I cant remember who said it, but apparently there are two ways to live your life, as if nothing is a miracle or as if everything is a miracle.

Our miracle

You may at this point be convinced that I was brought up in a religious family.  Nope!  You would be wrong if you thought as children we went to church, nope!  You would be wrong to make any assumptions about me having any kind of influential God parents or Christian guardians or close family with a practiced faith when I was a child, I did not.  But we did have an abundance of LOVE and much hope.  However Mum and Dad always said "Nun Night God Bless".

Any spirituality which I have discovered, is self seeded and organic and home-grown.  I have always loved Mother Nature as far back as I can remember.  I have forever been according to others an ‘insatiable romantic’.  I have forever been ‘away with the faeries’ and forever been ‘on planet Amber’  I cant agree or disagree with this,  I just see the world through my eyes.  I just am me.

There have been some things which have happened in my life which are completely unexplainable~unbelievably co-incidental, pure magical moments which have touched and amazed me beyond all reasoning.  And now I have a faith.

Therefore I record ‘my life’s little book of miracles’ and when my faith is at a low ebb I take a restorative peep back.

For my seventh birthday my Aunt and uncle brought me a boxed children’s living bible which had some lovely illustrations in it and all the pages had a beautiful blue edge to them.

When my daughter was six, she asked if she could look at the book in the box.  I took it off the shelf and showed her and told her how special it was and she asked if she could have it.

I said to my daughter that when I was an old lady I would pass it on to her, and that in the mean time I would look around for a special one that she could keep as her own.

She was clearly disappointed.  So I decided to buy her a bible for her birthday but didn’t expect to find one like mine.

A few days later I was walking through our little town past the charity shop, when to my horror I saw my boxed bible in the window. 

It’s a constant process in our house with 5 children, of having a charity shop bag hanging on the front door for anything that anybody doesn’t want. Clothes that are too small etc.  When the bag is full whoever is passing pops it in to the shop.

So you can imagine my horror when I realized somebody had put my very special boxed bible in the bag and dropped it off at the charity shop.

I rushed straight in to buy it back, but when inside I checked the inscription in the front cover, it was not my bible but had belonged to somebody else.

I quickly bought it.  Went home and made an inscription on my computer to go inside the front cover, and presented it to my daughter on her seventh birthday, just like twenty seven years earlier when on my seventh birthday I was given my special copy.

I was on holiday in the Roseland peninsular Cornwall with my husband and children when my lovely Daddy was taken poorly.  He had been feeling rough for a few weeks and I phoned my parents house daily to see how dad was doing.

One early morning I got up and went on the breath taking dog walk along the cliff tops from Froe towards Porthscatho.  About ¾ of the way there I decided to climb down some rocks and sit watching the sea and the rising hot sunshine, sheltered from the path by the cliff tops.

I cant really explain what I saw in my quite stillness whilst contemplating life, feeling desperately tearful and sad about Dad being poorly, looking toward the golden rising hot sun. 

Except that I have a memory of the sun through my tears elongating and forming a shape almost like the statue of liberty. Radiating and full of glory and sending off some kind of all encompassing comfort and understanding.

This experience has stayed with me vividly to this day.

Dad had been ill for about four weeks before being admitted to hospital for tests.  By this stage he really was very poorly.  For most of his two week stay, nobody seamed to know what the problem was.

It was after the first week of Dads hospital stay, when I went on the long dog walk off the beaten track up out of the town, through a little copse,  down towards the sea and back along
The old disused railway line, along the marsh and back down the sea front to head home.  It takes about 1 ¼ hours.

When I got in to the copse there was a carpet of the beautifulist, brilliantist, brightest, most perfect blue, blue bells, off set by the most intense emerald green foliage.

Whilst walking, I visualised Dad walking in to the middle of this beautiful woods with me.   It was very emotional, and even though I did’nt want to leave him there, He was staying right in the middle of the carpet of blue bells.  The only way for me to get home was to keep on walking through that woods and out the other side, and so I had to leave Dad there and come out alone, in order to go back to my young family.

In case you are wondering, I don’t usually visualise things.  I don’t know to this day why those pictures were so very real and clear and strong in my mind, or where they came from.  Maybe it was me emotionally letting go, I don’t know.  But at this point they were still running tests on Dad and hadn’t established what was wrong.

Over the two weeks that Dad was in hospital, I was to drive at different times along the same route for the 1 ½ hour journey.  This particular night, knowing that there was nothing else the doctors could do for my Dad, my husband drove me to the hospital.

Accompanying us along the journey, for most of the way, was the most beautifully awesome huge burnt reddy amber sun (one of the most biggest and most beautiful suns setting that I have ever seen)  I followed that sun setting for most of the journey watching it grow lower and lower.

I thought about it being like Dads life setting for the last time.  I desperately didn’t want that giant beautiful sunset to go out of sight.  It was truly AWESONE.  But just as we turned the corner I saw it disappear, and at that very moment as I looked up there was a road sign which said ‘Hope End’.  And I knew at this point with my whole heart that this was the end of Dads life.

That was Dads last ever sunset, he died the following afternoon.

When Dad was in hospital, nobody knew exactly how long he had left in our world, only that his life, at this now critical stage, could not be saved by the doctors.  For two weeks we had all been visiting Dad at random times.  Everybody was tired.  Dad was in his own little room and  Mum had been sleeping in the chair next to Dads bed.

Minutes before he had died I prayed, (not something that I usually did back then).  I was sitting next to Dads bed.  I put my head down touching the bed, shut my eyes tight and clenched my hands tightly together.  Then in my head I said “Please God, if you are going to take my Daddy, please take him quickly.  I don’t want him to go on and on, dying and dying for a long time in pain”.

Dad took his last breath shortly after my prayer.  The time of death recorded was 3.10 pm.  I was holding his hand.  The power of that prayer and the timing of Dads death were uncanny.

When your loved ones die in Harlow hospital, they bring you in a pot of tea, in lovely white china.  Everyone came back to the hospital to say there goodbyes.

We were sad, but there was lots of Love and laughter all around in that room too.  Dads body felt empty, but it deffinately felt like he was still in that room with us.  We stayed in the hospital with Dad until around 4.30  in the afternoon.  When we were leaving I felt compelled to thank Dads favourite nurses out loud.  It felt as though Dad was watching us.

When we got back to the car park where the cars had been all day long, the parking tickets had expired.  Ronnie a close family friend who had been with us all day, was amazed when she looked at her expired ticket and it recorded exactly the same time that Dad had died.

She gave me the parking ticket, which I have kept in a safe place, It miraculously said

                                                          Departure Time
                                                        Thu May 12th 2005.
                                                               15.10 pm

Its nice to know that Dad hasn’t expired, but that he has just departed from this life as we know it.

By Kathleen M Garwood
(first printed in the parish newsletter of 22 September 1968 and reproduced in the parish newsletter of 11 August 1974)

There was no Mass in Brightlingsea till about 1904 or 1905. About this time Mrs Baldwin (my grandmother) came to live in Brightlingsea and was shocked to learn that there was no church or any means of going to Mass in the town. There was no bus; the only means of getting to Colchester was by train and that did not run on Sundays. So she went to Colchester and saw Canon Bloomfield, who told her he was not responsible for Brightlingsea as it came under Clacton parish. She did not know anyone there and was so indignant to hear this that she decided to have Mass in her own front room if the Canon allowed it and supplied a priest. Which he did, so it was held once a month in the summer and once in three months in the winter. The priest cycled from and to Colchester in the morning. Mass was at 8 am. Sometimes he came at night and stayed at the Royal Hotel (which is now closed) or at the Swan Hotel. The congregation varied from six to twelve. To get to our Easter and Christmas duties, we used to have a taxi to take us to Colchester.

During the First World War, Mass was held in the New Church School room, Queen Street, on Sundays; the priest being provided by the Army which was stationed here on the Recreation Ground and billeted in various houses. One we remember so well was a Father Murphy (Australian Forces). After the war, we were able to get to Colchester by train or bus but these did not run very frequently. Mass was still held at 73, Sydney Street until 1935. The priests who first came down were Canon Bloomfield, Father (later Canon) Clarke, later on Father Basil Pearson and Father (now Canon) Francis Dobson.
After this, Mass was held in various houses. In 1939, Mass was again held in the New Church School room which was a Navy Club; the priests again being Army Chaplains. After the club was closed down, Mass was held in the old YMCA from about 1945 to 1949. From there, we went to the new YMCA in the High Street and were there nearly twelve years; the priests coming from Colchester again. We often made a collection to pay for the taxi that brought him. We had one midnight Mass and Canon Manning told us it was the first time it had been said in Brightlingsea for four hundred years.
Fr Stewart Foster, the Diocesan Archivist adds: 'The present Church of St Sabina was opened on 20 December 1958. The first resident priest - Fr Christopher Nigel Collingwood - came to Brightlingsea in July 1964 and the Parish was canonically erected the same year.'

Amazingly I only just discovered this in 2010.  But 73 Sydney Street was the delapidated and beautiful home that God provided for me and my children, which I brought and renovated after my first marriage broke down.  He was personally keeping me under his wing all along.  I lived in the home where Catholic Mass in Brightlingsea was first celebrated when there was nowhere else to celebrate it.  AMAZING.  And only 4 years later I would be drawn toward the Catholic faith without realising the former connection x  Miracle x