I was doing a live Thought for the Day for Radio Ulster this morning at 6.55 and 7.55am, and one of the great fears when preparing something like this is that you go to sleep well-prepared but wake up the next morning to find that something major has happened which completely derails what you were going to say... Such as yesterday morning when I lurched into consciousness to the news of the death of former Taoiseach Dr. Garrett Fitzgerald.
This put a whole different perspective on recent events in Dublin, because there is no doubt that the signing the Anglo-Irish Agreement by him and Margaret Thatcher in 1985, set in train a process which eventually culminated in the momentous visit of the Queen to Ireland this week… Many said a very loud “No” to that Agreement at that time… But in the wake of the later Good Friday Agreement, the majority of people on this island have emphatically and repeatedly said “Yes” to the attempt to put the past behind us and find a way of working together to our mutual benefit… And the events of this week have powerfully symbolised that.
A number of years ago friends of mine went as mission workers to the high Himalayas… After trekking for days from civilisation they arrived in the area they were supposed to work in and were introduced to the local people… When asked where they came from, they said “Northern Ireland.” “Oh…” came the reply, “the place where Christians kill each other…”
What an epitaph!
Garrett Fitzgerald’s many eloquent epitaphs have emphasized his part in seeking to change that poor reputation of this country… But what about those of us in less influential positions? How will we be remembered?
Well, I am reminded of a single line in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, which we are studying together in our local church under the title of "New Beginnings." In chapter 4 of that letter Paul pleads with 2 members of the church there, “Euodia and Syntyche” to agree with each other… We know nothing else about these two people… indeed we’re not even sure whether we’ve got the first one’s name right or whether they were a he or she… all we know about them is that they didn't get on with each other…
But Paul also refers to someone he calls “Syzygus” or loyal “Yokefellow” asking him to intervene with these two quarrelsome colleagues and help them to work together…
What might my one-line epitaph be? Or yours? Someone always at odds with others, or a loyal yokefellow? Someone who always says no, or a worker for peace and reconciliation between people. A builder of new beginnings...
(An adaptation of my piece on "Good Morning Ulster" this morning. You should be able to hear it on the iplayer for the next week at around 26 and 86 minutes into the programme... I'll post the link when it's up...)