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My song is love unknown

Newsletter: November 2020

Dear web friends

Greetings again and I record here a present experience of mine because it may be yours as well. But when I visit my dad in hospital now, we don’t say hello or goodbye.

Well, that isn’t quite true. I say hello and goodbye, but he does not. Greetings and farewells, these quiet markers of relationship, are gone from his library of possibility. Sometimes awake, sometimes adrift, he is increasingly in his own world with ever fewer connections made with things (or people) present. If spirituality is the art of making connections, then spirituality is dying before my eyes.

Like old tracks in the forest now overgrown, his neural pathways slowly close to the traffic of life. Creeping time and nature reclaim highways once busy with the travel of human interaction. Obstructions are laid across the paths, blocking passage; the old trade routes of existence, a dead end.

My dad is here because he fell in the street and banged his head. He is 95 years old and before the fall, perhaps 65 per cent of the man he once was. In his present state, he is perhaps 20 per cent, maybe less. Physically, his heart is OK, he drinks his black tea and he is just able to walk; but neurologically, significantly diminished.

How often we hear those haunting words, ‘I never got to say goodbye.’ And while some leave fast, ripped suddenly and shockingly from us, others leave slow, and with those, when is the moment? Because whenever it was, I missed it.

I know a woman who has been waiting seven years for her mother to die. She has a cancer which has defied the doctors’ odds – ‘no more than six months to live,’ they said back then. But with each passing year, though she lives, she is reduced in her being. It seems too soon for goodbyes and she wouldn’t want it – and then, of course, it’s too late.

With conversation a struggle, I quietly speak the first verse of my dad’s favourite hymn, ‘My song is love unknown’ – such beautiful thoughts, written by the clergyman Samuel Crossman in 1664. He has not managed to speak until now, words too hard to find; but weakly – very weakly – he joins in with the first four lines.

My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.

Now he has words, dragged up from within, the past still accessible through the mist. It is our shared moment, a few seconds, before he drifts away again.

I hold his hand and say, ‘It is good to hold your hand.’ There is no response apart from a look of slight discomfort. I ponder the dying embers of a life, which once burned differently, burned bright. He used to be the head of a school.

You will have your own story of goodbyes; we all have to find a way because time and tide wait for no one; and sometimes people are lost to us even when they live. Maybe all relationships are one long farewell; and one eternal hello. There is joy here as well as sadness; finding as well as losing.

For now, though – changing direction with a jerky twist of the wheel – I’m happy to announce that my Jesus novel, Gospel: Rumours of Love, will be published on Feb 1st 2021 by White Crow Books on the Big Story label. I look forward to it being available to you.

Richard Addis, editor-in-chief of The Day, former editor of the Daily Express and former novice Anglican monk, said this of it: ‘Meet Jesus unplugged. In a stunning act of imagination Simon Parke shatters every stained-glass window in your mind.’

But what will you say? I wait in trepidation behind the sofa.

Meanwhile, I’m told that everyone’s reading more since lockdown, huge increases in sales, so don’t feel bad about buying one of my books as a Christmas present. It’s an odd idea, I grant you; but in the present times, not completely ridiculous.

My books page

Thank you, as always, for your company. Nothing’s forever, I know. So it is a huge honour to connect with you today across time zones, continents, miles and lockdown. But for now, because I can, I say goodbye.

Shine on!

Simon x

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