My dear Captain Sir Tom,
Last week I wrote to President Joe Biden, to encourage him to help change people’s experience of life in the future. Today I find myself wanting to write to you, to thank you for the many ways in which you have already changed people’s experience of life. We all need heroes, people we can look up to and be encouraged by, people who inspire us to make a creative difference to others in this enterprise of living. From what we have learned of you during the past year, this you have done in so many different ways.
Although you reached your 100th birthday, it was your young spirit which attracted and appealed to so many of us. That lightness of touch in your manner, that optimism which you invariably expressed, that twinkle in your eye which never failed to lift our hearts. Although we knew you for only a few months, you have become part of who we are, you have been more than welcomed into the heart of our nation and into our own hearts too. Your modest aim to raise £1,000 for NHS Charities famously raised more than £33 million. But more than that, you raised our spirits. Being a veteran of the old conflict, you led us through this new conflict, resonant with war time spirit and gusto. I am so glad that in your last year of life you were honoured: with fly pasts, the Honorary Rank of Colonel and a Knighthood, granted in so gentle and so personal a way on lush lawns and in bright sunshine at Windsor, by another of your generation who continues to encourage by her example and her service.
When our television screens were filled with the faces of politicians floundering in the face of things they could not control; images of hospital wards packed to overflowing and completely overwhelmed; nurses, doctors, carers exhausted and traumatised; people in Nursing Homes frightened; relatives frustrated; business owners worried for their livelihoods; haunted faces of the isolating peering at the world through fast closed windows...you proved to be a very different presence. You personified optimism. You personified resilience. You personified the sense that we will get through this and you reminded us of what really, ultimately matters: helping each other through. As you did with your Comrades 75-80 years ago, so you did with us, helped us through the difficulties, helped warm our sense of a shared humanity, helped raise our spirits and made us smile, helped show us that we can all make a difference, helped make us aware of the need to live not just for ourselves, but to live generously and compassionately with and for others.
We have much to thank you for Sir Tom: for helping us to see that people are not constituent parts of national statistics produced by a bureaucracy, but that each is worthy of being understood, cherished, celebrated and valued personally and individually. You helped us realise that someone of advanced age can never, should never, be discounted as not being able to contribute, simply on the grounds of age. And thank you too for what the money you raised will do: be spent on helping those who are grieving, those who are supporting, those who are overwhelmed by what has been happening. Your money will go to providing personal support for so many who may otherwise not have found support and who would therefore have become yet more victims of this cruel virus which has ravished the world, leaving such deep, smarting scars and wounds behind.
Your family spoke of how you felt "rejuvenated" this past year by all the attention that came your way, as a result of your exposure to not just the national but international media. To hear that you enjoyed such experiences makes us immensely glad. That we have known you, if only so briefly and that through television, makes us immensely pleased. For all that you have achieved and for the effect you have had on people you won’t have met but who will have gained so greatly by your example and your spirit, you should be immensely proud.
You have more than done your duty, Captain Sir Tom. With your appetite for adventure, with your aptitude for relationships, with your openness to challenge, by your enjoyment of new experiences, you will fare well in the life that is to come. I pray that you will be met as you go from us into what lies beyond, with salutes from old comrades and with smiles from old friends and new. Sir Tom, we too salute you, we give thanks for you, we pray for you and we drink a toast to you. Eternal blessings and best wishes from your unknown friend, Jeff Hopkin Williams, Vicar of St Mary’s Twickenham.
ZOOM: Do please join us for our Zoom Service on Sunday at 9.30am. All you need to do is click on the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85685339742 This Sunday the Gospel will be John Chapter 1 verses 1-14 and we will be thinking about how God comes to "make His home" with us. The Collect for Sunday 7th February: Almighty God, You have created the Heavens and the Earth And made us in your own image: Teach us to discern your hand in all your works And your likeness in all your children; Through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. AMEN.
Blessing from last Sunday’s Candlemas service: Lord of all life and love, We have celebrated the birth of Jesus Our Messiah and Friend: Today as we celebrate His being Presented to you in the Temple, In the presence of Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, May He be at the heart of all who congregate In person or online; That His healing, transforming presence May be at the heart of all our lives. Bless people of every generation Who look to you in hope, That all who dwell in darkness May see a great light. Bless now these candles May they burn with the brightness Of your presence and your power And remind us that we too are called To radiate your light, through living Lives of loving service to others. This we ask in Jesus’ name. AMEN.