Published: May 2008
Related Topics: People
A popular song contained the line, "I never promised you a rose garden..." God has promised us much, not necessarily a rose garden, but many other blessings and delights, if not in this life, then certainly in the life to come. We go adventuring through this life, confronting countless challenges and decisions. For many, faith in the love and mercy of God carries us through those challenges and decisions, and gives us courage to carry on "no matter what."
Susan Huxford-Westall exemplifies those gifts of faithfulness and courage, having experienced in her long, full life transforming challenges and decisions known to few people, either by personal experience or acquaintance with others. Many readers of the Niagara Anglican are familiar with Susan through her regular column, and are challenged by her honesty, informed by her thoughtfulness, and encouraged by her humour. Now the writer is being written about, her story told to other faithful Anglicans of this Diocese, at a time when many are struggling with recent and ongoing events, and perhaps hoping for some inspiration to carry us through to a new way of being that God has in mind for us.
Born in Portsmouth, England, proud of her Certificate of Confirmation at 16 at St. Mark's Church, Kennington, (one of four Churches built in London to celebrate the Battle of Waterloo) in London, England, in 1937, "to prove I'm an Anglican," Susan remembers her mother as "always busy at home, God-fearing and active in the Church." Her father was "a radio pioneer in the Royal Air Force, formed in 1917, (and was) badly burned in an air crash in 1919. He received the Air Force Cross because he went back into the plane to rescue (another airman)... Dad had a radio business till the depression; he lost everything, but no one would employ him because his hands were so badly damaged. But he could write, did cabinetry--he made beautiful things!... He knew Marconi (inventor of the radiotelegraph), and lived to see man walk on the moon. He had a faith of his own, but only went to church once, for an aunt's funeral. We couldn't talk about religion in the family because my aunt and cousins were Roman Catholic."
In 1931 the family, including younger brother, Arthur, now living in Rugby, England, moved to London to live with an aunt, and it was there that a literally life-transforming experience happened for young Susan--or Ted, as she was then known. In 1933, Ted had a bilateral mastoidectomy at St. Thomas' Hospital. "I can remember coming out of the anaesthetic, worrying did I talk in my sleep, did I tell them I wanted to be a girl?" Typically, Susan chuckles, honestly assessing the situation: "It was completely irrational! I was a perfectly good male and proud of it!"
The experience led him to make radical changes: "In the hospital I decided that things would be different! I had been bullied in school, (but) I was going to stand on my own two feet - I owed it to my Dad. I became active in school clubs, a school prefect, house captain, Company Quarter-Master Sergeant in the Cadet Force, one of two senior positions a student could hold, and Cricket Captain, and I enjoyed it! I took up cross country running; never any good at it, but I had to set an example, so I went gung-ho!" Going "gung-ho" remains an apt description of Susan's life to this day!
In 1937, the British Museum acquired the Codex Sinaiticus, a fourth century version of the New Testament. The BBC ran a radio study program on it, and the Headmaster of Archbishop Tenison's Grammar School "had the whole 6th Form in the library listening to broadcasts. I learned how the Bible was written, and the higher form of Biblical criticism. That got me thinking--which Confirmation classes never did! They were a waste of time--it's all set out in the BCP!"...
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