|Malcolm Armstrong 1935-2014
Gone fishing in Glory
Hello my dear big brother
It’s been almost 3 months since you were promoted to Glory, and beyond those pearly gates you’ll no doubt have been busy catching up with friends and family you haven’t seen for some time, probably over fish ‘n chips.
Oh, and as a surprise, I wrote to the cast of Coronation Street, reminding them how you haven’t missed a single episode, and got a letter back saying that you’ll probably by now be sitting in that snug in the sky, talking things over with Ena Sharples, Elsie Tanner, Jack Walker and Deidre Barlow.
As you will know, Deidre very recently died from cancer.
You may have to show her around the streets of gold, but you’ll like that.
Of course there’s the small matter of you doing your time on the naughty step, because of wrong choices you made here on planet earth, but that’s par for the course, because we all, like Nebuchadnezzar, have feet of clay. None of us, bar Jesus, are perfect. Experience the naughty step. Many of us, there and here, will cry with you.
“Je suis Malcolm ”
However, my dear brother you will have read in my blogs around the time of your promotion, that I reassured readers, and myself, that there’ll be no more tears in heaven, as your confusion in the last few years you spent on planet earth fades ever more into the distant past.
You and I both know that your clarity of thought diminished ever since your bereavement over Eileen’s death in July 2010 to the point when, a few months ago you fell asleep during one of my regular conversations with you on the phone.
Your progressive dementia, as is the case of everyone suffering from it, wasn’t nice to witness much of the time.
But since Eileen’s death confusion has been your reality. A reality that unfortunately awaits many of us. I quote below from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, when he describes what we see as like puzzling interpretations in a mirror.
He might have been diagnosing dementia.
That damned disease!
However, Malcolm you’ll remember that at our mother’s funeral I recounted the story of how when I was cleaning the leaded lights windows at her posh nursing home, and exerting a little more elbow grease than was necessary pushed a small pane of glass out.
“I can see clearly now” Mammy said in jubilation.
And just as she saw clearly then, I’m also sure that you can see very clearly now”
For the good book says:
“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.
All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”
One of the most meaningful pieces of scripture I ever read was composed by James, half-brother of Jesus.
He wrote “Be happy when things are tough, for only then do you grow.
You learn through the bad times.”
Malcolm, you had so many disappointments in your life that if James was correct then you should be as happy as Larry.
Let’s look at your life through this perspective.
Born into a poor mining family in South Yorkshire your job as a youngster was to cut cardboard Cornflake packets into the shape of the soles of your shoes, to slip them into the shows and limit the amount of rainwater wetting your socks.
You had a bath once a week in the metal bath hung on the kitchen wall.
There was a pecking order at bathtime.
Females bathed first, then, in the same bath water the youngest to the oldest male washed their mucky bodies.
As eldest son, by the time you had a bath you probably came out dirtier than you went in!
Another of your jobs was lavatory paper creation, when you cut newspapers into quarters, and drill a hole into each quarter’s top left hand corner, through which string would be threaded to hang on a nail in the lavatory wall.
But thankfully poverty doesn’t mean misery.
Just as money can’t buy me love as the Beatles sang
You were a very talented young man, who threw a ton of coal into our coalhouse quicker than anybody else on the street could throw into theirs.
In a different world it would have won you an Olympic Gold!
Perhaps in Glory it will…
Seriously Malcolm the most joyful I ever witnessed you to be was when Mo Farah crossed the finishing line to win the 5000 meters gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics.
You stood up, arms in the air and shouted “Yessss”.
You my beloved brother were one of the first children to have sat the 11+, and you failed it!
Research shows that the 11+ in its early years discriminated against working class children, who may not have been familiar with the middle class concepts embedded in exam verbiage, didn’t have books at home, and whose mothers tended to be less well educated.
But as an 11+ failure you were in the company of some very successful people who started as 11+failures:
Lord Carey, a man born a fortnight before you and who later became the Archbishop of Canterbury, the third most produced performed playwright in England (after Shakespeare and Alan Ayckbourn) John Godber, John Prescott, Tom Baker (Dr Who), Cliff Richard, Paul O’Grady, and the Bishop of Bath and Wells all failed this inadequate exam.
As I researched this Malcolm I discovered that John Godber was born only a couple of miles away from you, in Upton.
I’ve just been given your 1951 school report and although you have always to me been an athletics specialist I read that you were a free scoring centre forward and knowing that you have been a bald as a coot from your teens have put 2 and 2 together and reckon that when Bobby Charlton was selected for England’s world cup winning team in 1966 they really misread the scout’s notes that “baldy should be selected for the World Cup Final”, as it was you they really wanted.
But that was a might have been.
In the real world things got tougher for you.
Your first wife left you.
You lost not one but two children to violent accidental deaths.
And another child hasn’t seen you for years.
But stoically you survived these catastrophes.
Others would have crumbled, but you dug deep.
Malcolm, you’ll live on through the memories we have of you digging deep, and winning.
Great is your faithfulness to God, your friends and family.
As I said in one of my blogs, many who you left behind are very sad, but assured of your happiness.
Those of us who connected with you, my dear brother will need strength to carry on without you, and those who never could won’t even know what they’ve missed out on.
Ignorance can be bliss!
Enjoy your fishing.
After all the heartache you’ve experienced, you deserve to. Perhaps you’ll catch a fish for tea.
To the left, Uncle Charlie’s Granddaughter and Great Grandaughter, Jennifer and Emma Ducko sing and play the Lord’s Prayer.
Beautifully sung, and incomparable words.
Malcolm, my beautiful brother, your kingdom has now come.
Enjoy Glory, dear brother