccompanied minors, and vulnerable adults in housing in North London; alongside his wife Pauline, he established PCC Foster Care agency and has launched London Training Consortium Ltd., which trains refugees and asylum seekers with ESOL, IT, and Literacy. He has also written various books, the latest of which is Perspectives — The Alphabet of Life. He can be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com.
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