Joyce Alice Edwards, the oldest member of the British Orthodox Church and mother of Abba Seraphim died at 2.00 a.m. on 15 December, in her 101st year. Memory Eternal !
Since 28 November when she was released from Lewisham Hospital following a stroke, Joyce Edwards has been staying at the Bevan Rehabilitation Unit in West Thamesmead. She had entered the Unit suffering from pneumonia but responded well to the treatment given there and her health had been showing signs of improvement. During Sunday evening, however, the staff became concerned about her breathing and she was transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at Woolwich, where her condition rapidly deteriorated and she lapsed into unconsciousness. She passed away as Abba Seraphim was arriving at the hospital but he was able to pray the commendatory prayers over her and took the last kiss.
On 6 November, Mrs. Joyce Edwards, the centenarian mother of Abba Seraphim, suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and was admitted to the specialist Stroke Unit of the Princess Royal University Hospital at Farnborough, Kent. Initially her entire left arm was paralysed, but over the next few days she began to move the upper arm. She has suffers no other paralysis and her speech and intellectual powers remained unimpaired. On 10 November she was transferred to the Stroke Unit at Lewisham Hospital, which is nearer to her home.
On 22 February Joyce Alice Edwards became the first recorded member of the British Orthodox Church to celebrate her hundredth birthday. (The previous longest lived member was the late Martha Coppin of Bournemouth, who died in her 99th year.) Joyce Edwards was the first cousin to the late Metropolitan Georgius of Glastonbury (1905-1979) and mother to Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury, so is well known to generations of church members. Previously a member of the Trotton Mission in Sussex she became an active member of the Charlton Parish when she moved back to London, following the death of her second husband, Peter Edwards in 1993.
Although physically frail and diagnosed three decades ago with heart failure, she lives in her own apartment in Charlton and has retained her mental acuity and independent spirit. Her good friend, Archimandrite Deiniol of the Wales Orthodox Mission summed things up when he wrote, “You know that I see you as a lady still young at heart, and I cannot imagine you as anything other than that.” As recently as 11 February she suffered a TIA (Transient Isceamic Attack) or mini-stroke but, by the Grace of God her indomitable spirit overcame that setback and she was able to attend all the events marking her birthday.
Birthday greetings were received from H.M. The Queen as well as from family and friends and from members of the Church both in Egypt and the United Kingdom. Foremost among these were personal greetings from His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette, “praying to our Lord to grant you sound health and long life since this is considered a blessing from our Lord” and from His Grace Bishop Kirollos of Milan, the Papal Deputy for Europe, who sent handwritten greetings to “Dear Joyce” and a reminder that “God walks each step of your journey with you … as you walk in life.” Flowers, gifts and messages were received from all clergy of the British Orthodox Church as well as congregations and individual members. On the evening of her birthday she attended a reception and concert in her honour at St. Thomas’s Church, Charlton, and on the next day, Sunday, 23 February, she returned to attend the Divine Liturgy and to offer thanks to God for His many mercies throughout her long life. On both occasions she had to ceremonially cut birthday cakes.
On 11 February Abba Seraphim visited the Portsmouth Parish of St. Mary & St. Moses the Black, which worships in St. Faith’s Church, Cresswell Street. There was a good attendance with representatives of the Bournemouth Parish and Southampton community and it proved a busy day, as prior to the Divine Liturgy Father Simon Smyth had baptised three children, whom Abba Seraphim welcomed into fellowship. On presenting them with neck crosses he reminded them of the importance of the cross as a witness to our faith and spoke of the ancient tradition among Copts and others of having their children tatooed with a cross on their wrists.
The congregation was also delighted to welcome Abba Seraphim’s mother, Joyce Edwards, who had accompanied him and is now fully recovered from her mini-stroke. At the conclusion of the service they enjoyed a fellowship meal together provided by the family of the newly baptised children. After leaving the church Abba Seraphim went to inspect a local property which the parish is considering purchasing for their own use as they have been actively searching for suitable premises for some months.
Mrs. Joyce Edwards, Abba Seraphim’s mother, suffered a slight stroke during the early hours of 23 January. She contacted Abba Seraphim complaining of a numbness in her face and hand on the left side but otherwise had no other symptoms. Abba Seraphim accompanied her to Queen Elizabeth Hospital at Woolwich by ambulance first thing in the morning, where she was admitted for tests. Immediately after the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum book launch at Westminster, Abba Seraphim returned to the hospital, where his PA, Mr. Trevor Maskery, had been staying with her. The doctor’s diagnosed that she had suffered a slight stroke and arranged for her transfer to the Princess Royal University Hospital at Farnborough, Kent, which has a specialist Hyper Acute Stroke Unit (HASU), which opened last year. It has a higher number of specialist stroke doctors and nurses than a normal unit and also provides the thrombolysis procedure to break down blood clots, as well as high-tech CT scanning equipment, and treats more than 1,000 patients a year.
Joyce Edwards, who is in her 98th year is an active member of the British Orthodox Church and travelled to Babingley last Saturday for the Christian Unity Week of Prayer service. She still lives in her own flat near to Abba Seraphim in Charlton.