Around 67 years ago, when I was five years old, I started school at the New Church School in Colchester, England. It was a small school, and there were just five of us in Class One. Colin, Ian, Brenda, Marian and myself. Our teacher that year, Hélène Howard, was the daughter of my grandmother’s best friend, Bertha.
Memories of so long ago are questionable, but one thing I think I may remember is being punished by Miss Hélène for something that Colin did. Or perhaps it was by Thelma Pike, Hélène’s successor at the school. Either way, it was Colin’s fault.
Many, many years later, perhaps around 35 years later, when I was pastor at the Church of the New Jerusalem in Glendale, Ohio, who should move to the area and join the congregation but Hélène! It was at that point that I came to get to know Hélène, know her beyond distant childhood memories or lack of memories.
So, a few thoughts about this wonderful woman, a woman who was not only a member of my congregation but who was also, occasionally, a babysitter for my children.
Hélène was not shy. She had her views and was quite capable of expressing them. She struck me not as one of those argumentative types, but as someone who cared about the truth and was passionate about the truth. What a lively mind!.
Everybody who knew Hélène, though, was struck mostly by her heart, a heart filled with kindness, generosity, and concern. I could give so many examples of her kindness and love. Let me though speak simply of two things that have touched my heart.
Earlier this year, Hélène and I were talking on the phone, and she described to me the way she and Gabrielle played Scrabble, something they did mostly every day. It was a cooperative rather than competitive game, and she would help her sister, Gabrielle, make her moves. In describing this to me, the love in her heart for Gabrielle came forth in the tone of her voice.
More recently, since Hélène’s graduation, I was speaking with a mutual friend in southeast Ohio. This friend misses Hélène so much because Hélène would regularly reach out to her with phone calls, letters, and even gifts. I do not know how many other people Hélène would reach out to in this way, but I suspect there were many.
Her heart was large. Her kindness and consideration were legendary. Hélène, we know you must be having a wonderful time up there in the other world, reaching out to others and touching their hearts. We miss you.