Church of England Diocese of Hereford Billingsley

Thought for the week, 28th June; In the end, God

Like many, I was saddened to hear of the tragic death this week of the top jockey, Liam Treadwell, aged 34 and living in Billingsley. Liam’s most famous victory was in the 2009 Grand National, when he rode a 100 to 1 outsider to win the race. I do not think I ever met him; until his death was announced on Wednesday, I had no idea he was living amongst us. But as one of our parishioners, we have been praying for him, his family and all who mourn him.

As far as I know, Liam died alone. The thought of a solitary death is something that many of us find particularly difficult; indeed, a death in the absence of our family and friends is troubling and the first relaxation of the lockdown was to allow people to be physically with their loved ones at the end. Sadly, that is not always possible.

Religious faith does not protect against grief, fears or depression; those emotions are part of our human condition and are built into us. But it does offer us another view of the end of life. Psalm 139 is perhaps my favourite psalm and it has important things to say about a God from whose love who we cannot escape, even in despair and death:

Where can I go then from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there your hand shall lead me, your right hand hold me fast.

If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will cover me and the light around me turn to night,’

Even darkness is no darkness with you; the night is as clear as the day; darkness and light to you are both alike.

The priest and poet, Malcolm Guite, has recently written about the death of a homeless man. He had had his portrait painted some time before he died and the picture now hangs in the Cambridge college at which Guite is based. For Guite, looking at this picture is a reminder that Christ gazes at all humanity with the care and love of a portrait artist, for he is our creator. And at our end, it is Christ, perhaps only Christ, who will be always present, and who will take our right hand to lead us into his Kingdom. For us all, in the end, God.