By the time you read this, I will be at the funeral of a lady called Lylah Goodwin. It was not unexpected, but is not really less sad for that. Lylah was a lovely, witty, literary, very musical and devotedly Christian lady who lived in my old village (Eckington) for most of her 70+ years. She taught us the piano, and I have stayed in touch since. But Lylah Goodwin has a very special place in my heart and life for one especial reason – and it is one which may well have spilled over into your lives. For it was Lylah who first told me about Miss Hargreaves – which, I’m sure you know, is one of my favourite novels. She was so pleased when it was republished by the Bloomsbury Group, and reread it in its new incarnation. I will reread Miss Hargreaves many times, and will think of her every time.
Lylah was able to plan the readings and hymns she wanted, and today at the service I will be giving a reading which she chose:
1 Peter 1: 3-9 (NIV)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I won’t be reading this at the funeral, but this conversation between Norman and his father from Miss Hargreaves feels like a fitting tribute to a very special lady.
“An idea of mine,” he said. “Just an idea of mine. About sound. Go and strike a great fat arpeggio chord of D flat on the piano, boy.”
I went to the piano.
“Hold the loud pedal down,” he said. “Strike bass D flat – then A flat a fifth higher – then tenor F – and so on right up the piano to the highest F. Then sit still with your foot down on the loud pedal. Listen. You’ll understand something.”
I did as he commanded, very slowly and powerfully striking the notes, then sitting silently, the loud pedal down, and listening. Slowly, slowly the great chord trembled away into space. For nearly a minute we could hear it. It was hard to break the silent afterwards – a silence that was no longer a silence and never, never could be again.
“My Goodness!” I said.
“Hush!” whispered father. He stood at the window, looking out. “Still there,” he murmured. “Never dies, you know. Never dies. Going on, all round the world, my boy. You can’t cancel it. That’s my idea. You and your Miss Hargreaves – that chord, my tune. Mysteries, boy; all mysteries. Don’t be surprised at anything. When you understand what that chord does, you’ll be near to understanding everything.”