From 1976 to 1981 I attended St. Patrick’s primary school in Rochdale, Lancashire. In my upper primary years one of my teachers was called Mr. Simkins. Once he had set us work, he would call us up to his desk one by one to have us read to him as we progressed through our Peter and Jane books. At the age of nine my family moved to Plymouth, then onto Germany. From Germany I was sent to Bournemouth to complete my secondary education. At the age of 19, I had a real encounter with God and became a Christian.
Fast forward 41 years from my primary school days and I am now a qualified foot health practitioner visiting the elderly in their homes cutting toe nails and taking care of other foot conditions. One day I received a call asking me to take on a new client. I went to visit him in a warden control place and soon discovered that he had been a teacher in a Catholic primary school in Rochdale. It wasn’t long before we established that he had been my primary school teacher, the very same Mr. Simkins, now 94 years old.
We enjoyed our chats and reminisced about how school had been. One day I turned up to his flat for his usual foot appointment, but there was no answer. I later found out that he had had a bad fall and was in hospital. Six weeks later his daughter rang to ask if I would go and see him in the nursing home that he had now been placed in. On entering his room, I found a very frail Mr Simkins, now bed ridden. I attended to his feet then asked if he wanted me to read to him. He responded with a very enthusiastic ‘Yes’!
Many so obviously inspired
A few years ago I had started using the Matthew Henry Commentary and found the words written by this man, over 300 years ago, truly opened up my understanding of the Bible like nothing else had. I felt compelled to edit his words to be more in line with our modern-day language so that others may benefit from these incredible expositions of the Bible. Around the same time I inherited six lever arch files containing over 6,000 Christian poems written by my late father-in-law. Many of these poems were so obviously inspired and I knew the Lord was calling me to do something with them.
And so I started a website with a regular online blog. Sitting next to Mr Simkins’ weak and frail body I started to read the blog for the day (7th April 2021), entitled Psalm 39. The blog read ‘This Psalm teaches us the brevity, uncertainty and calamitous state of human life. Those who are in need of God’s comforts find this psalm to be of great spiritual benefit. It speaks of the vanity of man and that there is nothing substantial except that which relates to our new man in Christ. King David asks God to make him aware of the shortness and uncertainty of life and the near approach of death that will come to each of us. ‘Lord, make us to consider this, that we may secure our mansions in heaven, not made with human hands.
Things will be as they are
It declares that our griefs and fears are also vanity and that we become agitated in vain. Our anxieties are often groundless and we disturb ourselves in vain, for we cannot, with all our anxieties alter the nature of things nor the counsel of God. Things will be as they are, even when we have vexed ourselves over them. But David soon turns his eyes and heart heaven-ward. When there is no solid satisfaction to be had, it is to be found in God, and in communion with Him. To Him we should be driven by our disappointments in this world.
David expresses his dependence on God. Seeing that all is vanity, and man himself is too, he despairs of finding happiness in the things of the world. When considering the vanity and frailty of human life our desires should be deadened for the things of this world. We cannot depend on constant health and prosperity, nor upon the comfort in any relationship, for it is all as uncertain as our continuance here. When creature-confidences fail, it is our comfort that we have a God to go to, a God to trust in, and we should take a fast hold of Him by faith.
This is the finger of God
When we take hold of Him we see a good God who orders all events concerning us. Of every event we may say, “This is the finger of God; it is the Lord’s doing,” whoever were the instruments. And all that God does is well done. David then prays for forgiveness for all his offences and from the guilt he had contracted and the power of corruption by which he had been enslaved. When God forgives our sins He delivers us from them all. I went on tell of how David’s sickness prevailed to such a degree that his spirit failed, his strength was wasted and his body emaciated.
Our ways and our doings often draw trouble to ourselves, and we are beaten with a rod of our own making. It is the yoke of our transgressions. God does not willingly afflict His children and at their tears will either speak deliverance for them or in the meantime speak comfort to them and make them to hear joy and gladness. His afflictions had set him to pray. When we are afflicted we tend to pray more and pray better. They had helped to wean him from the world and to take his affections off from it. Now he began, more than ever, to look upon himself as a stranger and sojourner here. He was not at home in this world, but travelling through it to another, to a better, and would never reckon himself at home till he came to heaven.
Fit us to go from here
He pleads with God: “Lord, take notice of me, spare me, ease me, raise me up from this illness that I may recover strength in body and mind. He asks that he may get into a more calm and composed frame of spirit to be better prepared for another world, before I go by death, and shall be no more in this world.” He asks that God would continue with him here till by His grace He had made him fit to go from here, and that He might finish the work of life before his life was finished.’
As I was reading I suddenly remembered reading to Mr Simkins at his desk over 40 years ago as a small girl in school and I marvelled that here I was again reading to Mr Simkins, now in a nursing home in the closing days of his life. All I could do was silently thank God for His amazing Providence. I then read the poem of the day entitled : “Accept in Silence” – By the late Andrew Feakin
Accept in Silence
Since God makes all things work together for good, then this act of His which has befallen me, Can only be for my benefit. I will yield to it then willingly. There will be no protest, On my part. I will not even ask why my lot differs from another, mine will not be a questioning heart. Only if my love is directed, not at God. But at some object I am seeking for its own sake. Will the good which He wishes to give me be deferred, Could I run the risk of making such a mistake? Lack of an explanation matters little, What if there is silence from above! The way of knowing God, is not by knowledge, But it is only by the revealing of true love. What peace and joy there truly is, What assurance there is found, In the words the Lord Jesus who said of the sparrows, “Without your Father in heaven knowing, not one of them will fall to the ground.” Should I not accept then in silence, What comes to me from His hand? Seeing His love poured out for me can I believe, That anything that happens to me is unplanned?
Is there any more beautiful blessing?
I looked at Mr Simkins and asked if he wanted me to pray for him. He responded ‘Yes’ and gripped both my hands tightly. I had the absolute privilege of leading my 94 year old Primary School teacher through a prayer of repentance and one of opening up his heart to the Lord. We both had tears in our eyes and he was reluctant to let go of the grip upon my hands. He kept thanking me over and over and asking the Lord to bless me.
Is there any more beautiful blessing to be had than to experience moments like those in that little room in a nursing home? I think not. What an amazing God we have who delights to often bring things full circle and who is determined to complete the good work He has begun in us all. May he continue with us here till by His grace He has made us all fit for heaven. Amen.
1 thought on “Reading to Mr Simkins”
So. I have begun my day by reading your story & rejoicing in The amazing direction & goodness of God , Our Heavenly Father—– for you see I also knew “Mr Simpkins” not as a child reading by his desk but as a colleage in St Patricks Primary School. In 1970 I moved from my comfortable flat in Highgate Village to a cold dark & foggy place called Rochdale. somewhere I knew by name only ! In 1972 I joined the”Remedial Education Service” & visited several schools helping children with “difficulties” one of these schools was St Patricks . I remember well going through the iron gates 7 up the stone steps to my classroom. I don’t remember any of the staff but I do remember “Mr Simpkins” In latter years our paths sometimes crossed in the Supermarket &we’d exchange pleasantries. So if you see him again please convey my very warm greetings.