Twenty-three years ago, 16th April was a Friday. It was a busy evening in the parish, the Mothers’ Union branch in the parish were holding their annual sale in the parochial hall at 6.30 pm. At 9 pm, the hall would be the venue for the annual old time dance, that usually took place on Easter Monday and had been postponed that year for some reason now long forgotten. The sale was an occasion where it was possible for a clergyman to be of some use, putting out tables, washing up the teacups, lifting boxes, but the old time dance was one of those moments just to be there and smile nicely, never having learned ordinary dances, let alone the refined form that went under the description of “old time”. Between the sale and the dance there had to be found time for a visit to Downpatrick Maternity Hospital where our daughter had been born at ten past eleven that morning.
Twenty three years ago today since the birth of a girl named “Miriam” after the feisty sister of Moses and Aaron in the Bible, “Katharine” after her mother, and “Sorcha” after the parish of Bright in which we lived. Not many years later, a determined child at primary school declared her intention to become a doctor, an intention that never wavered in the ensuing years.
In five days’ time the final practical tests will be over, in six days’ time the results will be published, the young lady born on that Friday morning will have completed her medical degree; on the second Monday in July, she will be one of the new crop of junior doctors doing their first day’s work on a ward.
Being thirty two and a half years older than her means being fifty five and a half today. In JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings,where the span of human life is short compared with that of hobbits, dwarves and elves, the character Bilbo Baggins decides that his one hundred and eleventh birthday is a time to withdraw into a quiet retirement. Being exactly one-half of Bilbo Baggins’ age and being a short-lived human, there is a sense that to withdraw would be an attractive option, a feeling that all that can be usefully done has now been done.
Twenty-three years is long enough to make us into very different people, for one of us it is the whole of a lifetime, for the young incumbent of 1993 it is long enough to become tired and battered; it is good that youthful energy is only expected of younger people.