Readers of this blog will be familiar with the photographs and tweets from my friend Joyce Smith and the thoughts they inspired.
I am saddened to hear, today, of Joyce’s sudden death yesterday.
It is a deep shock. Joyce and I have been friends for 20 years and worked together in ministry for a lot of that time.
As well as a personal friend she was someone who held a lot of people in love and prayer and gave support to so many. People mattered to her and her heart was open for those who needed a friend. She touched people who others might have missed. This was especially true in the places where she ministered as a priest in the Church of England. There will be a lot of grieving hearts in Ninefields, Waltham Abbey and the Diocese of Chelmsford.
For me she was an icon of what Christian vocation is about. God was at the centre of her life and she reflected God’s love to others; she was selfless in her Christian service; she represented the Gospel and she did her utmost to lead people ‘safely to heaven’. There was nothing about her that was self-serving but there was a great deal about sacrifice.
Sometimes she felt the need to guide people with a certain toughness and forthright speech but kindness and gentleness were always flowing underneath.
She encouraged so many of us. For me, she was a true friend.
Her love of creation was evident in the photos she took of birds and nature and the short reflections she chose. During the first lock-down she posted extracts from the Psalms with thoughtful photos. Afterwards she began her ‘photo-tweets’ which became regular items on this blog.
Many of us enjoyed these. Her love of puffins became so obvious and she would often go to Northumbria and other places where puffins would greet her. We benefited from this.
Some also benefited from her booklets of reflections for the Advent & Christmas Season and for Lent & Easter. This Holy Week, she wrote a story based on the donkey of Palm Sunday which she dedicated to the children of Ninefields School, who all received a copy. I was hoping for more to come!
She had such a beautiful way of expressing the sometimes inexpressible.
Earlier this afternoon, my friend Lynn Hurry (who befriends the fox cubs, and takes the photos many of us enjoy!) wrote to me:
“Dear Joyce, Such a lovely soul. She noticed and rejoiced and glowed at so much beauty in this life… and boy will she be shocked and amazed at all she will see in heaven … she will be dying to share it all with Geoffrey for his blogs!”
The photo of the Puffin was taken a few weeks ago, but for some reason I held back from posting it. Its feet are firmly on rock but its face is turned in contemplation of something beyond and in the distance.
The quotation is from the poet, Rumi, love of whose poems Joyce and I shared.
Reading it I know now why I held the photo back.
Joyce lived a life that was balanced between earth and heaven and saw both as a reflection of God. Now she has let go of one to fully embrace the other.