While other leaders of his age vacillated and sought compromise, Churchill defined the challenges of his civilization in the stark Christian terms. In war time, Churchill was able to help his troops in ways he must have learnt as a child from his nanny. He got them singing music-hall songs. He urged them to laugh when they could. One young officer, Jock MacDavid, later recalled that, “After a very brief period, he had accelerated the morale of officers and men to an almost unbelievable degree. It was sheer personality.”
He was also a kind man. On the death of Violet Pearman, one of his most faithful and put-upon secretaries, he made sure that her daughter got money from his own pocket. He also sent money to the wife of his doctor, when she got into difficulties. And when a friend of his was injured in the Boer War, Churchill rolled up his sleeve and provided a skin graft himself – without anaesthetic.
Winston was deeply distressed when Woomany left the household, even though he was then a young man, a budding Army officer, and the household had no further need for a nanny.
When Winston learned that Mrs. Everest was gravely ill he rushed to her bedside. He was the only member of his family to attend to her, and upon her death provided the tombstone for her grave despite being only 20. “She had been my dearest and most intimate friend during the whole twenty years I had lived.” “I shall never know such a friend again.”
Yet behind the arsenal of his words, behind the artillery of his vision, perhaps there was the simple teaching of a devoted nanny who served her God by investing in the destiny of a troubled boy.
So it was that when the man some called the “Greatest Man of the Age,” lay dying in 1965 at the age of ninety, there was only one picture that stood at his bedside. It was the picture of his beloved nanny, gone to be with her Lord some seventy years before. She had understood him, she had prayed him to his best, and she had fuelled the faith that led to the destiny of many.
“Thank you God for quiet lives that influence ours so deeply. Please may we be those who do the same. For Jesus’ sake. And for the world we live in.” Amen