Saturday, September 10, 2016
I certainly didn't sleep the night after; I was too overwhelmed - by the kindness of so many friends, by the generosity of so many folk from the parishes here.
It's easy to think about putting on a birthday party. An un-birthday party. I'm not fifty till the end of November, and it seemed like a good idea to do a garden party sometime in the summer. The weather would be better. Folk could get here more easily. Everyone could come and I wouldn't have to worry about finding an indoor venue. My garden can fit any number.
Of course, there is the English summer to reckon with...
Thinking about it is one thing. Doing it is quite another. And I was helped beyond measure by several folk in the parishes, who rolled up their sleeves and pitched in. It's slightly invidious to mention names, but B. & A. were stars in organising the Tea Tent, sorting cups and drinks and cakes and sandwiches and asking lots of folk to help. Then there was a surprise Birthday cake and Prosecco... and a terribly kind speech from J; Then M. and his team from North Aston, plus a good little group from Steeple helped put up the two marquees - we were going with one, but the forecast made us do two; wisely, as it turned out! There are more folk I should thank. I am very grateful. Several friends from away asked - who did the catering? I replied - the amazing people of the parishes here. And people were indeed amazed.
The marquees made the garden look like a scene from the Great British Bake Off. The tables inside heightened that effect. Perfect cakes, scones, sandwiches, and a magnificent centre piece.
With around a hundred and fifty guests either packed into the tents or milling around on the lawn, depending on the state of the rain...
I thought there might be about a hundred, but people kept coming. I'd look, and there was someone else arriving. Folk from here - wonderful people I am getting to know, and some of them, as they'd arrive, I'd be thinking of their stories and what is going on in their lives. Family events, weddings, concerns and joys.
And then there were family members. And friends from school days, from student days, from St Aldates, from early days in Wales, from Aberystwyth, from Ridley, from Pontypridd. The only frustration for me was that with so many wonderful people, I could only stand and watch them talk to each other as I managed but a few words here and there.
A few words from a full heart.
I have said before that if a person's true wealth can be judged by the number of his friends, I am rich beyond counting. I think it is this which has stayed with me all week since last Saturday. God in his kindness has given me many gifts, but without doubt the greatest of them are the people who have touched and shaped my life. I looked around and saw some folk with whom I have known success and failure, some folk I've worked well with and some I've struggled with, some folk I was young and immature with and some in whom and from whom I have found deep, deep wisdom, some folk who should have given up on me years ago and I on them - and yet here we all were. What a wonderful thing. What a gift. What a rich thing is life that we get to live and grow and know and become, and become more and more, and we get to do it all together.
Life is not perfect; this is earth, not heaven. But this earth has heavenly moments. And my unbirthday party was one of them.