Tribute to a special sister – Pauline writes
‘My earliest memory of my elder sister is of her playing peep-bo with me. I was lying by an open window in my pram. The breeze was blowing the net curtain and I could hear my mother’s voice, ‘Don’t wake Pauline.’ But this was our secret and we were supremely happy.
Two of our four siblings, we were the closest, and as so often happens, it was a love hate relationship, our happiness so often marred by jealousy.
I don’t think Mary often had need to be jealous of me. To me she was the clever, the beautiful one. I remember longing to be six because I thought then I would be like Mary, but of course by the time I was six she was eight and there was no change.
Mary seemed to sail through life. In the Juniors, all the boys loved her. In high school exams held no fear for her, and she went on to gain a scholarship to Cambridge.
There was no competition academically. I was much happier at school once they accepted that I was not university material, and was at Saffron Walden teacher training college whilst Mary was at Cambridge and we got on much better now we were living our separate lives.
Back at home, we both went into teaching but I don’t think Mary ever had the satisfaction in this that I did. We all found our Dad difficult to live with, probably Mary more so because she was a stronger character and so, sadly, she found her escape from the confines of home to find she was trapped in an unsuitable and very unhappy marriage.
Mary, so beautiful, so confident, gradually had all her confidence stripped away, but it was perhaps through this that she turned to the Lord, not just for intellectual satisfaction – we had been brought up in the Bible Students –but for salvation and all that it entails.
We became very close, but whereas I had found deliverance from my jealousy, it was very hard for Mary now, for I had become the one to take the lead in coming into the Apostolic Church, and while Esther and I were able to go the Penygroes convention, and had been baptised in the Holy Spirit, she felt she was missing out spiritually. But God had his own ways of meeting with her, and when her husband had a break down, which led on to times of separation, she was able to share with us in many of the blessings of being in Apostolic fellowship. Together we were received into fellowship in the little Apostolic Church in Barking (in London’s East End)
But now, while we single girls were hoping for a husband, Mary was feeling she was missing out on God’s blessings because of her married status, and that I had the best spiritually. It certainly didn’t help her marriage that her husband felt she was closer to me.
At a time when they were separated, Mary came out to join me for a year on the mission field in New Guinea. She taught in my place so that I could concentrate on language study and the Sunday School work, and was wonderful in coping with all the hardship of primitive conditions. She was thrilled when the suggestion was made that we return together, she teaching in a government school while I gave myself fully to the Children’s work.
We returned to UK, and she coped with teaching, which, while not primitive, is still a great challenge, until she was told she could not be accepted for New Guinea because of her marital status – she was separated, not divorced. Her world seemed to have collapsed around her.
But she had previously gone forward at a service for Divine healing and asked prayer for the healing of her marriage. Now, in wonderful ways, God brought about this miracle. Her husband, by now an old man – he was 20 years older than she was – was glad to ‘try again.’
Many years before, the Lord had impressed on Mary that she should spend an hour with Him each day. She had insisted on keeping this time on a previous occasion when he had returned to her. At that time he was seeking to brain wash her, blaming all their marital difficulties on Pentecost and the Apostolic Church – and she believed it was this precious quiet time which enabled her to survive.
He began to continue with this brain washing, but the Lord intervened and they were willing to accept each other as they were. It was then, when Mary had learned contentment in her lot in caring for her husband, - I was now in Ghana,- that her husband realised that there was a serious problem with Mary’s health and they diagnosed a brain tumour.
Mary was a wonderful testimony through this time, asking for messages to be sent to all the assemblies to pray. She was the Area Women’s leader, and she continued with this, even as she was convalescing and had difficulty in recalling words. She made an amazing recovery, even driving again in London traffic.
She had been a faithful member, and deaconess in the small assemblies she had been attending; Barking/Ilford first, then Exeter when her husband bought a cottage in Branscome, Devon, thinking he was making it impossible for her to get to an Apostolic church, and then when they were back in Ilford. Mary would never come to church unprepared. She would be quick to pray, always praising the Lord, and usually had a scripture portion, or something to contribute. She had learned the secret of godliness with contentment.
She cared for her husband until his death, and then continued to care for his elderly sister who lived in the flat upstairs, until she died nine years later. In all she had fourteen years as a widow until her dear Leslie took her into his heart to love and to cherish as she deserved to be.
Those years which we had as a foursome were very precious. Mary had thought for me to marry a pastor had been a wonderful honour, as indeed it was, and God had the same honour for her. For some years we went on holidays together, and up to recent years, especially after I was widowed, we would meet in Gnoll park. They would come there from the prayer meeting in SAron. Coffee in the visitors centre, a walk round the lake and a meal together, and we would go on our way. But with the passing years the walks got less and eventually we were no longer able to meet like this, and though I was occasionally able to drive to Ystrad, my life line with my precious sister was the telephone.
Mary had been wonderful in her support of me. Especially since Joel went ahead of me to heaven, it has been so precious to be able to share my joys and sorrows, hopes and fears with Mary, who would always promise to pray, and she would always ask what I had planned so that she might pray for me.
Even when I knew there was no hope of her remembering to pray, I knew it was in her heart to do so, and sometimes she would just pray for a need as we were talking together.
I have been so blessed to have such a precious, godly sister. She has been a witness, even in her dementia, content, and loving, shedding abroad the fragrance of her wonderful Saviour.