One year on – remembering Warwick

Outside St Mary’s Church in Studley Park as we set off on the memorial walk.

The four of us set off from the car park in Studley Park on the first anniversary of Warwick’s death. We took a circular route that would take us through the visitor centre to look at the book of remembrance and then to the place where his ashes are scattered.

It had been raining – a lot. The River Skell was overflowing it’s banks and torrents of surface water were filling the hollows on the roads and the paths we had chosen to walk. Laughter rose as Dad slipped and covered himself with mud. The route was changed to avoid a submerged and impassable riverside path. We were wet but undeterred, arriving under the tree we now call Warwick’s Tree. Silently we remembered and then gave thanks to God for his life and the healing that comes through grief.

Memories of Warwick were and are always good. On a recent visit to to Studley we engaged in some guerrilla gardening and planted snowdrop bulbs under ‘Warwick’s Tree’. They should bloom around the January anniversary every year.

Teenage Warwick interacts with his Nanny Ashmore

Our plans to convert what was Warwick’s bedroom into a summer room have been slow to be realised. We accepted a quote from one builder – he disappeared without trace. Another builder suggested changes to our plans – they were redrawn – work was due to start in late November – now the start is put back to February 2017. Hopefully it’ll be completed in time for summer.

We recently discovered this photo of Warwick with his Nanny Ashmore. It was in an album belonging to Joan’s brother, Philip.


At Peace

Studey HD
Standing beneath the spreading leaves of the trees in Studley Park overlooking the glistening lake we scattered his ashes in the evening sunlight. The gentle breeze carried them away.

‘ …. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted …. to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair …. “

We do not sorrow as those who have no hope – but we do sorrow. Continue reading

A Tough Year


Barrie turned sixty five this year and started to receive his state pension. But that’s not what made it a tough year.

Warwick and Joan

Warwick on the mend

Warwick’s health started to deteriorate and by the spring he was visibly losing weight and suffering from a tremor in his limbs. Diagnosis was a drawn out process of elimination. His anti-convulsants, nasty tummy bugs, and loss of appetite all came under scrutiny.

After losing a fifth of his body weight and becoming very lethargic he contracted pneumonia a few days after a barium swallow test. During the next month in hospital he sank very low, losing more weight, he was emaciated and frail. After leaving intensive care there was a very dark time when his lungs filled with more fluid and it seemed he wouldn’t pull through.

Lots of friends and family were praying for him. The hospital staff were brilliant. At a very critical time a physiotherapist persisted with Warwick and removed over a litre of fluid from his lungs. That was the turning point. We had never known before that physios saved lives – but in Warwick’s case, they certainly did. He slowly started to improve. Perhaps low level lung infection had been behind his demise all the time. He’d been aspirating; taking fluids and food into his lungs because he was failing to swallow properly. A not uncommon thing with people of his age (he’s 41) who have cerebral palsy.

At this stage he had to be strong enough to have a general anaesthetic to have a PEG tube fitted; that is a small feeding tube inserted through the wall of his stomach. In future all of his food, fluids and medication will be administered through this tube. Nil by mouth for the rest of his life.

He is still weak but back at his own home. He is slowly putting on weight and looking better. He now often greets us with a smile but is still unable to move his arms and legs. We hope physiotherapy will gradually help to him to more fully recover. He’s confined to bed for the time being and may not be well enough to come home to us for Christmas. He needs our prayers.

The overhead of going to see Warwick for a few hours each day has, at times, taken it’s toll on us too, but we have been sustained by God’s grace and our good friends, and we’re in good heart.

Tough at Church

St Michael le Belfrey in moonlight

St Michael le Belfrey, York

Barrie became a churchwarden at St Michael le Belfrey this year, a year that has seen some difficult changes in the church. A review of staffing brought some pain to the people working in the Parish Centre. There is still some misunderstanding surrounding these changes as two people leave the staff at the end of the year.

A decision to close one of the Sunday congregations has left a number families disenfranchised. Some have reluctantly left the church. Its been a sad and highly contentious time. There have been some heated meetings and its still not clear how things will work out.

These are just two of the things that have presented some tough times for the church wardens, PCC and clergy.

There have been some good times as well. Stories of salvation, healing and growth through the pain are being born out of experience. We have welcomed a new Associate Minister, Greg Downes, and enjoyed the close friendship of people in our two small groups.

So 2015 will be a challenge to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace and to focus our mission on reaching out to the communities in which we live and serve.


Ten o’clock miracle

At ten o’clock they started to pray. Earlier in the evening the family had been called to the bedside of my father as he lay dying in hospital in Preston, Lancashire. They had been summoned by the doctor because he wasn’t expected to survive the night.

The illness had started a few days earlier as he rode his Panther 600 motorbike home to Ambleside from Coventry where his fianc??e, later to be my mother, lived. As he battled against driving rain on the old A6 towards the Lake District he developed a headache which intensified as the miles passed. By the time he arrived home it was so bad he went straight to bed to ‘sleep it off’. Next morning the pain was worse and his mother persuaded him to see the doctor who admitted him to hospital.

“TB meningitis” the consultant told his family, “there’s not much we can do. Patients reach a crisis point; some get better, others don’t make it.”

This was before antibiotics were in general use to fight the infection revealed in the tests on his ‘lumber puncture’. I remember my dad describing the lumber puncture process with relish when he retold this story. A long curved needle was inserted between the discs in his back into his spinal fluid. A sample was drawn off for tests. His hands and fingers used to describe the arc and length of the needle whilst his face grimaced as he recalled the experience.

So they waited. The crisis came and passed with no improvement. He hadn’t eaten for days, he was thin and weak and had only slept through the intense pain with help from medication.

After the family returned to Ambleside there was little conversation. My mum’s family, the Newsholme’s, were strong in their faith. Grandad Newsholme was Pastor of a large Pentecostal Church in Coventry. They actively believed in miracles. On my father’s side the family was divided. Some were believers, some not. Grandma Stephenson had helped to start the Pentecostal Mission in Elterwater but her husband hadn’t been involved. All four of dad’s younger siblings were believers too. The four older one’s, I was told, weren’t.By ten o’clock only the believers were left in the room. Grandad Newsholme suggested they prayed for healing. So they did. Thirty five miles away, a dying man went to sleep naturally for the first time for two weeks.

The next morning my father sat up in bed – pain free – and startled the young duty nurse. “What’s for breakfast?” He asked. The nurse left the bedside without responding and called the ward sister. He asked her the same question. “What’s for breakfast, I’m starving?””I think you’d better get him something quick.” The sister said to the nurse. That morning he ate a full English breakfast and waited for the puzzled doctor to arrive. He ordered another lumber puncture and then another one.The doctor had reprimanded the lab staff for mixing up the samples because they reported that there was no trace of the infection in my father’s sample. Convinced there was a mistake he ordered the second procedure with the same result. No infection. He concluded in the light of my father’s surprise recovery that it must have been a miracle. The miracle explanation was confirmed when he was told about the impromptu prayer meeting in Ambleside the night before.Within days dad was discharged from hospital and steadily gained strength and weight to be restored to his family. It was 1947. A few months later, in March 1948, he and my mother, Alice, were married in her father’s church in Coventry. I arrived the following summer.

I often reflect on how my existence is due to a miracle of healing two years before I was born and thank God for answered prayer.