Once in a while you are fortunate enough to meet someone who is truly inspirational. The recently deceased May Blood was such a person for me. She was a woman who had an ability to transcend the sectarian divisions of Northern Ireland and devoted her life to the entire community and bringing people together. It didn’t matter what social class or religious background you came from, for May believed that the day-to-day issues of employment, education and health were far more important things to worry about in life.
She took time to be with people regardless of their station in life. In doing so, she lived out the words of Luke 14:11, ‘For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled but the man who humbles himself will be exalted’. In spite of countless honours May continued her fight for those who needed a voice. Such was her reach that her death last week was mourned in a very personal way by so many civic and religious leaders from all walks of like. The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins said Baroness Blood ‘was a truly progressive force’ whilst Church of Ireland, Archbishop John McDowell said Baroness Blood was ‘a woman who spoke directly and constructively from the depth of a kind heart. I know that May has been an inspiration and an encouragement to many people, especially to women, and in that sense her influence lives on in the lives of others’. In a recent exhibition currently touring Ireland, a local Newry student portrays May in one of her paintings.
May’s Christian faith was very important to her and she was renowned for her straight-talking, no-nonsense approach. But somehow few people were offended by her except those waiting to be offended. Everything she did was deeply informed by the influence of the teachings and person of Jesus Christ. And she could be found where women so often have been in the unfinished work of peace. When I first heard her speak, it was at the Clonard Monastery Retreat in Belfast and her sensible rhetoric could be understood by everyone. The church was packed and spellbound and inspired by her words and the applause from the congregation was fulsome.
Her life was influenced greatly by her job of working in the mills in Belfast. At the age of fourteen, she left school and entered a local mill with the intention of only staying two weeks but stayed for the next thirty-eight years. Her life was as Jesus intended a life to be, a witness to what is good, speaking out against wrongdoing, upholding rights of those unable to speak up for themselves. Above all she did what she believed was the right thing and lived her life not as a popularity contest but in the footsteps of Jesus. She ‘fought the good fight, ran the race to the finish and kept the faith’. Timothy 4:7.
Rest in Peace May