As a family, we recently had the joy of celebrating my parents’ Diamond Wedding anniversary. With their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, other family and friends, my parents enjoyed afternoon tea and sharing memories and stories from the past 60 years. As with all these events, a few words needed to be said and our elder sister rose magnificently to the occasion, honouring our parents and the legacy they had created in the lives of us all.
Words are very important in my family. We talk. A lot. Many are the visitors who have attended large Sunday family lunches and struggled to get a word in edgeways or keep up with the conversation that flows seamlessly from topic to topic without anyone apparently changing the subject – a special kind of shorthand which many families have. My children both work in roles where words are important, one is a songwriter and the other writes for this very magazine (note from the editor: I am the child my Mum is referring to here, editing her description of me – this is a very surreal moment).
But words are also important in the imprint they leave in the lives of others. Occasions like my parents’ anniversary make you reflect on your past, and one thing my sisters and I are always very aware of is that we had an immensely privileged life for which we will be eternally and whole heartedly grateful. It was not a life of money or material things but one rich in love, support, family experiences and lots of laughter. The one thing I remember above all else is a life filled with powerful words, and the actions that backed them up.
My Dad is a man of words, whereas my Mum is more of a doer. Growing up, it was my Dad who talked to his three daughters about the “Birds and the Bees” and answered any questions we threw at him. One thing he used to say to us has stayed with me more than anything else, resonating in my mind throughout my life. He would often say to the three of us: “There is nothing more important to me than spending time with my girls.” This was a powerful message to give to young children growing up. We knew that even though my parents worked full-time and led busy lives, we were their priority. Karen alluded to that in her speech when she said Dad would not take work that required him to work Saturdays, as that was time for family. He talked the talk but also walked the walk.
It is a challenge to all of us that we use our words wisely and carefully. Someone once said the tongue can be the most powerful muscle in the body; able to bring both joy and pain to those who hear the words it creates. Talk is cheap but not easily forgotten, and so we need to use our words carefully – only saying what we mean and meaning what we say. And as we approach this festive time of year, the power of our words is more potent than we realise. We fling around phrases such as “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year” but do we really think about what we are saying? Are we prepared to back up those well wishes with action? There are people in our lives for whom Christmas may not feel so “merry” this year, and we need to be ready to step up in love and act accordingly.
However, the part of the Nativity story that I love is told in Matthew’s gospel. He writes about how the birth of Jesus fulfils a prophecy: a baby would be born whose name is “Immanuel” which means “God with us.” Now there’s a word that was backed up with action. Just like my earthly father said he wanted to spend time with his children, and took the steps to back it up, God sent his son to show that he wanted to be with his children on earth. He not only said he loved us but sent Jesus as a physical sign of that love. This Christmas, let’s follow this ultimate example of backing up words with action, and remember that the nativity story is more than just words but a real and vital message for us all to hear.
Written by Rosalyn Satchell