MARGARET NATALIE NEAUM
9th August 1952 — 23rd January 2009
St Augustine’s Anglican Church
Margaret Natalie Wood was born in South Africa, on the 9th of August, 1952 at Umtata, in the Transkei. Her father Geoffrey Wood was a “Transkei trader”, farmer and business man who spoke excellent Xhosa. Margaret’s first language was Xhosa, though she left it behind at an early age, retaining only an ability to surprise folk with fluent examples of that language’s difficult clicks when pronouncing place names. Margaret’s mother, Sonia, was a nurse who had emigrated from England after the second world war. At the time of her birth Margaret’s parents lived in the small Transkei town of Idutywa, not far from Nelson Mandela’s home territory. The family later moved to East London, a much larger coastal city in the Eastern Cape. She was her father’s only daughter and her mother’s only child. However, her father had four boys from a previous marriage and so she had four deeply admired and loved older half-brothers.
After leaving school Margaret enrolled in the Grahamstown Teacher Training College, at that time still run by Anglican nuns. There she played a full part in the life of the College, including it’s chapel, and continued to enjoy and play tennis and hockey very well. In 1973 she noticed a young man singing, after his fashion, in the Cathedral Choir. He was a theological student at the local Anglican seminary. Andrew and Margaret were married on the 19th of April 1975 in Andrew’s father’s church, St Mary’s Highlands.
In 1977, Andrew became Rector of Gatooma, eighty miles south west of Salisbury. There he and Margaret spent four eventful years. Peter was adopted, David born, and Margaret took to motherhood with an astonishing and creative flair that flowed over into the life of the parish in all sorts of ways. It was the beginning of an effective team ministry that was to characterise her whole married life.
These were difficult times in Rhodesia. The guerrilla war was growing more intense and vicious. The local countryside around Gatooma was under curfew evening and night, parts of the parish could only be visited in armed convoy and parishioners were sometimes wounded or even killed. Undaunted, Margaret lived life to the full, happy with her family to live the national crisis through to Mugabe’s accession. A year or so after this however, both she and Andrew were glad to leave Zimbabwe for the Island of St Helena, where for three happy years Margaret continued to play her part in the parish, kept geese, turkeys, ducks and hens for meat and eggs, worked miracles with fish, supplemented the boys schooling in many inventive ways and gave birth to Elizabeth.
In 1985, after a brief sojourn in Bournemouth, the family moved to Australia where she arrived heavily pregnant with Rachel. Their first parish was Skipton for four years, followed by six years at Ararat, during which time she visited South Africa to nurse her dying mother for three months. The family’s next move was to the diocese of Wangaratta and the parish of Wodonga for eight good years, and then finally to Shepparton for the remaining five years of her life.
A PERSONAL REFLECTION
Margaret was the most fearless and therefore useful critic of anything I ever wrote. When we were first married she heard all my sermons several times before I preached them and all articles, in being proof read by her, were subject, as necessary, to either caustic criticism or enthusiastic commendation. These few more personal comments are made with her imagined as still looking over my shoulder and so I hope are characterised more by her sweet restraint and honesty than by mine. Certainly she would not wish me to descend into the mawkish exaggerations and untruths of sentimentality.
In the thirty two years of our marriage we grew to be very close and were exceedingly comfortable and easy together, almost intensely so during the last two years since the diagnosis of her illness. My indebtedness to the local Goulburn Valley Hospice Service is enormous. Their lovely nurses enabled me and my daughters to care adequately for Margaret at home and made it possible for her to die in her own bed. Their confidence and prior advice allowed us the great privilege of laying out and preparing her body, a great solace and even joy.
Margaret was an enormously gifted wife and mother. Once the children arrived they revealed in her a profound maternal wisdom, boundless commonsense and indefatigable energy. This was the first really great surprise for me in our marriage. Where did it all come from? I do not know, it was simply there.
She was also painstakingly meticulous and imaginative at all sorts and kinds of craft work, as well as being an excellent teacher and hugely proficient at all forms of needlework. All these skills were at the disposal of her family, her church and her friends and she proved to be little short of brilliant with Sunday Schools and children’s groups.
Perhaps her greatest love was needlework. One of her very earliest ecclesiastical achievements was to adorn a new Bishop of Matabeleland’s flamboyant, spinnaker-sized mitre with semi-precious stones. Another was to make a festal chasuble for St Mary’s Church Highlands. She made my robes, my shirts, my shorts, even the jacket I am likely to be wearing for her funeral, if it is not too hideously hot. She made and delighted to make, almost all the garments the children wore, until late-teen fashion-consciousness caused them sometimes to look elsewhere. Her first and only granddaughter, a bonus of unutterable joy in her terminal illness, has been made all sorts of lovely garments, not least her christening gown. A half-finished, little smocked dress remains on Margaret’s sewing table.
We have a print of a Hans Heysen painting on our sitting room wall. It is a picture of the artist’s wife from behind. It shows her sitting at her sewing machine in front of a window through which the sunlight streams. To me it is a celebration of the sunlit grace that is domesticity, of the sweet sanity of hearth and home and of the soul-satisfying peace of the maternal and familiar. By epitomising all of this and ensuring that it was a lovely and constant foundation to my life, she helped restore, reassure and rebuild me whenever I found myself floundering.
No tribute to Margaret should end without reference to her faith. Born into the Anglican church, her faith appears always to have been strong, sure and rather less complicated than my own, though not at all evasive of difficult questions and hard answers. For example, for the last few years we have almost every night said together the evening office called “Compline” before going to sleep. Latterly she preferred us not to say that wonderful psalm of reassurance, number 91, because it’s confidence in God’s protection from “the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence” and its promise of protection from “terror by night”, “arrow by day”, and from “pestilence and sickness”, didn’t chime with what was happening to her physically. A wonderful thing about the Christian narrative which shaped her life and which shapes mine, is that to work its wonders, our own personal story or biography has to be deliberately and imaginatively fitted into it. Psalm 91 jarred with her story. We needed to go together to Gethsemane to find the right, parallel narrative strand to walk, and from which to shape the storyline of the last little chapter of her life.
Accepting the enemy in order to befriend him, turning the other cheek so as to invite a kiss instead of the more predictable fist, embracing the leper in order to heal him, were Gospel imperatives more relevant to her story at this time. Rather than resistance, resentment and anger at her cancer they invited the grace of acceptance. This in the Christian tradition opens the door to all sorts of blessings, though not always that of healing. Her illness certainly became for all of us closely involved with her, as well as to herself, a means of grace, a “severe mercy”, good out of evil, a manifestation of the Gospel’s crux, resurrection from crucifixion.
In her very last days, when she could no longer say compline with me, I recited it to her each night. Like our tradition’s great evening hymns, it proved to be marvellously appropriate as death loomed ever nearer. The version we use begins: “The Lord almighty grant us a quiet night and a perfect end.” In the middle are the heart-stoppingly poignant and reiterated responses taken from the mouth of Jesus on the cross: “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit......” four times. It ends: “Abide with us, Lord Jesus, for the night is at hand and the day is now past. As the night watch looks for the morning, so do we look for you, O Christ. The Lord bless us and watch over us; the Lord make his face shine upon us and gracious to us. The Lord look kindly on us and give peace.”
The Lord gave her an all but “perfect end.” Now, “as the night watch looks for the morning, so do we .....”
Please stand when the bell rings. The Bishop enters and
declaims the Sentences, short passages from Scripture.
‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ says the Lord. ‘Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.’ John 11.25,26
I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8.38,39
Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. So we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4.14,17,18
We brought nothing into the world, and we take nothing out. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
1 Timothy 6.7; Job 1.21b
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is his faithfulness. Lamentations 3.22,23
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5.4
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. John 3.16
In the name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. And also with you.
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
To prepare ourselves for this celebration of God’s love, let us call to mind our sins: Lord Jesus, you raise the dead to life in the Spirit: Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you bring forgiveness and peace to sinners: Christ have mercy. Christ have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you bring light to those in the darkness of grief: Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.
May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
Almighty God, to whom no prayer is ever made without hope of your compassion; be gracious to the soul of your departed servant Margaret Neaum. Grant her a place of refreshment, light and peace in the mystery of your presence and grant her resurrection through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
The First Reading: Psalm 139:1-11
O Lord, thou hast searched me out, and known me. Thou knowest my down-sitting, and mine uprising; thou understandest my thoughts long before. Thou art about my path, and about my bed; and art acquainted with all my ways. For lo, there is not a word in my tongue, but thou, O Lord, knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful and excellent for me; I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go then from thy Spirit? or whither shall I go then from thy presence? If I climb up into heaven, thou art there; if I go down to hell, thou art there also. If I take the wings of the morning, and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there also shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Peradventure the darkness shall cover me; then shall my night be turned to day. Yea, the darkness is no darkness with thee, but the night is as clear as the day; the darkness and light to thee are both alike. For the Word of the Lord, thanks be to God
The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.
We thank Thee that Thy church, unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.
As o’er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.
The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren ’neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.
So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.
The Holy Gospel
The Lord be with you,
and also with you.
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St John
Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
For the Gospel of the Lord....Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ
The Bishop of Wangaratta
God of mercy, Lord of life, you have made us in your image to reflect your truth and light: we give you thanks for Margaret Neaum, for the grace and mercy she received from you, for all that was good in her life, for the memories we treasure today. Especially we thank you for her gifts as wife, mother and teacher, for the part she played in the ministry of her husband and the life of his parishes and for her quiet, courageous and effective witness to your love in the acceptance of her terminal illness.
( Silence) Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
You promised eternal life to those who believe. Remember for good this your servant Margaret as we also remember her. Bring all who rest in Christ into the fullness of your kingdom where sins have been forgiven and death is no more.
( Silence) Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Your mighty power brings joy out of grief and life out of death. Look in mercy on Margaret and all who mourn, especially Andrew; Peter; David and Rachel; Elizabeth, Nathan and Meg; Rachel and all who dearly loved her. Give to all who mourn courage, acceptance and patient faith in times of darkness. Strengthen them with the knowledge of your love.
( Silence) Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
You are tender towards your children and your mercy is over all your works. Heal any memories of hurt and failure. Give us the wisdom and grace to use aright the time that is left to us here on earth, to turn to Christ and follow in his steps in the way that leads to everlasting life.
( Silence) Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Almighty God, you have promised to hear our prayers. Grant that what we have asked in faith we may by your grace receive, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
THE LITURGY OF THE SACRAMENT
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, & earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
Prayer Over the Gifts
Lord receive the gifts of bread and wine we offer for the salvation of Margaret Neaum. May Christ be merciful in judging her, for she believed in and loved Christ as her Lord and Saviour. Amen.
The Great Thanksgiving Prayer
The Lord be with you,
and also with you.
Lift up your hearts,
we lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,
it is right to give him thanks and praise.
Blessed are you gracious God, creator of heaven and earth, giver of life, and conqueror of death. By his death on the cross, your Son Jesus Christ offered the one true sacrifice for sin, breaking the power of evil and putting death to flight. Through his resurrection from the dead you have given us new birth into a living hope, into an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. The joy of resurrection fills the universe, and so we join with angels and archangels with Margaret Neaum, her friends, loved ones and all your faithful people, evermore praising you and saying:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
Merciful God, we thank you for these gifts of your creation, this bread and wine, and we pray that by your Word and Holy Spirit, we who eat and drink them may be partakers of Christ’s body and blood. On the night he was betrayed Jesus took bread; and when he had given you thanks he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take, eat. This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. After supper, he took the cup, and again giving you thanks he gave it to his disciples, saying, “Drink from this, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.
Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.
Therefore with thanksgiving for the gift of your Son we here proclaim his passion and death, and his victory over the grave. Renew us by your Holy Spirit, unite us in the body of your Son and bring us with Margaret and all your faithful people into the joy of your eternal kingdom; with whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord, we offer our prayer and praise:
Blessing and honour and glory and power are yours for ever and ever. Amen
As our Saviour Christ has taught us, we are confident to say:
Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation: but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD AND COMMUNION
We who are many are one body in Christ,
For we all share in the one bread.
O Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, grant them rest. O Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, grant them rest. O Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, grant them eternal rest.
Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper. Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.
Those who wish to receive Holy Communion please come forward. Communicant members of other denominations are welcome to receive the sacrament with us.
POST COMMUNION PRAYERS
May eternal light shine on our departed, O Lord, with all your saints for ever, for you are rich in mercy.
Give them eternal rest, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine on them for ever, for you are rich in mercy.
Lord of life and death, we thank you that in your great love you have given us this foretaste of the heavenly banquet prepared for all your saints. Grant that this sacrament of Christ’s death may be to us a comfort in affliction, a firm assurance of his resurrection, and a pledge of our inheritance in that kingdom where death and sorrow are no more and all things are made new. May our sister Margaret who shared in the Eucharist, come to the banquet of life Christ has prepared for us all. Amen.
Praise the Lord! ye heavens, adore him;
Praise him, angels, in the height;
Sun and moon, rejoice before him,
Praise him, all ye stars and light.
Praise the Lord! for he hath spoken;
Worlds his mighty voice obeyed:
Laws, which never shall be broken,
For their guidance he hath made.
Praise the Lord! for he is glorious;
Never shall his promise fail:
God hath made his saints victorious;
Sin and death shall not prevail.
Praise the God of our salvation;
Hosts on high his power proclaim;
Heaven and earth and all creation,
laud and magnify his name!
PRAYERS OF COMMENDATION AND COMMITTAL
To you, Lord, we commend the soul of your servant Margaret, that dying to the world, she may live to you, and whatever sins she has committed by the frailty of earthly life, we ask you to block out by your most loving and merciful forgiveness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
In the waters of baptism we died with Christ, and began to walk in newness of life. May we, with Margaret and all the baptised, be brought to the fulfilment of your eternal kingdom. Amen.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, you have given us a sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life; in your keeping are all those who have departed in Christ; we here commit the body of our dear Margaret to be cremated, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died, and was buried, and rose again for us, and who shall change our mortal body that it may be like his glorious body. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Go forth Margaret on your journey from this world, in the name of God the Father who created you, in the name of God the Son who suffered for you, in the name of God the Holy Spirit who strengthens you, in communion with all the saints and aided by angels and archangels and all the heavenly host. May your portion this day be in peace and your dwelling in the heavenly Jerusalem. Amen.
Rest eternal grant to her Lord
And may light perpetual shine upon her.
In his great love, the God of all consolation gave to humankind the gift of life. May he bless us with faith in the resurrection of his Son, and with the hope of rising to new life. May he grant to us who live forgiveness, and to those who have died a place of light and peace. As we believe that Jesus rose from the dead, so may we live with him forever in joy; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with you all now and forever. Amen.
It was Margaret’s wish that at her funeral she be piped from her parish church.
The committal having taken place in church, the cremation is entirely private. Margaret’s ashes will be laid to rest in St Augustine’s lovely Memorial Garden in the near future. All are welcome to refreshments in the Parish Hall once the hearse departs. Many thanks for your attendance, support and love.
under a shower
of bird notes.
Fifty years passed,
in a world in
Servitude to time.
She was young:
I kissed with my eyes
closed and opened
them on her wrinkles.
‘Come,’ said death,
choosing her as his
the last dance. And she,
who in life
had done everything
with a bird’s grace,
opened her bill now
for the shedding
of one sigh no
heavier than a feather.
R. S. Thomas