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Udny and Pitmedden Parish Church - Church of Scotland

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Minister's Letter

Dear Friends,

This is the time of year when we remember people who are no longer with us. There is All Hallows Eve followed by All Saints Day and All Souls Day and of course Remembrance Sunday and all that goes along with that. Itís a time to remember those who were part of our lives for a time and are now no longer with us in the same way. But itís not just time to remember and be sad, itís time to say Ďthank youí for all the things that those people gave us during their lives for these things will remain with us as long as we live.

Remembrance Sunday is always a hard one for me. I can think back to my father and father-in-law who both served in Burma during the second world war and who rarely spoke about the horrors that they had seen but it is the story of my brother that always brings a tear to my eye as we stand in silence at the War Memorial.

Allan was my younger brother and had a learning disability. Despite that he went on to train as a landscaper and ran his own small business in the West of Scotland. Allan was always a little bit different to most people and he struggled with socialising. However, he found the environment in the Territorial Army very much suited his personality. The TAís valued his skills and allowed him to do all sorts of things alongside others who simply accepted him for who he was, with all his quirks and idiosyncrasies!

At the time of the Iraq War though, Allan was called up and spent some time in the desert out there helping to build a water pipeline to provide much needed fresh water for civilians. During that time he apparently saved the lives of a group of young soldiers caught in a suicide bomb at a checkpoint. Seeing the flames from his post in the desert and unable to get anyone on his radio, he drove his truck towards the site of the bomb with no thought for his own safety. He lifted all the injured into the back of the truck and took them to the nearest field hospital. After dropping them off he stopped briefly for a cup of tea (remarking only that he was disappointed at the lack of cakes) in the canteen then rejoined his truck and spent the rest of the day out in the desert digging the trench for his pipeline.

It was after his return to Scotland that we learned that Allan had an inherited neurological condition that would have certainly excluded him from any kind of active service. His time in the desert affected his physical health so badly that he died of pneumonia at the early age of 51.

Allan was a difficult person to live with and most people wrote him off. As a big sister I quarrelled with him many times and found him utterly frustrating. At school they told us that he would never amount to much intellectually but my parents refused to accept that. Allanís story reminds me that each of us has a contribution to make and that each person has God given gifts that they can use in the service of others.

There was a place for Allan in this world and there is a place for every single child born into our care. Each of us bears the image of the Creator and deserves our respect and our support no matter what category society places them in.

As we approach the Christmas Season when we remember the birth of the Christchild who was certainly different and may well have caused his parents many anxious moments, let us think in particular of those who are dealing with illhealth or disability or disadvantage of any kind. Let us remember that in Godís eyes all are precious, all are loved and all have a gift to give.

Blessings Gillean