I dedicate my song today to my wife’s parents, Peter and Elizabeth Williams, both of whom are deceased. Today is the heavenly anniversary of Dad Williams’ 99th birthday. Today is also the heavenly wedding anniversary of Dad and Mum Williams. The couple got married on Dad Williams’ 34th birthday.
In addition to the heavenly birthday and wedding anniversary of Sheila’s parents today, we wish a happy birthday to four birthday celebrants. We wish happy birthday to Jane Anne Sheridan who lives in Las Vegas, Nevada: Agnes Quinn who lives in Carrick-on-Suir, Tipperary: John Hickey who also lives in Carrick-on-Suir, Tipperary: and my friend, Silvija Klova who lives in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Have a lovely birthday, Anne, Agnes, John, and Silvija, and enjoy your special day.
Being a Christian is to believe that as the Creator, God is the cause of all our lives. If God is the cause, there are no coincidences, and it is choice, not chance that determines one’s destiny. Let me share some strange facts with you today that suggests that some marriages are made in heaven. I have always believed that we are destined to meet certain people in our lives at certain times of our lives and that stars collide in the galaxy at specific moments in time.
When Sheila and I married, I chose to marry on my 70th birthday. At the time of choosing to marry on my birthday, I was not aware that Sheila’s father and mother had also got married on the birthday of the groom. My own mother’s birth is officially recorded on the 24th, January 1922 but she told always told her children that her parents had recorded her birth wrongly and that she had been born on 26th, January 1922, and not the 24th. Nevertheless, my mother continued to celebrate her birthday throughout her life on January 24th but always reminded us two days later, ‘today is my proper birthday’. Initially, we joked that because she just wanted more presents, she decided to have two birthdays! In later years, my Uncle Tom (mum's youngest brother) confirmed that mum was born on January 26th, 1922.
Sheila’s father was born on January 26th, 1922, the same day as my mother said should have been her official birthday. Sheila’s mother was born in the Portuguese colony of Macau and her parents were Chinese. The Chinese culture leads to many Chinese who follow the Lunar Calendar to celebrate their Chinese birthday as well as, and sometimes instead of, their Solar Calendar birthday. Sheila’s mother chose to celebrate two birthdays, just like my mother did.
I shall conclude my course of destiny choices with one more pair of facts. I have loved four women in my life. Two of them had birthdays on the same day of the year though they were born five years apart. The two greatest loves of my life were my first love; a young woman called Jenny who I dated in Canada when I was 21 years old, and the last love of my life, my wife Sheila who I met at the age of 68 years when the last thing I was looking for was love and marriage. Although born in different years, both Jenny and Sheila celebrate the same birthday, November 29th. When I met my wife Sheila, she would spend half her days studying astrology, and naturally, she believes that there are times when things are meant to happen, and the part we humans play in our own destinies is through the choices we make and not the chances we encounter.
My song today is ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ This song was originally released as a single credited to Frankie Valli as a solo artist in 1965 but was more successful when recorded by ‘The Walker Brothers’ in 1966. It topped the ‘UK Singles Chart’, and it also became their highest charting song on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ chart in the U.S., where it peaked at Number 13. The single also hit the Top 10 in Canada, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Norway. The Walker Brothers' version has since garnered retrospective critical acclaim and is considered the group's signature song. NME ranked the song at Number 357 on its list of the ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’, Pitchfork ranked it at Number 187 on its list of ‘The 200 Best Songs of the 1960S’, and it is listed in the 2010 book ‘1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die’.
I have lived on this earth 78 years now and I cannot remember a year previously that has been as wet and as damp and as dreary and as scary as the one we have just had in 2020. The pandemic virus, Covid-19 could not have picked a more suitable year to thrive in. The cold, damp and protracted miserable weather has provided a perfect climate cloak for this pernicious Covid-19 virus to do its worse and kill off as many innocents as it can!
Not only has the poor weather and this pandemic virus adversely affected the nation’s mood, the scarcity of clear skies, the desertion of dry days, allied to the total absence of the smallest chink of sunshine peeping through dark clouds has generally made the entire country feel like staying indoors and never showing their faces again! As I write, parts of the country are covered by snow, and parts are stricken with continuous floods.
I heard a young boy aged around four ask his mother as he passed the front window of our house the other day, “Mum, when is the sun coming out to play again?” Under more normal circumstances, it would be usual for the boy’s mother to have provided her son with some warm motherly reply, but sadly she did not say anything that answered the lad’s innocent question. Instead, she merely muttered beneath her breath, “You tell me, son? You tell me!”
God only knows what that poor woman has had to put up with over this past year, and I cannot begin to imagine the year of unanswered questions her young son has had to face in lockdown for a larger part of it? Childhood is meant to be the happiest and most inquisitive time of one’s life, when the favourite question on the tongue of every child to their mother begins with the word “Why….?” and when every motherly reply suggests, “Ask your father when he gets back home!” I can tell you for nothing that no Yorkshire dad is likely to be stumped at the wicket by a tricky question from his son. If the boy happens to see a pregnant woman, and after being told she has a fat belly because there’s a baby inside her then proceeds to asks his father the next inevitable question, “But Dad, how…how does the baby get out?” In this situation, Dad will answer his boy’s question with a straight bat and simply reply, “the same way it got in, I expect!”
Imagine any four-year-old boy having lost one-quarter of his life to press, living in a house of mounting worries and constant fear, with no fun to be had and fewer ice-creams and playing on swings in the park? Imagine a four-year-old witnessing worried parents each time another bill has popped through the letterbox, or seeing mum crying when she hasn’t hurt herself or hearing mum and dad shouting at each other about one of them spending too much on this and that when they haven’t enough money to eat properly? Imagine such a young boy hearing that dad has lost his job and has no chance of getting another one this year? Imagine having to move home, change schools and lose one’s friends because the bank has foreclosed when the mortgage went into arrears? Imagine being a young boy whose unhappy parents make him feel sad and frightened, instead of safe and happy like they did last year? Imagine a four-year-old child having one whole year of happiness, exploration, excitement, learning, and fun took from their experience, and being replaced instead with unhappier times where mum and dad are no longer the smiling mum and dad he used to have?
We have all lost something during the past pandemic year, and however much of it we are able to recover, things will never be quite the same again for any of us, Some of us have lost our jobs, some of our marriages, our homes, and our businesses, and all those important things in life which offer us stability. Sadly, some of us have lost someone we love and have been unable to be with them and comfort them as they died. Then, to add hurt to injury, bereaved people have been unable to provide a proper send-off for their loved ones on their funeral days. There have been so much that we have missed out on, so many important things in our lives that we have taken for granted for so long; things that none of us shall ever take for granted again when these dark clouds have passed over, as they shall. From all our loss, the loss of hope impairs us walking into the future in confident stride.
However old any adult is, at best, this past year had been a washout and a write-off. It has seemed to be a wasted year. Never forget that what has been one year for you has been no less than one-quarter of your 4-year-old child’s life. The past year of 2020 will only have been a total ‘wash out’ and a completely wasted year if we do not learn anything from it, and the experiences we have each endured in different measure are forgotten and have been to no avail!
So even though we have all thought over the past twelve months that ‘the sun ain’t gonna shine anymore’, please believe me when I forecast with certainty that it will! God willing, that four-year-old boy who recently passed my house window, shall see sunshine again. He shall see the daffodils of spring in the hedgerows of the country lanes pop their heads up through the long grass, and he will watch the new-born lambs run and prance around the green fields. He shall swing back and forth in the park playground, kick a ball around the garden, stroke the scaly skin of a captured frog, and splash in puddles, make sandcastles on the beach, kick the piles of autumn leaves on the woodland floor, throw snowballs and make a snowman, and be pulled along on a sledge by dad. The seasons of the coming year may still be stretched a bit farther over the next twelve months, but he can bank on Christmas, 2021. That Christmas experience will probably be the best Christmas ever in the life of a five-year-old child.
While the country and the world have gone through so much over the past year, there is so much to look forward to during the coming years. Just as the past year represents one-quarter of that four-year-old’s life, in terms of the life of the universe, it represents no more than a moment in time when the sun stopped shining down on us.
Love and peace