Last week, a very dear friend of mine died suddenly and unexpectedly. Although we had been friends for only a relatively short period of time, I have found my grief to be significant; perhaps because our daughters played together and this reinforced my own vulnerability, or perhaps because my friend was a remarkable and very unusual person. She was also a convert to Judaism, and while I honour Judaism enormously and have often been enriched by its wisdom and traditions, it left me a little at a loss as to how best to honour her in a way which was fitting for her and yet authentic for me.
And then I found these words in her eulogy, which was emailed to me since I could not be at the funeral. In describing her relationships with others, her partner said:
“Jenny Green helped so many people live more fully. If each person is made in the image of Gd, then Jenny – at her best – was the archaeologist, the conservator, the restorer; who recognised the worn imprint of Gd for what it was, identified its flaws and its distinctions, and with sharp energy and confidence brought its colours out to their full brightness… As a student and teacher of the Crusades, Jenny adopted its motto, and would tattoo it on the whiteboard before each class. Deus lo volt. Gd wills it… She believed strongly in seeking out purpose and marching with raised voice, in spite of adversity, to fulfil that purpose.”
Here is the point at which I can find a way to honour her memory which is both fitting and authentic. I, too, believe that every human being is made in the image of God. And if there is one thing about which I can be confident that God wills it – amidst the many bad and dangerous claims of that nature – it is that every human being should experience absolute fullness of life. I do not know whether Jenny ever discovered Irenaeus’ saying that “The glory of God is a human person fully alive,” but it has become something of a theological touchstone for me, and an enormous part of how I understand what I have committed myself to as a priest.
That each person should be fully alive. I can recommit myself to that, knowing that in living this way – although in my own way – I can honour the memory of an extraordinary woman, as well as being confident that I am working for something which God truly wills.
Deus Lo Volt – so who am I to seek anything less?