Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Marking the death of our Friend Harold Hughes

Elsewhere in this blog we have a page of people who have been attached to this Meeting. One of the life stories shown there is that of Harold Hughes. Harold died in February 2018, aged 94. My wife, Maggie and I had visited Harold and his delightful wife Thoa (pronounced Twa) just before Christmas. Harold did not look well, but at close on 94 he was becoming a little limited. He was not, however too limited to continue to work on chain-sawing an old oak that had fallen in a steep field just above the house. In fact Harold was still cutting up that tree days before he died, while his tiny, slim, Vietnamese, wife porter-ed the logs to a barn where they split them with an hydraulic splitter.
Harold was taken into Hereford Hospital where he died on February 20th. Thoa phoned us to let us know and then one of Harold's sons phoned from Dorset to ask me to Elder at both the Crematorium and at a Meeting to give thanks for that of God shown in the life of Harold Hughes, that is the full title of a Quaker memorial meeting. Harold had been a regular attender at our once monthly meeting at the Pales Meeting House. The Pales was a little nearer to the home that Harold had first bought with his first wife Jean in the 1950s. They had subsequently lived in various parts of the world, twice in different parts of Africa, and then near Ottawa in Canada, but had kept Neuaddfach, their mid-Wales home throughout most of their lives. Jean and Harold had decided to separate in the early 1960's, at which time Jean returned to Britain to look after son Martin while their older son David had begun to study at Ottawa University where Harold was teaching. Several years later Harold befriended a young man who had been one of the Vietnamese Boat People and was now studying Mathematics under Harold's direction. Harold provided additional English tuition to assist the young man and then went on to meet his mother and the rest of his family. He was Khan, and another of Khan's family was Thoa. Harold and Thoa fell in love and married.
When we spoke with Thoa, she was distraught so, as soon as we could we went over to Neuaddfach to support her as best we could. Martin and David had also visited and were supporting at a distance. Then the snow of early March - the Beast from the East - fell, cutting off even our more accessible home as well as Thoa in her remote house. It was days before neighbouring farmers had cleared the roads around Neuaddfach sufficiently for us to be able to take some food and bottled water to assist Thoa. We were getting more and more impressed with our tiny friend, she was coping not only with a frozen water supply and blocked roads but with her enormous grief as well graciously and with so much gratitude, for whatever little thing we and others could do.
Maggie was able to comfort Thoa, while I reassured her that Harold would be with her wherever she went for the rest of her life.
Many of Thoa's family, including a brother and sister with their partners and children, were on their way from Canada, and we heard that Thoa intended to return with them. She will live with two of her unmarried sisters, unfortunately their dearly loved mother died some years ago, while their father had died before they had escaped from Vietnam.
At the Meeting at the Cremation Thoa was very emotional and it was a sad occasion, these are difficult occasions that are time limited, and the acoustics of the hall do not assist vocal ministry for the mourners. The Meeting for Worship to give thanks is a much less stressful occasion, the family are more relaxed, the building is much more suitable, everyone can see everyone else and it works much better. I was very happy with the Llandrindod Meeting House for such an event. The ministry was detailed and comprehensive. It was offered by both the British and the Canadian families, and received warmly and well by all. Our friends from Fingers and Forks had catered for tea, coffee, sandwiches and cakes, which were enjoyed along with lots of informal chats.
We were able to see Thoa, very briefly, on the morning that she left, with her brother, to travel to Canada. We wished her well in this new phase of her life, without her dearly loved husband but back in the heart of her family.
Peter H

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Hosting Southern Marches Area Meeting March 10th 2018

Hosting of the Area Meeting moves around its constituent Local Meetings for its business meetings. The March meeting was originally planned to take place at the Pales Meeting House, however, there was a prior booking of that space and, as it happened, the heavy snows of early March made it too difficult to hold it there, so it was moved to the smaller Llandrindod Meeting House.
There probably isn't much difference between the Pales and Llandrindod Meeting Houses in size, but the Pales has the advantage of having the Meeting Room and the School Room adjacent, with an openable screen separating the two.
Over the past few years, it can be expected that Area Meeting will attract around forty Friends, so the first challenge to Llandrindod Friends was to check that we had forty chairs, forty mugs, etc. The fact that AM was coming to Llandrindod was the catalyst to encourage us to make some changes to the Meeting Room to make its arrangement more minimalist - a plan that we had hatched some weeks before, in the hope that it would be more attractive. A great amount of paper needed to be rehoused, but forty plus seats were arranged in reasonable spaciousness.
The hosting team were in place for about 9:30, and the AM Clerks and other early arrivers followed by ten. At eleven o'clock thirty Friends were comfortably seated ready for the worship that begins our business, having enjoyed mugs of coffee and biscuits. We had asked Friends to bring food for a shared lunch which worked extremely well, but their generosity and ours meant that we had an embarrassment of cake for the tea that followed Meeting!
It is a cliche to say that we enjoyed hosting - but it is a fact. It really was a pleasurable experience to have so many Friends visit us and enjoy the experience.