I’ve been rather overwhelmed while clearing MIL’s flat, to realise just how much of a saint she was. As we started on her more personal papers, we knew we would find copies of magazines from Lee Abbey and other prayer material going back years – she never threw any of them away. We also knew (because we discovered it when we first assessed just how much there was to do) that she had files of cuttings which she called ‘the Cloud of Witnesses’ (from Hebrews 12:1) containing obituaries of Christians that she had taken from her daily paper going back decades, as well as her diaries – starting from 1938 or thereabouts – which are rather prosaic ‘logs’ of her activities … what we didn’t expect was to find her own thoughts on spiritual things, not kept in any ordered way, but dotted about her belongings, usually as notes in books and hymn books, made as she read (and then kept) them.

I have been moved to read just how sad she has been since the death of her daughter (my SIL) some 14 years ago. She records her despair for many years following that awful day … just a note here and there as something she read struck a cord (or with which she disagreed). Occasionally she has recorded a prayer, or a moment of praise, shaped by her years of reading into words more familiar in the writings of saints gone by, almost puritan in their fervour.

The temptation is to find diaries covering particular events … what did she really think of me when DH first told her of our plans to marry? :huh: She fully intended that we keep them, so I presume she expected us to read them … I know that secretly she hoped we would publish them in some form or other! It may be that if we read them, there will be material there of interest, but I am sure that far more enduring will be her thoughts on the great Christian writers that she read, and on the hymn books she used as devotionals across the years.

I did find one prayer journal covering only a few weeks, including the period of her illness. It’s poignant to see how her writing deteriorates as the weeks go by, but one entry is written in a clear hand. On the day she first understood that she had a terminal condition, she writes (in capital letters) THE END OF MY OLD LIFE, THE BEGINNING OF MY HEAVENWARD JOURNEY …