Those people who become part of our lives
Just opened the BBC news page to be surprised and saddened to read that BBC’s North West Tonight’s resident Geordie, Dianne Oxberry, has died – just 51. You will remember her upbeat regional weather forecasts, cheerful even when she warned us of heavy rain and strong winds. It seems that her BBC colleagues only found out she was ill in the new year and said they were "heartbroken" to hear of her death. A true professional, Dianne began her broadcasting career with a spell with Radio 1 as part of Simon Mayo's on-air team. What I didn’t know was that she then went onto study meteorology at the Met Office College before joining BBC North West in 1995 as its first dedicated weather presenter. Each evening I make a point of switching from HD to standard definition BBC1 to watch our regional news broadcast, not least to see if my son-in-law has made yet another appearance. (I keep a look out for my other sons-in-law by watching Crimewatch). The half hour programme, you may know, finishes on a high with Dianne’s weather slot. She would then join the two main presenters for a short chat for an end-of-programme. Helen Thomas, Director of BBC England, said: "Dianne was a brilliant weather presenter, showed she could do serious journalism with Inside Out and could do the lighter end of broadcasting brilliantly whenever it was needed. "Above all she was a lovely woman whose sudden and shocking death has robbed the BBC of one of our brightest stars. I'm thinking of all her family and friends at this awful time." Dianne was one of those people who make up our lives, a familiar face with her own particular personality. We shall miss her. But that’s life. We are surrounded by a myriad of people – some close to others but most those familiar or half-familiar faces we regularly encounter in our everyday lives. Even more, like Dianne, when you include the media. We may not even know that we know them but such people become part of us, for we are defined by our relationships. Of course there are those close relationships we value but for the most part it is simply the people we bump into each day. Of course, those in the media – like the broadcasters on North West Tonight – the relationship is one-way. There is no interaction, no mutuality but even so they do become part of our daily routine. A defining event in my own life took place, of all places, at the Grand Canyon immediately following my graduation from college, wondering about my future. I had been travelling around America by Greyhound bus, meeting up with all kinds of people but mostly with other English students who often seemed to constitute nearly the entire passenger payload. (99 dollars for a whole month’s unlimited travel was an unmissable student offer) However, to get to the Grand Canyon we had to hire a car, a big one – just a random group of us. I had always wanted to view this iconic geological feature but when I did see it, just a huge crack in the ground, I was hugely disappointed; a big anticlimax. Even so, I knew I was really enjoying myself. But why? It was because of those people I had met, the relationships I had made – some close, most transient. But nevertheless hugely rewarding, not the place but the people. Already a Christian, I now knew for certain what I had already known – that relationships are enormously important. And I decided there and then that my future, my career, was to be in enabling and nurturing relationships. For this is how God has made us, for relationship. In fact, the wonder of the cross of Jesus demonstrates not just how much God loves us but that, remarkably, God himself is defined by relationship. As Trinity, he is love. As John writes “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8) And a Christian is simply someone who has responded to this incredible love. We do so by deciding to put Jesus at the very centre of our relationships and so he gives us his Holy Spirit so that we may live lives of love. However, such love does not necessarily mean a close relationship. After all many of those people in the gospels blessed by Jesus had but a glancing relationship with him, some for just a few minutes but those few minutes changed their lives. But love does mean that we allow God’s love to flow through us to everyone we meet, however momentarily. For this we need to abide in Christ. Again John writes: “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” (1 John 4:16) And more, we are to learn to love. As the apostle Paul writes: “Keep company with God and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” (Ephesians 5:2, Message translation) Accordingly the quality of our relationships is the clearest indicator of our spiritual maturity. So we pray for the husband and two young children of Dianne that even in their loss they may know the comfort and love of the risen Christ.