Twenty years ago this year we moved our family back to Queensland, this time just creeping over the border to Ipswich rather than living in the far north which was almost like moving to another country altogether. A highlight for me was to be working with the F-111 bomber aircraft at 6 SQN. But an even more enduring highlight over the last twenty years was the friendship offered to us by the Stark family. We arrived in a new parish on the Sunday morning having dusted off the kids from a few days in a motel and landed unannounced with Jocelyn. After the service a number of folk wheeled in on us and we were quickly invited to lunch by folk I had never met in my life. I recall being somewhat startled to be not only invited back to lunch with the Starks but to walk up the stairs to see Jocelyn with her head in Ken’s lap and her feet up on the couch. They were watching TV and looked like lifelong friends. For all her disabilities JJ is an excellent judge of character and as so many other folk before and after us discovered the Starks quickly became an extension of the family and us of theirs. In fact just how much an extension was always very humbling. Their house was always open (literally and figuratively) as were the homes of extended family. And they were a great flux into the community. Camping in a hotel with our goods and chattels still to catch us up was no reason as far as Jenny was concerned for us to not spend the following weekend on a church camp with them. So off we trotted armed with Stark cutlery and other necessities, together with some iced fruitcake from off her dining room table. Of which we later learned there was always an abundant supply. We are glad we did as Jenny bid us, since we met other “lifers’ there too – the Lewis family.
I could bang on about all the great things that we treasure about the Starks and tell lots of humorous stories at their and our expense. All joyous stuff such as intimate friendships throw up. But this afternoon we received news that Jenny died and my heart is not so inclined to the frivolous right now. Her death was not altogether without warning – we knew of the tumour that aggressively dogged her recently and far too early. Its sad and heavy news for a family member has gone. But it’s bitter-sweet and light too, for Jenny would have me tell you she is with her maker. Her faith was steady and sure and was expressed in a life poured out in the service and love of others. We have no exclusive claim on her and what a powerful thing that is. So many like us count her as family just as she counted us as hers. The reality of the Starks is that they loved us without condition the moment we blew into town. – treasure you don’t find just anywhere. We found it in Ken and Jenny and value it above gold. Still.
Typically I am hard pressed to find a decent photo of Jenny. But typically the one I do have, despite the lack of resolution catches her in her straw hat talking to Miriam while she stitched a quilt on a picnic afternoon just south of Ipswich. There was, no doubt, some iced cake lying around there somewhere too.
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