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Farewell to our Son

Toby left us suddenly at the end of August. It was unexpected, to him as well as to us, but the peaceful manner was a blessing. He suffered in life, but was embraced in death by the love and compassion he generated. We farewelled him with ritual and music. This was my tribute:


So many of the lovely and heartfelt messages we have received for Toby included being ‘unable to find the words to express...’ or ‘I don’t know what to say…’. As I gathered myself to think how to honour Toby, I found myself also lost for words. I was his advocate in many situations when he could not best represent himself. I must now do it again.

How to sum up a Toby?

 I always felt that Toby’s life was a mystery, one which I didn’t understand.

That it was a pointer to some mystery beyond him---his hidden suffering—not evident except in its effects—on him—on us—with no means of resolution…

But I have a memory of a little fellow going off to a scout camp. Toby was small for his age back then and this was a big adventure. And it rained—the whole week it rained, practically without stopping, and we were wondering how he was surviving. As it turned out, many others did not cope well, and some of the children were picked up half way through by their parents. But Toby stuck it out. When we finally went to collect him, I spoke to the Scoutmaster, who was genuinely full of admiration. Toby had tried every activity, and even compelled his small frame to master the monkey-bars, which few others managed.

 “Toby”, he said, “has the body of a cricket and the heart of a lion”.

I was proud then, and I still am, because he carried the essence of that struggle through his life:—the body one way, the heart another, and the difficulty of reconciling them. 

But resolution has come— a full circle— that circle described in ancient texts as “infinite”:

“An infinite sphere whose centre is everywhere and its circumference nowhere”.

We could find neither the centre nor the circumference of Toby, and I think neither could he. The rest of us set boundaries around ourselves and identify with all kinds of ‘centres’ for life and living, but Toby just couldn’t do it. That was his life-challenge, and perhaps his uniqueness. He remained true to his name: -- the Hebrew root of Toby is tob, which means ‘good’.

A being of light and dark, his grey eyes gazing at nothing in the garden for hours and hours, very still, or pacing round and round when his feet could stand it. But I think, recently he reached some resolution: —acceptance of ‘this is how it is’.  And so, he passed on, peacefully.

But his passing has affected many people, and I want it to be a tribute to the forces which brought him into being, and to that which is never born nor does it die, whatever name we give it.


To conclude I will read lines which, framed on our wall, Toby knew well; quoted in the King’s Christmas broadcast 1939, in the dark days of war:

“ And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown!

And he replied: Go out into the darkness and put thine hand into the hand of God.

That shall be to thee better than light and safer than a known way.”


I think Toby’s hand was never far from the hand of God.


 And now let us listen to some ‘music of the spheres’…....


(J.S. Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier: Book 1, BWV 846-869 - 1. Prelude in C Major, BWV 846)



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These musings are responses to a context, a time, a place, a query. Another time, another context. An angle slightly different, a different response, perhaps seemingly in contradiction.

But Truth is present if it resonates truthfully, and in the process should generate more questions...

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