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Melanie Maxwell tribute
Friday 8th April 2022 @ 9:58 pm


I get nervous when I have no words in front of me hours before a moment like this arrives. This was one of those nervous times – until very late in the day I simply did not have the words that I wanted to share

And that’s not like me. Like Melanie, I like words. Like Melanie, I can talk a lot.


This time, words have been hard to come by.

I can hear Melanie, giggling with that infectious chuckle, thinking

“Ha – got you Rev!’


No wonder these words have been hard to come by – she was so good at them.

Writing them, reading them, talking about them, delivering them. Words sat centrally to who she was, and thankfully, though sadly, to what she has left us in the world.


There are words she spoke to me I will simply never forget: no matter how much I try …

Words I cannot share here and now for fear of excommunication,

or because there are children present!

How Melanie described going back to life–drawing classes, is a particularly treasured memory, and not words I can share – but you can imagine how she would embellish such an experience!

Melanie explaining to me, let’s call me her pastor buddy at the time, what exactly they did at surgery for breast cancer. How they would rebuild her … again, not a suitable conversation with children or the squeamish present, but maybe you remember her telling you when it was time for surgery that she was going for a breast reduction and tummy tuck all in one!

Oh Melanie how we will miss your intellectual and irreverent take on life. You never lost your ability to see the gag set–up before you and whack it out of the ground!


There are not many people who would have the courage to tell Liam Neeson he was getting his words wrong!

And yes, I know the




of Melanie’s last movie role being a doctor who tells Lesley Manville and her movie husband Liam Neeson, that she has terminal breast cancer.

Liam apparently getting tetchy in one take was only brought back when he was told he was in fact delivering the wrong words – and Melanie was right in hers.


My other favourite name drop was when she talked about a scene in a bar with Martin Shaw when she was Lisa Bacchus in George Gently … the story goes that the director was being a bit precious and demanding (how very unusual!) and Martin simply takes control and says, “sure this will be fine, just leave it to Melanie and I, I mean we’ve done this before, we can improvise – can’t we Melanie?”

Melanie would finish the story with, ‘I mean, Martin Shaw, swoon, yes, of course.”


There are things of which her words were always warm;

Her words about her water–babes were always told with a smile, she loved you guys and she loved the sea … and what kindness you showed her in your celebrations of her at the end of last year.



The tenderest and most real words she used of course, were the words she spoke when speaking of you, her family.


The incredible way in which she spoke of you Simon, and of the earthed grounded–ness you brought to life, and to her life – thinking particularly how she loved watching and speaking of you as a dad. I’m not sure I have ever heard another woman talk about her husband as a father with the acknowledgment and warmth and appreciation with which she spoke of you. And on this day, our hearts are with yours, and Grace and Gabriel and Raphael. My goodness, we hold our hearts out with yours. To also to you Derek and Ivan in particular, who once again find yourselves in a place of deep sorrow in place like this. We hold you all in our hearts.


Listening to Melanie’s words of her children was also a reality pointer to depths of love:

How your mum took delight in sharing news about you,


I’m thinking Gabriel of how she told us you were the most grateful boy ever, always so excited and delighted with presents and gifts  … sure she videoed your reactions at your birthday and put it on Facebook for us all to share the joy! And thank you … thank you for your gift of thankfulness that you put into the world with your mum.

Raffy – the tales of the times mummy would put you to bed and end up in your bed or you ended up in hers are just legendary … the pictures that mummy has of the snuggles with the youngest were always amongst the most heartwarming things we would see on a facebook scroll … Thank you for the gift of loving snuggles you put into the world with your mum.

And the one I have always thought of as the Amazing Grace – Dakota, you have always been such a beacon of pride for you mum – I do recall with particular fondness, you being around 2 years of age (I know, I’m sorry), but you decided you were going to dance in church– what can I say, the music was good, I was playing it! But some mothers in that moment when a toddler moves into the isle will be ‘right, get in here, dance in this pew, you’re fine dancing right here missy’ … not your mummy, she moved into the isle to dance up and down it, with you! My goodness she was proud of your independence, creativity, and joy.Thank you for putting that gift of treasuring your own voice, into the world with your mum.


Melanie loved reading, and in particular she loved reading real words about real things – the deep things of God and life – the theological appreciations of who God is, and who we are. The words she read, the Rob Bell, Richard Rohr, Glennon Doyle, the Brenés and Brian McLaren’s of this world, they all provided deep grace–filled appreciation of the depths of life. The struggles and the joys, the questions and convictions – Melanie nurtured a deep trusting faith that went beyond static security, and moved into an unassuming profound reliance on the ‘Divine More’ of life.

I did not hear her say over the last few years, ‘why me?’

not seriously – I mean I did hear her say it, 

but she followed it with a profound maturity and *sigh* beyond her years,

‘but yeah I know, why not me?’


At this point preachers standing in this position are expected to provide some sort of answer to that question – friends, there is no satisfactory answer this side of the veil: but can probably bet that there have been words between Melanie and God about this, and Melanie has definitely been asking her what’s this all been about?”


Another writer, Frederich Beuchner might help us:

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”


Closer to home, Melanie’s much loved Irish poet, Seamus Heaney’s final tweet to his wife helps us, “Nolo Timere” it said ‘Be not afraid.’


Or maybe to paraphrase Melanie’s old neighbour, Colm Wilkinson singing as Jean Valjean, which might offer us something:

God on High, hear my prayer,

In my need, you have always been there

She is young

Let her rest

Heaven blessed

Bring her home.

Let me finish with something different. Let me finish by reading Melanie’s own Words on herself and on what she has gone through – her own writing in this longer piece, speaks of her mother’s cancer, her own cancer, and on how she chose to live with the questions of this disease taking them both …

“When my Mum was diagnosed with a malignant tumour in her liver in the summer of 2004, we were all understandably worried and upset. But she turned to her Christian faith and her church and they rallied around her with loving concern and prayer. 

Something that’s very common place among more charismatic Christian communities is to ask God for a ‘word’, a piece of scripture to comfort, affirm or guide at moments of crisis. Over the course of a number of weeks prior to her operation, Mum kept coming across the following verse


Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” – John’s gospel chapter 11, verse 4.

 So she claimed this verse and declared faith in God’s power to heal her and not let her die from cancer. 

Context is everything, however, and this particular verse comes midway through the gospel of John and is a foreshadowing of the death of Jesus of Nazareth. It comes after a long discussion Jesus has with religious leaders where they accuse him of blasphemy and were he talks about people who have faith in him and trust him are like his sheep and he is their Good Shepherd, guiding them to safety. 


The story in the following chapter is when friends of Jesus, Martha and Mary of Bethany send word to him that their brother Lazarus is sick and they ask him to come to be with him. But Jesus doesn’t go immediately, telling his disciples that ‘this sickness will not end in death’. But Lazarus dies. When Jesus does finally go to Bethany, the sisters are distraught and say that their brother would not have died had he arrived in time; they had faith in his healing powers. Moved by their distress and their faith, he goes to the tomb of Lazarus and calls for him to come out. Lazarus rises from the dead and walks out of the tomb and is restored to his family. 


Afterwards, the gospel tells of Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus, which is an auspicious act as it is usually only kings that are anointed. This points John’s readers to the promise that God’s new kingdom of justice and peace is about to be unveiled through Jesus of Nazareth. 


So it’s a powerful story of Jesus as a teacher, a healer and a leader and one that brings great comfort to its readers.  But Lazarus did die. And though he was risen from the dead, he would eventually die further down the line.


I wrote in last week’s Whisper about how I was committed to seeking joy despite my own ‘tragic love story’ and that I had accepted that I would probably leave Simon a widower. 


A beloved friend called me the next day. Charlie has been my dearest friend for over 30 years and she is also living with incurable cancer.


‘What are you talking about dying for?’ she gently chastised me. ‘You’ve got to focus on what you’re going to live for!’ I explained that I just wanted to be realistic but as we talked I also realised that, having had so many ups and downs physically since June, and generally feeling pretty shite a lot of the time, I had not really allowed myself the concept of hope that perhaps I’d get more years, more life experiences for a long time to come.

Charlie set me a challenge; to draw or paint a picture of myself with my grandchildren. Well, that hit me in the feels! Grandchildren! That’d be a way, way off! 

Instead of drawing it myself, I decided to create a board on Pinterest and I began filling it with pictures of older ladies holding babies, playing with small children. Then I began looking for pictures of elderly couples holding hands, dancing, laughing together. I’ve spent the last week envisioning a future for myself full of adventure, friendship, love and longevity. 

And do you know, a miracle really did happen. 

I began to feel hopeful. Something heavy lifted from my soul and my energy increased. I started clearing and sorting stuff that I’d not been able to face only days before …

I fully embraced each day and got every ounce of joy I could out of it.

I felt full.”




No wonder I struggled for words about Melanie …

I didn’t want to ever have to say them.

But more importantly, she gave us her words, 

she provided a gift we can embrace today.


Melanie is pain free, her suffering is ended, she is with her Lord,

and for those of us left,

She bids us live,

live full .

Noli Timere.

Be not afraid


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