I was looking through old pictures from my grandfather’s collection and came upon a prayer card in the midst of the black and white pictures. It’s dated 19th Feb 1957. The front is a very dramatic portrayal of the agony in the garden. Jesus, very European looking and dressed in fine robes, is looking toward the light of heaven and saying the words of surrender: ‘Father, not my will but thine be done.’
It must have meant something to my granda, Jimmy Webb, because he kept it with his personal effects right up to his death in 2001. The clue to why might come in the year it is dated; 1957. In that year my mum turned ten years old and her sister turned 8. Their mother, Agnes, was 25 years old that year and hadn’t aged a day in seven years. Indeed, she has remained 25 years old ever since. You see, she had died in 1950 and it had been a terrible trauma for my granda who took years to recover well enough to get on with life. Yet, get on he did and he brought up his girls with the help of his wife’s extended family. He went on to see grandchildren and a great grandchild too (my eldest son Brendan James- named for my dad and my granda).
Jimmy kept the prayer card. I would say he knew something of the agony in the garden. He knew what it meant to cry to the heavens, ‘let this cup pass me by!’ But he also knew what it meant to surrender and to give the agony to God; to allow God to heal the wounds and bring new life. Jimmy never blamed God for taking his wife. He didn’t understand God in that way. He understood God as a loving God to be worshipped and served. He would do that through faith and prayer and love of family the rest of his life and encourage us to do so as well. I’ve included some other pictures of Jimmy from the 1940s and 1950s as well as a wee one of him holding me when I was barely a year old! Some of these pictures are from two books he wrote in the 1980s, called ‘Memories of Raglan Street’ and ‘Raglan Street and Beyond’.
Seeing this prayer card today made me sad for my poor granda and for my mum and her sister. They lost their wife and mother at such a tender age; forever young at 25. It helped me to remember the strength of my granda and the consolation his faith was to him. That, in turn, caused me to be ever so grateful to him (and to my parents, teachers, priests and others) who gifted me the idea of there being a God and a God who loved and healed rather than robbed and sent disaster.
It also united me with the suffering of so many in the world today through poverty, war, division and of course the pandemic sweeping the world. God did not send this (I’ve been disturbed to read so may articles and social media posts saying that very thing. Stop!) but God is in the midst of it, loving, strengthening and healing.
Let us pray,
For those suffering the bitter sting of grief and loss today; may they know consolation.
For those effected by the pandemic in any way; may they know healing and reassurance.
For those who have died; may they rest in eternal peace.