Remote living has been a part of a MAF family’s life for many years. From poor communication to lack of doctors, pilots and their families often work, live, and survive on their own at times in a seemingly helpless environment. But, there is one thing we all dread, the call. The call from someone far away to say a much-loved one is dying. It crosses the line from the survival of self to fear for that rock on the other side of the world we call family. That rock which enabled you to continue all these years alone is starting to crumble. We cannot stop, but how can we stay?
That is my story, receiving the call. The day, Wednesday 23rd January 2019 (UK Time), Thursday (PNG Time), could not have started out better. The tropical weather was unseasonably fresh. Heading from Wewak in the northern jungles of Papua New Guinea, with a new pilot under supervision we flew our precious load of missionaries and local people to Tari. The sharp peaks of the Porgera mine site shone brightly through low clouds in the crisp morning air. I could almost feel the fresh Lagaip River with its splashing waters sending spears of light towards the plane. At ten thousand feet above sea level, we passed practically close enough to touch to the Tari gap before descending into the breathtaking view of the Western province and taking in the spectacular sight of Mount Bosavi in the distance. But, we were not alone.
For the first time, I watched all of MAF’s Cessna Caravan fleet arrive in Tari together. We connected the Eastern Highlands of Hagen with the far Western Province around Rumginae, meeting together in the Southern Highlands, we completed the picture by connecting the Sepik Plains of Wewak to the rest of the world. Then my phone rang.
Unusually, my wife was calling from Wewak where I left her that morning. Tari is one of the few places in PNG I could receive a call, so I was doubly surprised. She had received a text message that my mum had suffered a massive stroke. “Mum had massive stroke…. Come home immediately…Not much time left….Hours at the most.” Oh no!
As we descended into Heathrow on Saturday at 5:20 am, she died. We were too late. We had flown non-stop Tari-Tekin-Telefomin-Wewak-Hagen-Goroka-Port Moresby-Brisbane-Bangkok-London without drawing breath, without thinking, but living in the hope that we could at least spend a few more minutes with my mum.
My dad and brother spent a three-day vigil at her bedside. I knew it was all over when Clare received a message, “Go home.” This meant they were no longer at the hospital; the vigil had finished; it was over.
My mum was a great Christian woman following in the footsteps of her own mother. My dad asked me to speak at the funeral, and I include the eulogy which I gladly talked to a packed 14th Century Church two weeks later.
We are back in PNG now, two months later, missing that great rock.
On behalf of my Dad, I thank you all for coming to celebrate the life of my mum.
And welcome to all of you too to all the Angels around us celebrating one of their own coming home. My mum sits with Jesus in heaven. When she arrived in heaven, she said, “I have fought the good fight. I have won the race.” And Jesus replied, “Welcome, good and faithful servant.”
Then my mum said, “What is all this fuss about? I don’t want all this. Where is the back door?”
Because my mum is a humble person, she had humble beginnings, and she stayed humble all her life.
WAR – HOTWELLS
She had humble beginnings. My mum slept at night under the stairs in a small apartment in Hotwells, alongside Bristol Docks, while Hitler’s bombs poured out of the sky overhead. She was one of five siblings. Her two elder sisters were evacuated to the country, while her younger sister and brother were born after the war.
My mum went to school at St. Georges, Brandon Hill and later Portway Girls School. She enjoyed competition swimming at Hot Wells swimming baths with all her siblings, and her favourite subject at school would have been History.
At fifteen she held a job at Woolworths. She loved that job but her dad, my grandad and mariner, told her, “get a proper job, my girl.” Woolworths was not the job grandad had in mind for his daughter. At that time, the two Bristol employers were tobacco and printing, Wills’ and Mardon’s. So, she got a job at Mardons, met my dad, who drove her home one night after a social and married her two years later.
AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER
For my Grandmother living in Hotwells, Hanham was at the end of the earth. It was where earth ceased to be flat. It was at the end of the Number nine bus route. But, that’s where they wanted to live, in a cottage in Church Road at the end of Memorial Road. Money was scare, but they both worked two jobs, and for my mum’s part she worked in the Gaumont Picture House in Bristol. We say, “movies” now, but back then they said, “the pictures”. She sold ice cream and drinks at the interval. Her brother often wanted her job for the night, he wanted to see the latest film.
Getting married often means we need to change a bit. My mum often talked of my dad coming to work with sandwiches his mum made: Cake Sandwiches! A leftover from the war rationing. After they had been married for a while, my dad said, “How long is this going on for?” “What do you mean?”, my mum said. “Eating dinners every day.” My mum, following in her own mum’s footsteps, cooked meat and two veg dinners each evening. My dad was still looking out for cake sandwiches.
I was born in the BMI, Bristol Maternity Hospital, in 1959, two years after they were married. We then moved to Bourne Road in Kingswood for three years after which we moved in with my grandmother for a while waiting for my mum and dad’s new Bull house to be completed in Hesding Close. This is where my brother Martyn was born. A few years later we moved into and ran a Hardware shop opposite Hanham Common before settling into Abbots Road in 1974 where they have lived for over 45 years.
MARDON’s Through and Through
Except for a small diversion to work for Fry’s chocolate factory for a few months, my mum was faithful to Mardon’s all her life. She started on the factory floor checking cigarette packets for quality, moved her way up to the director’s restaurant, and at 50, she was surprised that Mardon’s sent her to Bath University for a touch typing course. She never thought she would attend a University.
Approaching 70 she said, “They don’t know how old I am you know? The girls in work asked me to a Hen Party!” She had never been to a Hen party in her life! I later wrote to the CEO of Alcan Packaging, the parent company of Mardon’s and told him my mother had worked for Mardon’s for 55 years. He had no idea but would have an article published about her in the company magazine. If that happened, she did not say. She would have hidden it from everyone.
It says in my bible that a Christian life will be full of ups and downs. The Lord will allow difficulties in our lives, and we will be able to overcome them.
However, mum not only had challenges in her own Christian life, but she also seemed to live and worry about everyone else’s too.
In my Bible there is a Christian Order to prioritise our life:
- GOD first:
- Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all our strength, and all our mind.
- My mum prayed all the time. For her family, her sibling’s family, her friends.
- WIFE: After putting God First, the next priority is your spouse.
- My mum made good her promise to my dad in 1957. She loved him and looked after him in sickness and health.
- At my Wedding, my dad tells me she told him she had the best husband in the world.
- MOTHER: Once she had God sorted and my dad, the Bible says to care for your children next.
- My mum was a dedicated mother to us, two sons. We never went without. She sacrificed everything for her family. She would march me up the road to catch the Number Nine bus into town. She was going to purchase a dress for herself, but we came back with a pair of shoes for me.
- My Mum held the bar up high. Martyn and I struggle to attain that bar for our selves or our families. A what a blessing she was to us.
- OTHERS: Once she had God sorted and my dad and her boys, the Bible says to care for others next.
- When I would come home and talk to her, she had endless stories of other peoples troubles. My mum would pray and care for everyone around her. She would visit bereaved people who had no one else, taking them out for lunch and making sure they were all right. She looked out and worried about her sisters and brothers, and for their children.
My mum loved the Lord with all her heart, all her soul, all her strength and all her mind. My Bible says you can only do that through another person. When you help a person in need, it is as if you were assisting Jesus Himself. And that what my mum did best of all. She worried and cared for all sorts of people.
SHE GOT AROUND
But, she got around. Once Martyn and I left home, my mum and dad went to places all over the world. She attended Lee and Claire’s wedding in San Francisco. They visited my brother when he was on a training course in California. She and my dad went around the Mediterranean on a ship with Hilda and Ray, and later with Pauline and David. She and my dad even visited me in New York.
Once she and my dad came to visit us at MAF in the remote outback in Australia. Once there, I flew her in my MAF plane still further into the outback and then we walked together for one kilometer to an Aboriginal Village. There, she met an Aboriginal by the name of Andrew. She could not believe she was talking to a remote Aboriginal so far away. She said many times, “I cannot believe the places I have been to.”
In the last year or so, she was failing a bit, especially after suffering a small stroke fourteen months ago.
Last year, Clare and I took my mum and dad around looking at other retirement accommodation. One place was a very upmarket apartment. I said to mum, “do you think you could live here?” “Oh Yes,” she said. “But I am not worthy of such a place.”
That sums my mum up. She is more than worthy, and she’s not holding her head up right now, she has it bowed down saying, “I don’t deserve to be in such a wonderful place.” She is in heaven with Jesus, with a new body in a new place, a place much better than that beautiful apartment we visited.
FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT
When she arrived in Heaven, the Lord Jesus Said, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
for my Mum, “Fought the good fight, she finished the race; she kept the faith.”
“In-store for her is the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award her.”
I just wish she would stop looking for the back door!
In Loving Memory of my Wonderful Mum
Jacqueline Adeline Woodington
1938 – 2019