“Christian festivals” was the theme for the Year 7 lesson yesterday. Year 7 students are a delight to teach, the questions are constant, and sometimes utterly random.
In the middle of the discussion about Christmas tradition, one boy put up his hand. “Sir, can I ask a question?”
“Sir, what will be people be like in heaven?”
“I was asked that question before, ” I said, “by someone who was born a hundred years before you.”
I smiled at memory of conversations with the person who had asked the question.
Ros, the lady who had asked the question, had been born in 1909, and was someone who had aged in body but never mind. The moments of laughter were frequent.
Calling one afternoon at the nursing home where she lived, a place more like a family-run hotel from the 1950s than a 21st Century care establishment, Ros declared herself to be tired.
“You haven’t been out night clubbing again, Ros?”
She smiled. “Night clubbing! The chance would be a fine thing.”
Cars and driving were discussed on another occasion. “When did you learn to drive, Ros?”
“Oh, I was quite old before I started to drive.”
“What age were you?”
“I must have been 25.”
“So you were driving around Dublin in 1934?”
It was difficult to imagine a young woman with her own car, driving alone, for Ros never married, around the roads of 1930s Ireland. It doesn’t quite fit with the pictures painted by the novels and the films. While Brian Friel’s characters in Donegal were dancing at Lughnasa; Ros, a young bank clerk, was travelling around in her Bullnose Morris.
“Ros, what were the roads like outside of Dublin?”
“Not good,” must have been a masterpiece of understatement. There was a smile at imagining the twenty-something bumping along over the gravel and the potholes. I had wanted to ask her about things like petrol stations and getting punctures fixed, but the moment passed and the opportunity never returned.
Ros didn’t really like looking backwards. Each Sunday morning, she came to church for the 8 am communion service. Once a month, it was the 17th Century Book of Common Prayer service. After church one Sunday, Ros said, “Rector, can I talk to you about the Prayer Book?”
“Of course, Ros.”
“Rector, I don’t know that service; I can’t see to read it; and, what’s more, I don’t like it.”
The parish had switched to modern liturgy in 1972 and Ros had been its foremost supporter.
Ros travelled the world. “Do you know my first memory of an aeroplane?” she said. “It was in a field outside of Cork in 1914 – I was 5.” Ros flew on many planes in the years that followed.
The one question that caused her thought from time to time was what age we would be in eternity. Death held no fears, heaven was a certainty, anxiety stemmed from a fear that in heaven she might be the little old lady she had become. “What will we be like in heaven?”