Saturday, December 31, 2011

31st December

So I live only a ten minute walk from Allestree Woods and that was my only excursion of the day. I’d left it a little late and the sun was starting to go down but I enjoyed a couple of miles in the open air before the rain came again. It’s been quite a while since I last went for a woodland walk and I miss it. Maybe the weather will stay mild and dry so I can get back to Kedleston in the New Year. There are always folk walking their dogs in Allestree and though they are always friendly, it just feels a little too busy when all I want is to be alone to think.  I have over 32 years of memories of walking these woods and they’re all good ones, if a little sad. I still have one of Jane’s oil paintings hanging on my wall, where she’s walking through the woods with grand-daughter holding one hand and a carrier filled with leaves in the other. I expect the leaves got glued to a large piece of paper and then painted in some way or other but I can’t remember the detail. For a couple of years, whilst on her Creative Expressive Arts degree course, she joined her student year in creating outdoor art installations using whatever natural materials came to hand. The woods were then left with all manner of imaginative creations scattered here and there, and they lasted some weeks before being eaten or battered by stormy weather. Yes happy days.

And as I watch the sun going down I’m thinking of how much I really need to find some sort of closure on this most challenging of years. The pain of bereavement after losing one’s true love is impossible to imagine. Only those who experience it can truly understand, and no words can begin to portray the utter and complete sense of loss. Though I saw the possibility coming over several years I still chose to live in the light of life rather than in the shadow of pending death. I would do the same again. And maybe if I hadn’t chosen to love Jane and share life with her so completely, it would not be as painful today. Given that opportunity I would do the same again. Love has it’s own rewards and is not dependent upon simple attraction. It’s a choice thing. I gave myself totally and exclusively to Jane and she to me, we had a very special marriage… as I’m sure all marriages can be. But we worked on our love, our unity, our care for one another. We rarely let the sun go down with niggles or annoyance with one another. If we did neither of us could sleep and in the early hours we’d make our peace again. I loved the rib crushing cuddles as we both apologised for our wrong doing and each of us ‘fought’ to take the blame! Our love was greater than any disagreement, which is a good job as we are both quite stubborn and strong-minded. For me there is no other way, I cannot half love someone. It really is all or nothing so, yes, despite the pain of loss I would do it all again.

My conclusion upon looking back over this most horrible of years is that there has been no disorder, I have no regrets and as regards my actions I would change very little. I’m sort of doing alright. A bit messed up in my head at times, but that’s understandable. I’m not perfect. Who Is? The main thing is that I’m on a journey, a journey into a new life. The past was wonderful and I’m so grateful to God for the gift of Jane over so many years. I did not deserve such a good woman and yet he joined us together. Tomorrow is a new year so I’m believing for a new start. The blessing upon my life is not dependent upon Jane; it’s in the Lord’s hands. And he is good all the time. So maybe he would let me do life again, in some way or totally different other…

Isaiah 43:18-19 ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’ (NIV)

Friday, December 30, 2011

30th December

I would have been better off in Samoa today. They skipped Friday altogether and it’s been such a struggle I sort of wish I could have done the same. I had over 9 hours sleep last night, after purposefully staying up a little later than normal to make sure I slept, and the first I knew of the new day it was almost 10am. I woke up, as always totally shattered but also suffering a blinding headache. Despite painkillers I’ve not managed to shift it all day which is not part of the plan at all. What do I have to do to control this wretched illness called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? I remember thinking a few days ago that it’d been quite a while since I had a bad headache and maybe I was getting past them…

So then today charted it’s own course; I had no option other than to make it one of complete rest. That’s what I told myself as I cleaned out the cat litter, fed and watered him for the new day, vacuumed the lounge, emptied the dishwasher, wiped down the kitchen worktop and sorted out yesterday’s recycling of cardboard, plastic, glass and metal. I skipped the general waste bin deciding it would last another day! So it was around 2.30pm before I realised I’d not had my first coffee of the day. Life was so different when Jane was around. For many years she basically ‘refused’ to get out of bed before her first cup of tea. Very occasionally she would have a short run of doing the deed but generally I made tea and coffee around 7am for decades. And when I was ill she would look after me wonderfully, little sympathy but loads of practical support. She would not put up with my whinging for one moment. I can remember how she would prepare her own lunch when setting out for a day at work, and often I’d find a box of sandwiches waiting for me next time I looked in the kitchen. I was well and truly spoilt. But not so much now I suppose.

I did manage to sit for quite a while doing very little before deciding I absolutely had to get out of the house. I’ll go for a walk I thought, but then the rain came down a little too heavily and I stalled. At the next interlude I made my decision to tackle an annoying job I’d put off for far too long. So that’s how I ended up rather precariously clinging to the wall, as I balanced on top of my conservatory roof. Of course it started raining again and I got quite soaked as I washed moss away with my hosepipe. But at least the roof is a lot cleaner now.

Some days are particularly mundane. Today was one of them. Rather boring and completely uneventful. Ill health does that and to be honest I hate it. I really cannot accept being ill for much longer, I have to get better and get my life back. I became ill quite suddenly and for no clearly defined reason, though I was seriously overworked and highly stressed which possibly made me susceptible in some way. I know of others who have made a full recovery often for no apparent reason. So why not me? Especially when I have a good reason, I know the God who heals, I’ve seen him do it…

Psalm 103:3 ‘He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.’ (NLT)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

29th December

More of the same today. No I’ve not been careless with the chopping board; I’m talking about my need to rest. And actually I feel quite a lot better with only a slightly muzzy head and no real need to take painkillers. Unfortunately that’s when temptation to start doing more creeps in, and I do have so many little jobs to tackle sometime soon. I almost got the ladder out to clean my conservatory roof, but resisted, maybe tomorrow. So anyway not much happening in Dave’s world and I’ve completely avoided tears all day, but I can feel that I’m the edge of a downer as the negative thoughts are starting to attack my mind again. I really do have to take some attention off myself and focus elsewhere as otherwise I can easily end up thinking ‘Dave’s life is finished’, ‘he’ll live another forty years as a miserable widower’, ‘his life is set in stone, nothing will ever change now’… and so on and so on! Whilst I may sometimes think these thoughts, I refuse to accept them. Of course these are plausible realities and without a substantive breakthrough the best I can expect is a softening of the rawness of grief, hopefully to be replaced with more enjoyable memories. And yes maybe one day I’ll be able to accept being alone, though that seems too hard at the moment. I long for company of the calibre that Jane brought into my life. Simple friendship with no demands, the highest moral standards, and always provoked with outrage at the ungodly evil portrayed through the medium of TV news. We often had a little joke about her lunchtime soapbox when she would so often become agitated at the injustice in the world. And occasionally her fervour resulted in more direct action, somehow she could see that there were real people behind the stories and she was determined to do her ‘little’ bit to help.

Breakthrough, yes that’s what I want. I need to step off the road I’m walking down and start travelling in a new direction.  Sometimes I wonder if I’ve got enough get up and go to make a new start. I gave everything to Jane as I cared for her and have almost nothing left for myself. So it’ll have to be one little step at a time. I need a plan. A New Year list of goals should do the trick, maybe some small things to include in my life straight away; and some larger ambitions to reach out for and maybe grow into. Loneliness is a biggy. At different times over the years I’ve enjoyed various groups of friends… years ago I played in a couple of rock bands; and badminton clubs which always end up in the pub. I’ve been part of lots of church teams doing all sorts of stuff and that always leads to friendship… and occasionally the pub! Before I met Jane my friends were pseudo-bikers, though we spent most of our time in intellectual debate… teenagers trying to get a handle on meaning of life stuff. She introduced me to a larger group of student friends and ‘The Cabonga Club’ was great fun for a couple of years. Perhaps it’s an age thing, or I’ve been too busy building family but, whatever, I’ve ended up alone aside from family. I have no social life and I want one. Perhaps I could go to an adult education class, or find a traditional folk club, or if I practice a lot first find an art club or maybe even photography… nothing too serious though. Or maybe if I ask nicely and pray a bit harder the Lord would send an angel to knock on my front door or telephone or e-mail and invite me out with a nice bunch of people to talk about meaning of life stuff again. Just like when I was a teenager…   

In the meantime I’ll go for short term intervention, find something else that’s nice to do… hey what’s that, have my Christmas chocs really all gone?

Hebrews 13:2 ‘Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!’ (NLT)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

28th December

Warning - Not For the Squeamish!
I keep telling myself I have to stop thinking about Jane all the time. It’s just not helpful or very healthy and this evening bordered upon dangerous. So come teatime I was given free rein to cook anything I wanted by my son, who was really tired after his first day back at work, and very hungry. So then, let’s make the last curry of the year, a new recipe for Balti which I can’t remember making previously.  Well the leeks are looking rather tired so they need binning and my son won’t eat mushrooms, so that means onions are the only fresh veg he’ll have. Ok let’s do that, and I’ll add my mushrooms at the end. Chop, chop, chop… I can remember it was exactly three years ago that Jane spent 5 days in hospital having a second chemotherapy cycle. Very toxic, twice a day over four days plus recovery time to ensure her bladder lining wasn't too damaged. A horrible, though potentially life-extending, way to spend the New Year. She went home, caught the flu, her inner bowel then ruptured with the most intense pain, and basically she could have died. But didn’t, not then. She was tough and very fit. Anyway I was really thinking of the lovely nurse who regularly sat with Jane to sort out her infusions over a 4 month period. She gave Jane lots of time and was wonderfully gentle and very friendly. But the pair of them did rib me a little about my non-cooking skills, until one day I was able to announce that I’d made a curry. And I remember chopping onions, probably for my very first time on that occasion. But all of a sudden, back to this evening’s events, I heard an unwelcome crunching sound, though I felt absolutely nothing. Yes my sharpest knife had somehow decided that onion was not enough of a challenge and needed to attack my thumbnail. Yes it did draw blood but, not too much, though my nail has been cut right through, and fortunately, so far it’s completely pain free. I think I escaped this time. But it could easily have meant a trip to casualty, though actually I think I’m doing quite well as I remember Jane having a permanent assortment of either cuts or blisters on her hands. And don’t TV chefs always have a blue sticking plaster on one of their fingers to ‘prove’ they’ve really been preparing food?  

Yesterday was supposed to be my day of rest and recovery from the busyness of Christmas but today I needed to do even less. I’m back in the land of headaches, which are an indicator of more severe M.E. for me. Some years, like the last one, they last for months but now that I have more personal freedom – not that I want it – I’m quite optimistic of regaining some sort of equilibrium. I need to find ways of relaxing my mind by avoiding stress and over-activity for a while. Let’s find some nice peaceful things to do if I can. If the weather would lighten up I could start my walks again, though I’d rather wait until the schools are back before I go swimming. And I’m quite hopeful of an early camping holiday in the next week or two. We’ll see. I have computer games to play and that’s fine for a while. But not all the time. I really need to open my front door and go meet the world again. I’d love to find some new friends and engage in some sort of social life but don’t know how to start. Everyone I know is married and I feel rather uncomfortable in a group of couples. I’m quite happy meeting with folk who are married in a one to one situation, it’s just when everyone’s out as a couple, and I’m not. So where are the middle aged ‘singles’ of my peer group? I’ve absolutely no idea…

It’s interesting how the Lord sometimes repeats himself to emphasise a point. Maybe he actually means what he says?

John 14:13-14 ‘You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!’ (NLT)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

27th December

So that was quite a successful day. I achieved everything I planned, which was precisely nothing. A day of rest. A day of recovery after the busyness of Christmas. Apart from a little blip that is. Yes, I did have a moment earlier today, a brief relapse into the world of grief. And the cause was completely unpredictable. I wondered whether I should be playing a music cd I’d been given for Christmas - Rodrigo Y Gabriela. As a guitarist I enjoy just about every genre of music where a guitar is playing, especially with skill to the fore. This Mexican couple play acoustic fusion with a strong Folk/Latin Rock influence. I love it, enough to have it playing continuously for over five hours today. The doubts crept in though with it reminding me so very much of an evening of contemporary Flamenco, Jane and I enjoyed somewhere near Barcelona, about 4 years ago. It was the most amazing cultural experience with many hundreds sat around long tables drinking an everlasting supply of Sangria. Rather watery and tasteless but thirst quenching I suppose. There were many nationalities there and it became very clear that the Brits are absolutely rubbish at community singing, when our country’s turn to sing came! So, was that the reason for getting upset? Not a bit of it, I only have the happiest of memories from that wonderful evening. Jane even bought a special outfit in anticipation of such an event. It was great…

Ok, the problem was actually caused by a pickled onion… another Christmas gift and actually still very welcome, a home-made jar along with some very nice cheeses. Both of which I thoroughly enjoyed, in due course. But it’s impossible to avoid or even halt the intrusion of memory flashbacks disrupting my equilibrium. Yes I thought of 40 years of Christmas, and I believe every single one of them included pickled onion, alongside cheese – not always today’s White Stilton with Cranberry – and don’t forget the pork pie, even if I’m now vegetarian. And every single one of them included Jane, who always made sure every ingredient for a successful Christmas was carefully put into place. Until this one. This year I had no tree, no lights, I bought no special food or drink and sent not a single Christmas card. Every time I even thought of engaging and taking Jane’s place in the run up to Christmas I shied away… I just couldn’t do it and had to trust that those around me would understand. All I did was buy presents for my immediate family and I tried to be rather more generous than usual in that as well. So, enjoyable as they are I could survive Christmas without pickle as I did survive without many of the other trimmings. But without Jane nothing feels right.

I keep thinking… I was born to be a husband. And at a secondary level a father also. So now I feel rather dysfunctional. I really don’t know what to do without my wife to love and care for. It’s possibly the only thing I was ever really good at, and certainly the only thing I ever wanted to do. Jane absolutely adored me and I her, we were totally in love always and we even made plans for our future life in eternity. Some may consider it wishful thinking but I don’t care, in my mind’s eye I can see our future home set in eternity and I have a glimpse of a new life together. But today and tomorrow I have to work things out in this world, whatever that means. I suppose it means I have to change… at the moment being single sucks. I hate it. But I don’t know what I can do about that. In the short term I have to get used to it or I really will turn into a grumpy old man. And that won’t do at all!

Revelation 21:5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” (NLT)

Monday, December 26, 2011

26th December

So that’s it, Christmas all finished for another year. Apart from one mince pie and enough chocolate to last until Easter, our family celebrations have now finished. Today was a mostly more relaxing time as my youngest grandchildren are now in Leeds with my son-in-law’s family. But it still felt really special and we had a good time feasting on home-made snack food and playing family games. So my video snapshot is of my eldest grand-daughter swiping colourful balloons using an Xbox Kinect. It all looked a little too energetic for my taste in games and next I found myself dodging out of the way when they progressed to stamping on rabbits as they appeared in burning holes in the lounge carpet. Amazing what a web-cam input to a video game can do nowadays. I’d rather not think about the dance game with my 6’ 4” adult son represented by a rather under-dressed female avatar. But at least he moved on to become a cheerleader, though that was frankly just weird. For some reason he was quite good at it all! And despite the many years of his addiction to Lego and me as a partner we failed to win at Lego Creationary… it’s a Lego take on Pictionary and a new novelty for us.

Well the day has been good fun for sure and I managed to remain seated for most of it so that’s helpful. I’d love to be strong and energetic again so that I can also look foolish dancing in front of the TV! What an ambition… maybe next year. Today I feel rather tired though quietly content at everything we’ve done. The only real disappointment was in my having to call it a day around early evening as my parents have their annual Boxing Day party for the whole of their family. That includes many dozens of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; so many that I easily run out of names for all the faces I recognise. Of course not all of them turn out every year so I’m not the only one missing but it would have been nice to catch up with a couple of my sisters who I get to see only infrequently. Over many years I’ve found that pushing my activity levels at Christmas has caused M.E. problems that last for several months. I’m not well by any stretch of the imagination but then again I don’t feel anything like as ill as I have done in the past. I remain determined to beat this particular scourge upon my life.

And I will travel through my season of mourning. Today's been relatively good. With my wonderful, supportive family surrounding me and with the God of Heaven living in my heart I am truly one of the most privileged and blessed persons on Planet Earth. The Lord is guiding me into a glorious future. This world has many trials and I’m obviously in the middle of one of them; it’s not the first I’ve faced, though certainly the most challenging, but whatever comes my way I know that my God is bigger than any of my problems. He is truly my comforter, my protector, my provider, my strength, yes basically my all sufficient one.

Psalm 30:5 ‘Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.’ (NLT)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

25th December

It’s been a long time since I felt this full. I’ve enjoyed wonderful food, again, and the best of company, being with my family. And this really has to be the most special celebration season of the year, where our whole family gather together for several days, sometimes in different combinations, but nonetheless we put on a good party. I can’t remember seeing my grandkids get so excited over presents; it was lovely to see the surprised look on their faces. But this happiest of days was also for us the saddest Christmas ever and at times really challenging. I completely broke down as my son-in-law was about to give thanks just before we ate and I so much appreciated the understanding hug that my daughter gave me. It’s a shame that I couldn’t control my emotions but with very few exceptions I’ve decided not to. When you need to cry, wherever you are, just do it. I’m way past embarrassment. The love I’ve lost demands unrestricted grief and that’s what I’m living with… for a season.

I need to always keep things in perspective and today has it’s own special remembrance other than just a family party. So, yes I know that Jesus was probably not born on December 25th, and that there are all manner of theories regarding the true date, I don’t consider that to be too important. I’m not interested in the fact that it once was a pagan mid-winter festival… for many it still is. That’s freedom. I was once an ungodly man walking along a pathway outside of God’s pleasure but I changed. For many believers so has December 25th. And the Queen has a public birthday different for her true one, so why not the Lord? The Bible was written by people with very different traditions from our own; so whilst I always enjoy listening to those with an understanding of Jewish celebratory days, and more rarely come across an arithmetical exposition of Old Testament prophesy, I cannot claim to have properly got my head around the understanding of the actual birth date. And the Bible covers the whole subject in only an abbreviated way, focussing more upon the life and death of Christ than his birth. So the detail surrounding the virgin birth of the Saviour of the World, God come to dwell with man, is not as important as the simple fact that it happened.

The Bible and specifically the Christmas story have a depth that we can but barely begin to grasp though, and there are lots of stories I’ve come across that I do enjoy. For me they add a little local colour whilst fleshing out the fact that God is the author of history from beginning to end and from generation to generation. Israel, as seen in the Old Testament, lived under the Law of Moses… a sacrificial system of worship where the sins of the people were paid for with the death of animals. Often lambs. A very powerful reminder of the consequences of wrongdoing! And of course our sinless Lord took upon himself the sin of the world, and gave himself to die on the cross; thus becoming the one time sacrificial lamb for all mankind. 2,000 years ago the Jerusalem Temple - 5 miles from Bethlehem - was staffed only by the Tribe of Levite and some of these were assigned to care for the flocks of sheep on the nearby hills. They were trained to spot lambs that were completely without ‘spot or blemish’ and suitable for Temple sacrifice. So who would have been better qualified than they to visit the manger where Jesus was born… with a little angelic guidance of course. And where better than a stable could ‘The Lamb of God’, the ultimate and final sacrifice have been found?

Matthew 2:1 ‘Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod’ (NLT)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

24th December

Well that went well, though it’s been a long day. Yes all my kids and their families met for lunch today in Loughborough. And we even took Jane’s mum along making it a nice round 13, so it was a real houseful and a nice party to start the Christmas celebrations. My Loughborough daughter has certainly thrown the gauntlet down with the food – nicely spicy - she spread before us and we still have two days to party. My eldest brought along home baked cakes, that were quite wonderful, and I believe it’s a role reversal tomorrow as we meet for a more traditional Christmas meal at her house in Derby. My son-in-law did really well as host after the challenge of yesterday’s hospital visit, though he did disappear for an hour to have a rest part way through the afternoon. I know how he felt for sure as right now I feel quite worn out. My home video seemed to be well appreciated and today’s fun has given me a good start on filming for next year’s offering.

The past few days have, at different times, been really upsetting and I’ve not been at all sure how I would cope with Christmas ‘fun’ without Jane. My daughter’s kitchen come dining room is directly connected through an open door to her lounge, so we all sort of moved around yet were still very much together. But for most of the time it seemed that there was always at least one empty seat… and all could see was Jane who would have been sitting in it. This was her absolutely number one favourite activity. No, not sitting down! The family party. She must have hosted several hundred over the past 35 years since our eldest was born. Numerous birthday parties every year, Christmas and Easter of course and then, someone’s passed an exam/driving test/degree or whatever… let’s party! She knew the secret of building a close knit family for sure. It’s all in the parties isn’t it? But whatever she’s doing in heaven today you can absolutely guarantee she’s not forgotten us and knows that her inheritance will always be a major part of our family life.

And we can never forget Jane. Tears for all of us are at best only just under the surface, despite the wonderful exuberance of my four grandchildren. They are really so very special to me and I don’t know how I would cope without my very special family. I miss my darling wife so very, very much…

Revelation 21:4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’ (NLT)

Friday, December 23, 2011

23rd December

Now I know what Steven Spielberg feels like after a day in the editing room. Yes I’m still working on my home movie and I reckon I’m close to finishing, having whittled an hour or two of raw footage down to about twenty minutes. I’ve still to make a decision on background music but then all I have to do is burn some discs and ‘2011 with Grandad’ will be done and dusted. It’s been a difficult year so much of what I’ve done has gone unrecorded but the clips I’ve been watching have brought back some beautiful memories of my lovely family. Christmas is such a difficult time this year and I’m not the only one really struggling with tears at the moment. Today has been quite wretched and I feel rather exhausted after getting upset a few times. But it’s such a privilege to be able to share a few tears with others.

And my son-in-law had his endoscopy this morning looking at his hole in the heart. All went well and he was back home not much more than a couple of hours after the procedure, though he has to wait for follow up regarding the next step. But that’s stage one and it was good to get it out of the way. So I woke up this morning thinking of a comparable procedure Jane had in hospital back in February. It was around 1am and she had to sit on the edge of her bed while two doctors inserted a very small tube into her back to deal with fluid around her lung. I sat with her and again the whole thing was straightforward, though with minimal success as her problem was not so much fluid as cancer growth. At the time we just got on with it, as one more event in a whole string of challenges, but reliving that episode today was like entering into a wide awake nightmare. It felt almost like I was having a panic attack, quite horrible and really upsetting. Although I offered to help it was probably good that I didn’t get involved taking my son-in-law to hospital as I’m not quite sure where I stand as regards entering one at the moment. It’s over a year since I had a dental check-up as well and every time I remember about making an appointment I find myself backing away. Anything medical is probably out of bounds for a while longer, though apart from the obligatory quick clean I’ve had no dental treatment for twenty years, so I should be ok.

Now I’m back to thinking about Christmas and had a quite delightful thought. Do they celebrate Christmas in heaven? Now I’m aware of the Biblical caution about placing special emphasis on any particular day, so of course no amount of celebration would bring special reward from heaven. God is more interested in our hearts than our religion. Religion is basically a man-made construct aiming to please God, and usually based around stylised ritual. Maybe it has value for some but it doesn’t work for me. I like to keep things simple. In the New Testament we see the Lord’s single instruction to remember him through ‘Holy Communion’ and that’s about all there is to describe how we should meet together as church. No real detail about hymns or the various other ingredients in church meetings. Maybe a bit of stuff about behaving ourselves by not hogging the show and also teaching on the work of the Holy Spirit.

But in the Old Testament we see all manner of festivals commanded by the Lord to help Israel to remember their faith journey. In simple terms you could say that the previous command to celebrate him in many ways has now ended and been superseded by the one. Nonetheless it seems to me that the Lord loves to party! So why in heaven or on earth should we not celebrate? Just not in a religious way. Attending the first communion in the early hours of Christmas Day for example can never make us right with God. There’s an awful lot more to salvation than such religious activity.

So then the Lord’s birth was certainly heralded with an angelic anthem and those particular angels returned to heaven so they have the initial experience to draw upon. I like to think that the activity of heaven in some mysterious way reflects life on earth… and vice versa. But I can’t quite see gaudy baubles or even a cardboard angel on top of a tree going down very well! And they wouldn’t need booze when already filled with the joy of the Lord. Could it ever snow in heaven? Do they give presents? What about turkey? What’s that, not even a veggie roast?

Luke 2:8-15
‘That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Saviour—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”’ (NLT)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

22nd December

Well there I was minding my own business thinking ok, it’s that time of day again. Time to blog. Then before I could even sit down I was ‘covered’ in anti-freeze… in my own living room at that! No it’s nothing to do with my car… it’s simply my son upgrading his gaming computer. His old one was water cooled and that’s something he’s decided not to bother with anymore whilst reusing the case. But it’s good to know the old man can still be useful when building a computer. It’s swallowed up most of my evening though and now it’s getting just a little too late to think much about blogging.

Anyway today has had it’s own challenges as I’ve been working on my home movies, filmed over the last year. And I had a real good time filtering out the raw footage useful for constructing my 2011 family movie. Until I found a bunch of files labelled birthdays. For a happy hour I’d sat engrossed in grandchildren world as they played in castles and paddled in the sea. And it only cost me a quietly controlled sob when the heart of stones we made on Deal beach as we remembered Jane came to the fore. The problem arose after watching the first of the forgotten birthday clips. It took only a moment before I realised I was viewing Jane’s birthday party from last January. And the explosion of grief was quite unbearable. But the transition from the heights of happiness to the depths of sadness in mere seconds was quite a shock. Almost unbearable, until I worked through another set of files which I’d filmed on Christmas Day last year and that really was too much. I guess I’ll find a way to make a DVD sometime but I can’t imagine being able to enjoy watching it for a long time no matter how charming the children are.

Philippians 4:13 ‘For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.’ (NLT)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

21st December

Well I certainly wrapped everything up today. But it feels like I made a little mistake. Too late now though! Looks like my Christmas presents are lacking in colour coordination doesn't it? That’s what comes of grabbing the buy two get one free offer at the supermarket without thinking ahead. Jane would never have done that; she’d make sure there was lots of colour in the paper before walking out of the shop. No big deal though, as long as I've put the right labels on the right presents everyone will be happy… ugh there strikes the OCD gene again – we’ve all got one of those hidden away somewhere - trying to mess my head up; no way am I unwrapping everything to check what is certainly perfect! I've got too much time on my hands and the result is that I'm allowing idle thoughts to come wandering into my mind. Funny how that one works, when distant and even completely forgotten memories seem to pop out of thin air, and are as vivid as if they happened only yesterday. Last week was much healthier as I was more occupied doing church stuff.

So there I was, lost in silver-paper land and idly thinking about my grandkids as I wrapped their presents. And all I did was glance at a photo of the four of them, sitting at the railway station, at my daughter’s recent wedding. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, I was back in the late eighties and on holiday in Somerset. Of course it was raining, so Jane and I were hurrying back to our touring caravan with our toddler youngest daughter and our son in a pushchair. The pushchair had rain covers… we didn’t and got rather wet. I can even remember, quite clearly, exactly what Jane was wearing. Our older two girls had disappeared with some holiday friends they’d made. Quite a long time later they reappeared absolutely covered in mud. They’d made the mistake of walking out to the very distant sea across potentially dangerous mud flats and struggled to get back. They won’t do that again in a hurry.

Then again, and even further back in time to Whitsun 1982 – by the way that was the best year of my life, which is a story for another time -  I remember a tent holiday we had in the Lake District. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed lots of great walks. And one day we found a rope swing over a small brook which daddy Tarzan had to show off on. Until it stopped swinging and I was stranded over water with no way to keep my feet dry… the laugh was certainly on me! We had an eccentric Renault 4 in those days and it took just over 6 hours to return from the holiday what with heavy traffic on the A66 cutting across to Scotch Corner. I can clearly see my two young girls hanging their feet out of the sliding door windows to cool off as we were stationary for so long. Rear seat belts didn’t exist in those days.

So, why such detailed memories intruding on my day? And I could have gone on and on and on recalling all manner of events… ok, one more. I’ll never forget the most incredible bright yellow, halter top, mini-dress that Jane wore on our first holiday to Newquay in Cornwall back in the summer of 1972. Years later she told me she purposefully dressed to win the man, which she did. But then again she continued in similar vein for the whole of her life.

Back on track David… this morning was absolutely horrible again. I couldn’t stop crying and felt completely wretched. Then the grandkids photo changed everything and the happy memories filled my mind, so for the rest of the day I’ve felt really good. Perhaps not quite as good as when my 18 year old fiancée wore a certain yellow halter top, but fairly happy for sure and certainly better behaved… allegedly! Did I really write that out loud?

Proverbs 5:18 ‘Rejoice in the wife of your youth.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

20th December

Well then, I’ve managed to keep myself busy all day today. And that’s exactly what I need at the moment. So it was the early morning school run that started my day off again and as my youngest is now 24 it’s been a good few years since I had to do that particular task. One more day and they break up for Christmas and hopefully they’ll have their transport problems resolved before long anyway. And it’s fascinating to consider how dependent upon cars we are. It would be quite impossible for my daughter to get to work after delivering her youngest to school within the required timeframe. And taxis are far too expensive to use all the time, so that’s why grandads exist… isn’t it? But surely one of life’s greatest blessings is to have a beautiful 9 year old grand-daughter smile in your direction first thing in the morning. Then this afternoon I collected my daughter from work early enough to attend the school Christmas performance at a nearby church. I took my video camera and had fun trying to capture a few minutes for my next family DVD. I think it’s great that in this world of multicultural, political correctness - and all the rest of it – when you hear so many stories of Christianity being erased from public life, that my grand-daughter has been given a place at a Church of England primary school. The Christmas production was a straight down the line Nativity story with fairly modern music. One song in particular took me back maybe 20 years to a time when I visited Birmingham’s NEC for Graham Kendrick’s introduction of Make Way for Christmas. Our church band then crammed to learn the dozen or so new songs for our own Christmas event. I seem to remember we had rather less than a couple of months to rehearse music and create drama and for three of those weeks I was in Ghana… which was crazy as I headed the whole thing up! Those were the days. Anyway it was good to hear ‘Tonight’ used in a school environment after all these years.

Walking into the church was a serious emotional challenge. It’s a very traditional looking Church of England, complete with stained glass and a tower type of building; and it has the only graveyard with vacant plots near to where I live. So when I went with my kids to discuss funeral arrangements for Jane, a few days after she died, having a burial here was an option we had to work through. And of course it’s a no-brainer that whilst walking through the church grounds I revisit that decision and start second guessing myself. There’s no point I know as today is not the day of decision. That’s gone, done and dusted as it were and there’s no going back. But what did Jane really want? What is actually the ‘right’ thing to have done? Ugh! It’s horrible trying to work through such nonsense in my muddled thinking. Thinking back to that decision I recall considering a nearer Church as being a real option for burial. We’ve been there a few times over the years for things like a midnight Christmas meeting and found it very warm and welcoming. The 12th century building is great and the graveyard very peaceful. But it has no vacant plots. Can I say this respectfully… I do not ‘like’ the feel of the church I was at today and the grounds are equally unattractive. The people who attend and what happens there may well be fantastic and I expect they honour God in a wonderful way. But I just don’t know them at all so I have no idea. I couldn’t face up to the thought of Jane being laid to rest in such a place. So it didn’t happen that way and we created a very personal and different act of remembrance to suit us as a family. We made the right decision.

But walking into the church and then by chance sitting in the same very draughty pew as exactly twelve months ago was tortuous. I held Jane’s hand on that occasion. And it snowed a little afterwards. And she enjoyed our grand-daughters event. And actually… so did I, both then and today despite having to hold back the tears.

Matthew 16:17-18 (Abbr.) ‘Jesus replied…  I will build my church’ (NLT)

Monday, December 19, 2011

19th December

So now the week of distraction has finished I’m instantly back in my world of grief. However, I do feel that my health has improved so the positive stimulus of playing carols all week has had some good effect. Maintaining that momentum with just my own resource is challenging as it’s far easier when invitations to get involved come along. Anyway today I visited my elderly parents to help them sort out a printer they bought ages ago and couldn’t get working. And they act as a sorting office for Christmas mail being passed around by my 4 sisters and their families, so I came home with a reasonable sized pile of cards to look through. Although I can’t say I exactly enjoy reading them, as they make me cry, I do have to say that each and every one is massively appreciated. I feel so privileged that so many people take the time to express goodwill towards me at this personally difficult time. Yes, the thought of Christmas without Jane is still quite horrible. And everything connected with Christmas brings back far too many memories. My daughters have organised things so that I’ll get to spend all three days with most of them all together at each of their houses in turn. That’ll keep me busy and should be ‘fun’.

For many years I had to meet with the recently bereaved as part of my work in insurance, and occasionally I would have to offer sympathy and sometimes a personal apology for correspondence still being addressed to the deceased. I always thought that that would be a big deal, and I guess it is, though it hasn’t happened to me since the first few weeks as I diligently contacted everyone I could think of. What I hadn’t considered though was the effect of so many personal letters arriving and every single one of them is addressed solely to me. Jane’s name is missing because she is. And that hurts so very much. It’s so hard to imagine enjoying life without her; so many good things happen around me all the time that she would have thoroughly enjoyed. I loved sharing the little episodes of family achievements with her… I’m expecting to attend a school Christmas production tomorrow afternoon. And she was invaluable in her organisation and practical support when family problems intruded… my eldest daughter’s car has been stranded in the garage awaiting expensive repairs, so I’m Mr Taxi for the school run and whatever else is needed. It’s wonderful to know that I can still be useful even though she left home a dozen years ago! But it’s horrible ‘enjoying’ life’s twists and turns without Jane.

Ok so the time for New Year resolutions is swiftly approaching, and the big question is… will I be ready to quit complaining about my lot in life? Every New Year for decades Jane and I would prayerfully list our ‘goals’, our hopes and dreams if you like for the coming year, in order to try and define direction. And also recognise aspiration. I can remember discussing this with her last year but I can’t recall writing it down as things were beginning to become very difficult then. And to be honest I daren’t look in case I find it. That would be impossible to cope with. But the principle remains invaluable so maybe I should still determine direction and aspiration as a single man. So what do I want to see happen next year? Well I reckon today is officially Day 64 of my bathroom decorating venture. I’d love to finish it this year but if I don’t then next year it has to be my number one priority! That, as well as some more life defining stuff, like I need a new start in some way… please!

2 Corinthians 5:17 ‘This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!’ (NLT)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

18th December

Yes it’s been a busy day. And I was so tempted to turn out this evening for our church Christmas event, before deciding it would not be wise. But I’ve already been to two meetings today and really that’s more than enough, especially when I worked quite hard in one of them. Yes it was the Christmas Café thing in Kilburn village hall and I had responsibility for the music. Which basically means more carol singing, but that’s fine by me and I did enjoy constructing some nice folk music style arrangements on my guitar. I’m well rusty in leading meetings as I’ve not done much for so many years and it’s reassuring to know I can still make it happen as I love doing it. It makes me feel useful and is a perfect distraction from the world of tears that I normally live in.

This morning was another story. Again a church meeting, but this time I was not involved in leading and ended up seated on the back row. We normally have two Sunday morning meetings but just for this week we all met together and it was very full. Every time I join the congregation there I seem to get really upset. I can’t stop thinking about Jane and the time we were together there. It’s incredibly painful meeting her friends, sitting alongside so many married couples, remembering the time we sang in the Christmas choir together and trying to be brave. And I can’t get used to going to church on my own, I’ve always had family with me. Indeed for quite a few years, before the days of people carriers, we’d have to shuttle up to eight of us in two car journeys just to get to the meeting. Family Sunday lunches were always splendidly busy affairs. Today I had baked beans on toast because I couldn’t be bothered to cook. And I felt horribly lonely again. Bereavement sucks!

Tomorrows another day… this can’t last forever, can it?

Ephesians 5:19 ‘Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord’ (NIV)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

17th December

It’s not always easy finding the right words to describe how I feel on my journey through bereavement. So today, as always, I feel rather lost and incredibly lonely, though I suppose I must be getting used to my new status in life as the pain is being replaced with a sort of numbness. And I do have the most horrible sensation of Jane’s presence becoming somewhat distant. In common with many long lasting relationships we were truly one in a very special way and our lives were inextricably woven together. Except, of course, they’re not any more as we are separated until it’s my turn to step into eternity. I spent over 37 years honouring my marriage vows and doing everything I could to build my relationship with Jane, to make sure we stayed close. The memory of my wonderful wife will remain as a treasure in my heart forever, but my new life must be without her. So now I have to let her go and build life by myself, and that’s completely at odds with how I feel. But necessary. So becoming distant from Jane is a ‘good’ thing enabling me to move on. But it sure doesn’t feel nice. Urgh! I feel like an alien, I no longer belong; nothing fits my idea of life anymore, it just doesn’t make sense.

I’ve just thought of the word that describes how I feel today: flotsam. A quick dictionary check defines it as ‘wreckage or cargo that remains afloat after a ship has sunk’. That about sums me up. My wonderful marriage has now sunk without trace and all that’s left is a wreck of a man… except it’s not all that’s left, even though it seems to be so. I have three daughters very happily married and four grandchildren. I have an adult son to keep me company at home. They all share my grief, I’m not alone. Christmas cards keep arriving and many have sensitively written words expressing awareness for my situation. Jane was well liked and touched many people with her loving care and she truly changed her little bit of the world with goodness. I was part of it for 40 years so there must be some good in me.

And I always live with hope. Today I may be incredibly sad and my vision surely clouded with grief, but my confidence in God is quite unshakeable. I complain too much I know, but though the brokenness of my life is complete I know that it is temporary. When the tears have been shed in full measure I will reclaim joy once again, after all what sort of love leaves an inheritance of misery? Jane was a gift from God and it was my privilege to have shared her life for so long. For reason beyond my understanding he chose to call her home early. I will never complain about the reward of a new life in heaven that she now enjoys. Instead I simply say… Thankyou Lord! Thankyou for the life I enjoyed with Jane, thankyou for the life Jane now enjoys with you and thankyou for the life I still have set before me. Forgive me for having such a negative view of my life. Help me to change and honour you.

Romans 12:2 ‘Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.’ (NLT)

Friday, December 16, 2011

16th December

Well this evening I realised how incredibly blessed I actually am. But I really struggled for most of the day… it was pretty horrible to be honest and quite challenging. It started with a little mistake yesterday, whilst I was child-minding, when I held my 3 year old grandson’s hands in my left hand, and my 5 year old grand-daughter’s hands in my right. I then did what any normal parent would do and lifted them both in the air for a little swing. Unfortunately I’m not their parent, I’m their grandad and need to act my age. I pulled a muscle in my back didn’t I… silly man! I have experience with this sort of problem as 20 years ago I ended up in hospital with a ruptured disc. And though I made a full recovery, I am so aware of how careful I should be and obviously wasn’t yesterday. Anyway I’ve been in a lot of pain all day and found it almost impossible to get comfortable. At one stage I thought I’d have to spend the day walking around as sitting was so painful. The real challenge though was that this evening was the carol singing thing in Kilburn and I was booked to play guitar. I had a decision to make about whether to cancel, or proceed and take the risk of further injury. I decided to continue.

And so that’s how I ended up counting my blessings. The evening began with a couple of sessions within a residential care home. So all of a sudden we were singing and having quite a laugh with a couple of dozen elderly folk. But they sure needed the care they were provided as they were probably all suffering from immobility problems and some with mental health issues as well. Quite a few were obviously very old and rather poorly. One guy needed to be seated nearer the door as they were waiting for a doctor to come and see him. I really enjoyed being there and they all had a good go at joining in the carols as well. That was my third visit there and it was a privilege to share their evening. As for the carols around the streets, it was very cold and trying to rain with a little sleet in the air so not so comfortable. And my fingers started to go a little numb playing guitar outdoors. Whatever… I just like playing for the Lord in whatever situation I find myself in. The mince pie and cuppa were welcome as the local Baptist Church opened it’s doors for us later on.

Although a little uncomfortable right now it seems my back will be fine. I need to be careful for a few days though, and the meeting I play on Sunday will need me to take my guitar amp, so I think I need help for that one. But it’s all wonderfully engaging and suitably distracting so I’m happy. And I feel like I’ve done something useful, hopefully brightening up the lives of a few old folk living in circumstances far worse than my own.

Matthew 25:31-40
“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ (NLT)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

15th December

Original posting on Flickr as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang using a Creative Commons Licence.

Today has not been at all easy. I’ve just about managed to avoid the tears, though I came close whilst in the supermarket this afternoon. That should help with M.E. and in that regard I don’t feel too bad. It’s just the emptiness, a sort of hollowed out feeling that makes me feel quite horrible. The phrase ‘completely bereft’ comes to mind. Several times during the night I woke, sensing that Jane was lying beside me, and then remembered my new reality. My life feels like a really bad dream, totally unreal, completely unwelcome and devoid of any semblance of normality. I hate it… not all of it of course, but certainly in general terms it doesn’t fit who I am at all. I’m the guy who’s loved his wife for 40 years and been perfectly happy building a home and family since she was 17 and I was 19. I cannot grasp the new reality of being single, or should I say I don’t want to take hold of it. I will, of course as life is a precious gift from God and I should value every minute of every day.

But at the moment nothing seems to make much sense and I really don’t know what I should be doing. It’s a bit like a kid’s painting by numbers kit; I have lots of different compartments in my life to fill in, the instructions are clear, I know what I need to do at any particular moment, and I can fill in each event with whatever is necessary. It’s just that there is no spark of originality, no real sense of creativity; it’s all been done before. I’m just going through the motions and my heart is not really in it. Somehow I will persevere, and in God’s strength I will prevail, I will have the victory over this thing called grief. It will not rob me of my future… that is in God’s hands and his alone. These last six months have been horrible, and today is no different. But I have to hope that tomorrow will be different, and better, and that something good will come along and change my focus. And if when tomorrow comes things are no different, then it will definitely be the day after when I gain that first toehold on the journey to a new life. And I will welcome that for sure. This season of grieving is very necessary; the outcry of grief has to be loud as I will store nothing up. Now is the time for mourning, sometime next year I plan on embracing joy and a new life. Don’t know how yet, but I do know that I will not remain as I am forever.

And I have had a nice time this evening. I’m child minding in Loughborough at the moment and that means fun with my younger grandkids. So I’ve been reading storybooks before making up an imaginary treasure hunt in their pasta-bake, which they then scoffed without delay. And of course the family video choice – they don’t have broadcast TV -  the first twenty minutes of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! Anyone else remember the Toot Sweet song? So then it was bedtime and I don’t get to see the rest of the movie, and now I’ll not get to know what happens to the derelict old racing car about to be sent to the crusher…

Lamentations 3:25 ‘The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him’ (NIV)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

14th December

So then, today worked quite well as a ‘day of rest’. I’ve not needed any painkillers and I don’t feel too bad at all. So I’m pointing in the right direction for sure. Oh yes, no tears either! What a day… a bit boring though, but you can’t have everything, can you? The biggest challenge has to be in controlling what I allow myself to think about, so for example I woke up this morning having been dreaming about Jane’s final few hours. Except in my dream world it was all very different from the actual event, and I was trying to work out how to say goodbye, how to use that final time together. The reality was that we both ignored the fact that Jane was dying and focussed purely upon her living to the max as best as she could. That meant no will, no funeral arrangements and no final goodbyes. We simply prayed for God’s mercy and worked hard on Jane’s comfort levels. She even bought a whole new set of clothes online just the month before she passed and enjoyed wearing them. But anyway in writing this I’ve just spent more time thinking upon Jane than I’ve allowed myself all day. When I woke up after dreaming I simply sat on the side of my bed – I still can’t get out on Jane’s side even if it means a long walk around – and as I felt the gush of tears beginning to rise up I started talking to myself, ‘No! I can’t do this, I will not cry, I will not even think about Jane. I cannot allow myself to become ill through getting upset’. And strange as it may seem I even started to apologise for not crying, which is just plain daft. But it worked, I stopped crying and have had no other problem all day. So that is good.

Of course Jane is worth more than a few tears, but today she’s in glory and well content with her new life. So tears should be more about my loss than Jane’s suffering, which has now finished. So I have to stop looking back, nothing can be changed about the past. And I have no regrets anyway; I would change nothing that happened. As horrible and traumatic as that final period of Jane’s life was (for me), in one sense it was complete. Nothing was left undone that should or could have been done. I am ‘content’… still a little traumatised but basically at peace. Anyway for sure Jane ‘misses’ us all, but living in the perfect presence of God in the paradise of heaven more than compensates for any leaning towards sadness. And she of course will have the total assurance that ‘all is well’! Everything is under God’s complete control, nothing escapes his attention and no detail of life is too small for his concern. For me that has to be a statement of faith. Today, for Jane, it is an actual reality. I know I’m repeating myself, but sometimes you have to affirm truth over and over again in order for it to truly sink in. Belief can sometimes be at odds with our feelings. Confession of faith is good and I ‘know’ beyond a shadow of doubt that all is well with my soul; it’s just that sometimes I ‘feel’ a little broken. I need mending…

1 Peter 1:6-9 ‘So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honour on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

13th December

And, yet again, I had to cancel lunch with a daughter due to feeling rather poorly. I’m perhaps a little better than yesterday but M.E. is complicated in it’s management and demands careful prioritisation. I’d committed to attending my Church small group’s Christmas party this evening, as they’d asked me to play a few carols, so I really had to rest during the day. I’ll make it up to my daughter on Thursday as she’s invited me round for tea then, so I’ll get to see both my younger grandkids. And oh yes it’s her works party in Loughborough on the same evening as her husband is at his in London so guess who is child minding that evening? It may be a 40 minute drive to get there but at least I can then relax with a video or a book for a few hours. So that’ll be easy, as long as the kids get to sleep after grand-dads tall story telling…

I do feel a little better after spending all day on my own. Although of myself I always enjoy spending time with people, it helps being able to just switch off, and with zero concentration do as little as possible. So I had to print off my carol music and I enjoyed a happy half hour preparing a very short Bible study on the Christmas story for this evening and that was it. Not exactly a full day’s work, but certainly as much as I needed to do in order to regain strength again.  

And now I have a new hobby to while away an hour or two each day. Over the years I’ve only rarely delved into the world of computer games, aside from playing very simple games like Sudoku or crosswords and the like. But just occasionally my son has offered me access to a game that has not made me too dizzy physically… I am a poor old man aren’t I? Right now I’m playing the latest Skyrim offering on his Xbox which he has kindly connected to my lounge TV. It’s rather sad though that this is apparently Skyrim V and I’ve never even heard of it until this month! Anyway for part of each day I’m now lost (usually quite literally) in a medieval world, riding around on a big black horse looking for dragons to whack with my giant sword! My son tells me off for not listening to the dialogue and for walking along sideways as I can’t always control the controller paddles well enough… but who cares, it’s wonderfully distracting even if it is a complete waste of time! But I’ve not cried at all today, so I must be doing something right, aren’t I?

My Bible study was a consideration of the meanings behind the original Hebrew names of the characters found in the very familiar Christmas story: Yeshua (Jesus - God’s salvation), Miryam (Mary – Beloved/Sea of Bitterness/Wished for Child), Yosef (God will add), Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), Adonai (The Lord, Ruler, Master…. pleural form of Adon).

Matt 1:18-21 ‘Here is how the birth of Yeshua the Messiah took place. When his mother Miryam was engaged to Yosef, before they were married, she was found to be pregnant from the Ruach HaKodesh. Her husband-to-be, Yosef, was a man who did what was right; so he made plans to break the engagement quietly, rather than put her to public shame. But while he was thinking about this, an angel of ADONAI appeared to him in a dream and said, "Yosef, son of David, do not be afraid to take Miryam home with you as your wife; for what has been conceived in her is from the Ruach HaKodesh. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Yeshua, [which means `ADONAI saves,'] because he will save his people from their sins."’ (Complete Jewish Bible)

Monday, December 12, 2011

12 December

Well I’ve spent the whole day thinking of Christmas, in a constructive way rather than just feeling sorry for myself. I have quite a nice Chris Tomlin album which I’ve been playing on and off since yesterday. It’s a mix of traditional carols and new songs, all with a contemporary arrangement, and it’s my source of inspiration for a performance song I have to play next Sunday. I remember accidently playing the album on my MP3 player, as I sat on Deal pier in the summer, and it was quite engaging then. So for a couple of hours this afternoon I sorted out music and made sure I could actually play a dozen carols such as Away in Manger and Hark the Herald, with limited access to a music copy. It’s quite a few years since I needed to play most of them and I don’t want a lot of fuss if we play outdoors at night. I’m not quite there yet, but I will be, though the weather forecast looks most uninviting at the end of the week. At least we have a 30 minute slot booked into a residential care home so that’ll work. But I love preparing and playing music and it’s a good distraction at the moment, whatever.

And I spent the morning with my eldest daughter and her husband as they helped me with Christmas present shopping at our local Outlet Store. Present buying was not totally successful although I’m nearly there anyway. But I did manage to buy myself new clothes and that is very much part of my short term plan. I need to reinvent myself in some way and creating some sort of new image is part of it. Maybe the clothes I’ve been buying these last six months are not that much different in style from what I’ve always worn, but Jane has obviously not seen any of them. And until recently I cannot recall ever going clothes shopping for myself without Jane; she basically always gave a nod of approval or a shake of the head with everything I wore. Then again I often did the same for her, though not so much of the shaking of my head. But that means that just about everything more than 6 months old that I own has a memory of Jane wrapped into it. That’s why I need some new stuff. My life is different for sure in so many ways.

And I cannot afford to allow myself to get upset again, at least for a while. Yesterday was seriously sad, with the very predictable result that today I feel very poorly. It’ll pass. But my daughter and husband had invited me out to their favourite Chinese for lunch and because I felt so weak and dizzy with M.E. I had to give it a miss. That was frustrating as I like Chinese and I enjoy their company. I’ll get better one day… that’s got to be part of the plan.

Jeremiah 29:11 ‘For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’ (NLT)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

11th December

What a horribly upsetting day it’s been. I didn’t get enough sleep last night and so started the day feeling very tired as well as having to deal with the very normal exhaustion. So emotionally I was rather fragile which means that instead of having to deal with a single episode of tears in church this morning, I found myself quite upset on three or four occasions. When I arrived home there were Christmas cards to open and I broke down again. It’s all too much and it’s made worse by not sleeping properly. Though people are so very kind and caring all I actually want is Jane. And I can’t have her. She’s gone… for the rest of my earthly life. So somehow I have to get over it. And that’s easier said than done. I have all the theory and I understand the grieving process, I’ve seen other people work or not work through it, and I had several years staring death and bereavement in the face, whilst Jane was ill… and yet nothing can prepare you for the reality of such total loss. My heart is completely broken. It needs mending.

Of course I’ve been crying out to God for help, asking him to send relief from the ongoing inward focus that bereavement brings. So I need to say thank you for an increasingly busy week, now scheduled, which will be a great distraction. So on a couple of days, so far, I’ll get to see two of my daughters and a couple of evenings I’ll be playing guitar for carol singing at church events. I also have to prepare a very short Bible based message covering the Christmas story for one of the meetings. And this morning I was also asked to play a performance song at next Sunday’s Christmas Café… which request grew into leading worship for the whole event. I don’t mind the busyness as I need positive engagement to break away from introspection. But I’m not sure when I’ll find time to progress my decorating project…

Psalm 147:3 ‘He heals the brokenhearted’ (NLT)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

10th December

So this is how exciting my day has been… I’m reduced to blogging my curry recipe. Cooking for one is not easy and motivation is always the biggest hurdle. I like food though, so finding simple meals to prepare has to be the order of the day for now. I may have shared this before but this evening was typical; simply throwing a sliced leek in with my rice, then adding fried mushrooms and Quorn to half a jar of Tikka Masala and 20 minutes or so later I have a nice little meal. But what do I do with the unused half jar of curry? And why do I always make too much rice? At least everything aside from the Quorn was organic so it shouldn’t be too unhealthy.  But it sure is not much fun. For decades Jane and I would make sure we had a special evening once a week for just the two of us. Having four kids meant child minding was necessary for many years, so although we tried to organise a night out every now and again it was more often a stay at home evening. We’d ban the kids from a room and eat grown-up food (hot and spicy) whilst watching a grown-up video (maybe Shakespeare) with a couple of candles for atmosphere. I miss both Jane and the quality of life I enjoyed so very much. This morning, I realised I was talking to myself. Again! I hate being single. And I keep repeating myself. At least I have a couple of things planned for tomorrow so that should brighten things up. Today, I feel dull and rather boring.

And tonight I’m home alone as my son has found a happy escape for 24 hours or so. He’s quite a keen online gamer and for several years he’s enjoyed playing with a particular team of guys. They seem to be scattered around the country which means it’s not easy to connect, but anyway, half a dozen of them are meeting up in Bristol to enjoy a Chinese and get to know each other before doing what they always do… staying up really late to play online games. So one guy’s parents are certainly having their private space invaded this evening. And mine isn’t. Not even by one of my son’s choice of DVD’s.  

I really should get out more. I need to meet people, but I don’t know how to begin…

Genesis 2:18 ‘Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”’(NLT)