Falling In Love At Clapham Junction
Funerals are a constant in my village. We have an enormous senior community. According to those people who stay locked away in windowless rooms, fiddling with numbers and such throughout the day and night, the average age mean where I live is … well … more or less … deceased! So to say I celebrated a funeral today is a bit like saying I brushed my teeth this morning.Last November I celebrated the life of his wife. Sixty-seven years they had been married! Look at the divorce rate today. It’s an actuarial fact that the average marriage will not survive more than 7.5 years now.
But this couple were in it for the long run. Till death do us part. Back then, people took their words before God seriously. But just as with so many other things today, solemn words are little more than just words. And when I hear people proudly tell me of all those years they lived together, I feel a burst of wholehearted admiration for them.
The day I went to their home to discuss his wife’s funeral, I couldn’t wrestle away the thought of how lonely he was going to be. Elderly British men have it particularly rough when their wives die. Not only are there all the understandable emotional sorrows, but most of them have never once set foot in a kitchen.
I was so grateful that his daughter was there. She was making all the arrangements for her mother. She kindly shared with me many personal private thoughts about her parents. I wanted to speak with her father as well, but without exaggerating, I literally had to forcefully yell in order for him to hear me. And even then I wasn’t assured that he had fully comprehended what I said.
But he did say something that stuck with me for all this time. He told me of when he and his wife first met and where they would rendezvous-beneath the large clock at Clapham Junction Railway Station. He really wasn’t able to share much more with me. But it was this thought that remained at the forefront of his mind.
There’s an old British maxim that says when you die and go to Heaven, you will have to change at Clapham Junction. And as I left them that day, I couldn’t escape the image of this young couple; she was 17, he was 18, meeting time after time at Clapham Junction, Europe's busiest railway station.
If you’re in your late seventy’s and reading this, you will easily be able to recreate the image. If you’re fifty and below, it would be difficult. You have to remember that during that time, the station would have been shrouded in a miasma of smog and smoke. The endless arrival and departure of trains, not the ‘quiet’ ones we enjoy today, but the powerful steel horses, snorting like an enraged team of black stallions, and belching bellowing black plumes of soot and ash into the air, amid the ever-oppressive drone of the tannoy, calling out such exotic destinations as Crossbush, Liphook and Brighton ("well, Hove actually.")
Each passing of a life leaves a passport to the future in its children and grandchildren. And it is those sweet memories that reside within us and embrace us years later when we begin to prepare for our own next journey. But it’s a powerful force when someone’s passing gently touches another.
Yesterday, when we committed your soul to God’s care, you gave me something that I will draw upon from time to time, whenever I need to momentarily escape from the belching, snorting, steel horses around me.
I’ll think of those two young lovers, back together again, meeting beneath the clock at Clapham Junction.
Labels: Big World Small Boat, Clapham Junction, Falling in Love at Clapham Junction, Father Bill Haymaker, words of comfort, words of comfort for death of a mother, words of comfort for death of a parent