Thursday, June 30, 2011

30th June

Well that’s one more mountain I’ve climbed. One man and his motorhome is on holiday, but it wasn’t easy. I knew I had to do it and I woke quite spontaneously at 4am this morning, which I’ve found to be a good time to set out and beat the M25 traffic. So what did I do? Turned over and went back to sleep that’s what I did, and boy did I feel rough. I just couldn’t cope with the thought of going away on my own. I’ve never done it in my life and it’s not the journey as I’ve done a few long journeys on my own, it’s just being alone for a few days with only my thoughts for company that I find scary. Can I be good company by myself? We’ll see but I don’t expect so I must admit.

Anyway come about 8.30am I sort of forced myself to get going and went trundling down the M1 for the longest journey I’ve ever done. I had a couple of breaks and there were a lot of roadworks, so time-wise it took four and a half hours which is a bit more than usual but not bad for 220 miles. It felt like I’d been driving for days as every mile had it’s own memories of the countless times I’ve done this trip with Jane. I remember back in 1972 driving the length of the M1 with my car struggling a bit only to realise when I parked up I’d left the choke partially out for a hundred miles… can’t do that nowadays. At one time Jane became quite competitive in driving our 3 ton motorhome and for the early morning runs she insisted on doing the first stint down to the M2 in Kent. I was allowed to drive the last 40 miles and handle the on street parking! I remember she’d get me to take photos of the early morning mist and sunrise which back home she would use as inspiration for paintings. All good memories but not easy knowing there can be no more, not for a while anyway…

Oh yes I burst into tears whilst trying to book in at our all-time favourite campsite. But the nice lady behind the desk was so kind when I explained about Jane. No stiff upper-lip for me.

Revelation 21:4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (NIV)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

29th June

So I sat down to place a few pieces in the jigsaw after breakfast, I still find it a helpful distraction. And then I remembered I hadn’t read my Bible yet, I’m usually quite enjoying going through the book of John at the moment. Anyway, today I couldn’t be bothered; it just felt like another chore and the thought came that it’s been such a long while since the Lord spoke to me through his word that it’s not important, not for one day anyway. But I did feel a little guilty knowing that really the Bible is God’s love letter to the world, and his church and more specifically to me. But why raise false hopes of a personal word from heaven today? Let’s do the jigsaw and get lost in self-pity?

So with a sigh of slight annoyance I started the nearby Kindle to read my current devotional Bible and the machine automatically took me to the place I’d finished at yesterday. And there was the Lord’s love letter written specifically for me, for today, set right in front of my eyes. A very familiar verse but nonetheless the tears flowed and my heart filled with unspeakable joy… the joy if heaven itself. I know exactly where Jane is and exactly who has prepared that place and a way, one day for me to join her in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. I do not deserve his mercy or his love but my flawed life belongs to him and I will honour and follow him as best I can for the rest of my days.

Oh yes, and all of a sudden the jigsaw holds no attraction whatsoever, I think I’ll go shopping instead and then maybe I’ll pack my motorhome as I’m thinking of travelling to my favourite place which is on the south coast, Deal. But that won’t be easy…

John 14:1-3 ‘Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.’ (HCSB)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

28th June

I’ve quite enjoyed today… despite waking up around 4.30am and resorting to Suduko and then my Kindle before managing another hours sleep. And also this morning was a bit of a sob story as well as I decided I really, really am missing Jane so much it’s almost painful, which of itself is not wrong. So anyway it really has been a good day. This morning I made the ‘oh so very lonely’ journey to Loughborough with tears in my eyes all the way there. But aren’t children or should I say grand-children wonderful… it took my grandson maybe a couple of minutes to get me crawling around on the floor drawing around chubby little fingers on his paper and then high-fiving my way into grabbing a cup of coffee.

And then came the more intellectual stimulation as dad came home for his lunch-break and we sought to out-do one another with extolling the virtues and validity of a broad spectrum of churches… I reckon we need almost as many styles of worship and structure in the local church as there are differences in people. We all need a place where we feel at home be it with the incense swinging liturgy of high church or the happy-clappy pogo dancing charismatics or more likely somewhere in between the two extremes. Is it Christ centred should be the only question.

 This evening I went to my church home group and quite enjoyed myself. It was so very relaxed and peaceful and left me feeling quite good. What did strike me during the evening’s discussion was how much the Lord is really the answer to every problem we face. Whatever situation we find ourselves in, whether we are overworked or out of work, suffering ill health or bursting with energy, fighting poverty or needing investment advice, surrounded by friends or isolated in loneliness… we need to keep our eyes upon the Lord, seek his face and honour his word.

Hebrews 12:1-2 ‘And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne.’ (NLT)

Monday, June 27, 2011

27th June

I did a little too much over the weekend and so today felt M.E. beginning to bite again. My lawns needed mowing, but after about 10 minutes I was absolutely exhausted and had to leave them for my son to do later in the day. Being, at best, on the verge of chronic fatigue all the time is so frustrating as I hate having work that should be done left almost untouched. In the big picture though I‘ve enjoyed some small improvement in my personal health over the past couple of months so I can’t complain. Over the years I’ve often felt somewhat better as we move into summer and I get outdoors more, but the challenge is to keep a hold of that improvement through the winter months. And that has yet to happen.

So despite the glorious weather and the good intentions to get outside working I ended up back in admin-world on my laptop for half a day. And that took me back some years when I decided to sort out some music from an album I’ve been listening to for some weeks. In recent years I’ve always managed to source a chord and lyric sheet off the internet almost instantaneously whenever I needed one. For some reason the Christian music industry is increasingly at pains to restrict free access to sheet music, even home produced arrangements, which is puzzling when the wider music world really seems to ignore such copyright infringements. So I had to do it the old fashioned way by copying the words from the album insert and then working out the music myself. Ah, the memories of seeking that elusive missing chord come flooding back!

Unfortunately my days are interrupted with far too many memories of the life I’ve now lost. My sister called round this afternoon for a coffee and a chat and she talked of her enthusiasm for being a new grandma… Jane would have been far more engaged in that conversation than I ever could be. One of our church leaders from many years ago also popped in and again I thought of some of the really happy times we spent at that church... it feels like yesterday and yet my 23 year old son was only 7 when we left and can barely remember it. I received a wonderful sympathy card from some friends in the states that told the story of how Jane had been really kind to the newlywed wife come to live in a foreign country introducing her to the delights of shopping in Derby. And so I’ve been crying all day thinking of how good Jane was for so many people… but especially me.

Isaiah 43:18-19 ’But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.’ (NLT)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

26th June

Now obviously I’m on a bit of a rollercoaster ride of the emotions at the moment, but nonetheless I believe I’ve turned some sort of a corner today. For a start I felt completely in control of my emotions until just after mid-day, when walking back to my car after church the tears began to salt up my glasses once more. And that’s a new record! It helps that God is speaking… it’s hard to put into words but something in my spirit says that there is a powerful reason for Jane leaving me so early in life. Ultimately it is always for God’s glory and because of his goodness he always works for good in those who love him… but he showed me that he called Jane home early for a specific reason and specific purpose not just an abstract concept designed to test our faith. Although I can’t define that in a meaningful way I understand now that it was absolutely the right thing for her to leave me prematurely. I guess though that It’ll only be when I meet the Lord face to face that I’ll fully understand, but in the meantime I’m grateful for the measure of understanding that he is giving me.

Sometimes I find the Christian faith journey defies logic, it doesn’t make sense in any rational way. We live a spiritual life which by definition is other worldly; the Kingdom of God turns many ‘natural’ principles on their head… ‘Love your enemies as yourself’, ‘If anyone would be first he must be last’, ‘And God said let there be light and there was light’ etc. The power of the spoken word, God’s word, is unimaginable. The power of prayer to reach out to the creator of the universe and to know he always answers favourably is the most wonderful gift of God to all of mankind. I spent years praying for Jane’s healing, as did many others and we travelled thousands of miles seeking the word of God and the anointed healing presence of the Lord… and still she died. Does that negate the power of prayer? No way!  I shall continue to pray for the sick and would not be even remotely surprised to be used by the Lord to pray for the terminally ill and see them healed. There are so many broken people suffering with sickness who do not know how to pray and I certainly understand the suffering caused by ill health. Just because the Lord chooses not to answer prayer the way we would for one person does not mean we should not pray exactly the same prayer for others and witness the miraculous. Wouldn’t that be cool!

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ‘That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.’ (NLT)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

25th June

Today’s really not been too bad a day, which is strange to say because I’ve been feeling incredibly sad and very tearful. Despite that I felt pretty much OK, and there really is a difference between grief and depression. This afternoon I managed another walk through the woods at Kedleston, now rather muddy after the rain, but in the isolation of the great outdoors I had a real good sob and began to feel a bit better.

So I’m very much living for the moment and can’t properly consider what I’m doing tomorrow let alone next week or next month. I am quite broken and feel so very fragile, and have no confidence in my ability to cope with just about anything. Indeed at the moment I find I just go with the flow and engage with whatever comes to hand without trying to work things out. There are plenty of jobs to be done at home but I’m simply doing what I fancy when I fancy and as often as not the jigsaw is given priority over the never ending pile of paperwork. Funny how the TV holds almost zero interest at the moment… even though I still manage to watch F1! And some tasks seem to sort themselves out anyway, as for example the state has a mechanism of communicating a death around it’s various departments without any input from next of kin whatsoever… both Council Tax and Inland Revenue departments sent me unsolicited letters of condolence together with updated information. Big Brother is really watching over us.

My eldest grand-daughter was 11 today and I was invited for tea. Except tea turned into supper when we all trooped off to spend her birthday money, which meant a prolonged excursion into the next county seeking out the best deal on an iPod touch. She did alright in the end, although I find it well scary seeing such an expensive piece of equipment in such a small package being left in the hands of a primary school child. She’s very mature and it’ll be fine I’m sure. Now when I was a lad…

Deuteronomy 8:10 ‘When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.’ (NLT)

Friday, June 24, 2011

24th June

It’s been a very quiet day and I’ve hardly spoken to anyone all day… my son said hello after he woke up and now he’s cat-sitting at my daughters for the night as she’s gone to see a band in London, and then I made a phone call to cancel Jane’s British Association of Art Therapists  membership. That was sad as she worked so hard for the qualification and never went into practice, but I can remember discussing with her on several occasions during her 6 years at university about the journey through education having intrinsic value itself and not just being a means to an end. But we were all well chuffed when she climbed on stage to receive her degree certificate not just once but twice. She would have looked well cool wearing one of the funny square hats and gowns used for a Phd!

I had another walk around Kedleston Hall grounds this afternoon and my thoughts turned heavenwards. I wondered what Jane was doing right now; I wondered what she would be wearing, where she would be living and who she would be relating to. I know there are no tears in heaven and she would now have complete understanding of why we are separated, but does she miss me as much as I miss her? Perhaps there is no passage of time as we know it, so she wouldn’t have time to miss me but anyway to meet with the Lord Jesus face to face and to share in the glory of heaven would take away every trace of pain and all concern.

I remember a year or so ago Jane felt the Lord was asking her to be one of those who helped prepare the wedding banquet for Jesus and his bride… the church. I really can’t get my head around the doctrine of that one but who knows!

 Revelation 19:9 ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ (NIV)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

23rd June

I suppose I’ve been overdue for the only to be expected low day having had quite a few relatively good days. So today I’m back feeling grotty again and that’s not much fun, nor is it a good idea.  Because actually there is a world of difference between grief and depression, the first being a Godly means of processing loss and the latter simply giving in to the poor old me thing. And I’m not a ‘poor old me’ at all, I have no right to see myself as hard done to, a no hoper and really no reason to feel so low. The Lord is with me and he is for me and my future is secure, it’s only when I take my eyes off him that the problems start. Focussing too closely upon me and my problems is basically unhealthy as the challenges I’m facing become the centre of attention and molehills become mountains. Is the solution to life’s concerns to be found in worry and introspection or by reaching out in faith to the creator of the universe, the author of life itself?

So when I do consider my situation what do I see? I keep coming back to thinking about my identity and as I approach my 60th year upon planet earth I have to ask the question, how do I see myself, who am I? I spent about 30 years working in the insurance world… ‘Dave the Financial Adviser’ is that who I am? I’ve enjoyed playing guitar for over 46 years… ‘Dave the guitar-man’ is that who I am? I gave my life to Jesus over 29 years ago… ‘Dave the born-again Christian is that who I am? Over the years I’ve repaired many cars, built and fitted kitchens, repaired house plumbing and electrics and even built a small loft conversion although none of it’s been quite right… ‘Dave the DIY bodger’ is that who I am? I’ve helped raise four well balanced, polite, caring, respectful, honest children… ’Dave the dad and grand-dad’ is that who I am?

Actually all the above, and much more, at least in season is who I’ve been and maybe who I am now in some way. But more than all of these things there is one area of my life that I really do see myself as not just being totally successful but completely fulfilled and has definitely been the most significant part of my life to date. ‘Dave the husband’ that is who I am… or was.

And now I simply feel lost and don’t know who I am anymore… but I do know someone who does know everything there is to know about my past, present and future.

Psalm 139:16 ‘You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.’ (NLT)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

22nd June

Today has been a good day as I’ve certainly turned a corner in sorting out Jane’s affairs. I counted up 14 different organizations that I’ve dealt with via phone, letter and e-mail all in one morning. I was dreading having to explain to so many people that Jane had died but it wasn’t as bad as I expected even if I had to hold back the tears in more than one phone call. Perseverance pays off and now it feels as if quite a weight has been lifted off me all in a few hours… good job!

My youngest daughter invited me out this afternoon. Knowing of my long term interest in Formula 1 she thought I might like to see the new Ayrton Senna documentary at the cinema which was so thoughtful and caring of her. And afterwards she confessed that she really enjoyed it, I know I did… though the funeral at the end following his early death left the pair of us quite tearful once again.

I keep coming back to the question of my future. How to move on? In a number of different ways I need to reinvent my life and I know that has to begin with my walk with God. I’ve lost my prayer partner, more than that Jane was my accountability partner. She kept an eye on me in lots of ways making sure I remained God centred in my whole life – and I did the same for her. It’s so very different now that I’m alone with no-one to jolly me along. And grief can be so all consuming that any disciplined approach to prayer, Bible reading and times of worship is just not going to happen, not for a while anyway. But even without structured prayer I can still reach out to God as often as I choose anytime and anywhere, indeed I know that he is right there with me every step of the way right through every day. He can never leave me… simply remembering that is the challenge.

Galatians 5:1 ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’ (NIV)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

21st June

Another busy day… sort of, as I reckon that a few years ago before I became ill I could have completed today’s job list by mid-morning! Nonetheless it feels as though I’ve got through quite a lot. I’ve spent most of my time sorting out paperwork, creating a filing system and beginning to get my head around some unresolved financial issues connected with Jane. The major considerations of house deeds and bank accounts were easy to recognise as needing attention and easy to deal with, but I’m uncovering all sorts of things that need attention now. There’s a long way to go yet but I’m getting there.

So this morning I thought I’d walk to the nearby funeral parlour and settle my account with them. What I’d not expected to do was to come away with Jane’s ashes in a box disguised by a canvas bag. It felt so strange walking down the road with my wife’s remains in my hand and of course the tears started once again. I’ve no idea what the locals think of this strange man crying as he walks along with his shopping bag… I don’t really care either. My children are making plans to come with me to a place called Deal, near Dover in early August and we plan to scatter Jane’s ashes in the sea. We discussed some sort of memorial after initially considering a burial but this idea seemed to work best both for my children and me. Jane and I loved spending time there and a few years ago began to progress a move to live there, but negative medical reports and on-going treatment stalled our plans.

Proverbs 16:9 ‘You may make your plans, but God directs your actions.’ (GNT)

Monday, June 20, 2011

20th June

It’s been a much better day today, although I’ve spent the whole day on my own… maybe that helps? I certainly wouldn’t want to be alone all the time, but I suppose it gives me time to get my thoughts in order. So then, the day started off quite nicely with the usual chores and then a trip to Sainsbury’s, which was pretty much all right as I had my head-phones turned up high playing a Robin Mark album. But I did have a little moment entering the store as I walked past the flowers and realised that romance was now history in my life. My lover has no need of my flowers any more.

Back home the post was waiting and there was a somewhat delayed letter from Jane’s consultant oncologist in Nottingham offering his condolences. He’s a great doctor and a very nice man, we got on well with him and his letter was really encouraging saying how Jane had fought hard and how the team had been impressed with how she’d always maintained her dignity. It probably sounds odd but I have some good memories of the time we spent at Nottingham City Hospital, he for example always encouraged and helped Jane to make her own decisions in her own time and then supported her; he never pushed his own agenda. He even allowed us into his own personal world sharing his journey into becoming a dad and eventually showing us pictures of his new-born child. And his clinical trials assistant would delight Jane with updates on the adventures of the dog she owned. Even not going there again makes me feel sad and we did fight so very hard for Jane’s life. Indeed I don’t believe we left a stone unturned… we did everything we possibly could.

So eventually the Robin Mark album went around one time too many and it was time for the blues ZZ Top style! And I actually began to feel almost cheerful so decided to start organising Jane’s art studio which turned out to be most enjoyable. She has so much work in lots of different styles and media and I reckon I have sufficient to decorate my walls with regular changing displays for many years. She liked to explore different artist’s styles and so I have my pick of her work looking a bit like Picasso, Degas, Renoir, Rousseau and Rothko just for starters. And she has a lot of drawings that I could perhaps mount in some way as well. I found it quite exciting looking through her work. Maybe I should get my own beginner’s art stuff out again, I may not have Jane’s gift but I used to find creating art quite therapeutic.

1 Peter 4:10 ‘God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. (NLT)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

19th June

Well it’s been one of the weepiest days yet. For no particular reason I would say I was tearful almost continuously until mid-afternoon when things eased somewhat. I went to church this morning and whilst the meeting itself was great I continue to struggle in any social environment outside of my immediate family. It’s not the people, as they remain wonderfully caring and quite sensitive; it’s just being on my own in a place where I’ve always been with Jane that is so painful. I just feel utterly lost and don’t know what to do… apart from cry.

Keeping busy helps, and that’s fine around the home where there’s such a lot to catch-up after a couple of years of ignoring jobs. But I’m finding the challenge of being with other people almost unbearable, I don’t really understand why but I just know it hurts. I feel quite vulnerable not having Jane alongside me, which is a bit odd as I’ve always seen myself as her protector in all sorts of ways. So I suppose I got that wrong and on reflection, probably in common with many married men, my wife would often explain to me what really happened when we were interacting with others. I’ve often seen the look in Jane’s eye when I was about to put my foot in it one more time, if that didn’t work her elbow in my side usually did! And she always proof read and gave her blessing before I posted this blog…

And I didn’t even know it was Father’s Day until last night when my daughter left a card and present as she was about to go home. It’s one of those organising things that Jane always sorted and now I’ve slipped up by not acknowledging my own Dad in a similar way, but I’ve been too upset to work that one through practically at the last minute. My other two daughters and older grand-daughters came for lunch serving myself and my son-in-law with a very special Dad’s chocolate cake. And then we played the game of finding humorous ring tones to install on everyone’s phone, which was fun although mine stayed pretty much out of sight!

 Psalm 68:6 ‘God places the lonely in families’ (NLT)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

18th June

I’ve been looking forward to today. My youngest grand-children came to visit for a few hours which is always a pleasure although just a tad noisier than my normal routine. And their toys and books seem to explode all over the house which is actually quite wonderful! I don’t find young children easy to connect with and so there’s a certain satisfaction when I manage to break through into their world. They were both a little emotional at different times and I suspect they are still trying to understand about Nana no longer being here but Jaffa cakes for a snack followed by home-made chips and then ice cream seemed to help them settle in… if only life were that simple for the grown-ups.

So the plan was to take them to the Fire and Rescue Event on the park. We sort of got there but they seemed far more interested in the fun-fair – horrid things I reckon – and then the paddling pool. Anyway there they were in their little raincoats keeping dry from the rain, but getting rather wet from splashing around in the pool. Aren’t children strange? I’m really not sure what to say about mum who couldn’t resist joining them for a march through the water! Oh to be young…

I couldn’t stop the tears though as 40 years of memories of me and Jane visiting Markeaton Park intrude so powerfully on the day. I can remember quite clearly a walk there the day before my daughter was born over 30 years ago. Jane was overdue and we reckoned the walk on the park did the trick.

But the hardest part of the day was driving my daughter and children back to Loughborough. For several years Jane and I made the journey every week to visit them and it was our special thing that we did together. On the way there we pass the turn to an organic farm which is where Jane and my daughter quite recently made arrangements to hire a room to run their art workshop away-days. It never happened.

2 Corinthians 5:7-10 For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.’ (NLT)

Friday, June 17, 2011

17th June

It all feels a little unreal at the moment. And I really don’t feel myself, although I suppose that’s partly because my life is so radically different compared with a month ago. I know that as I walk with the Lord my future is secure, my life will have purpose and he will fill me with his peace and joy once again. But right now I feel pretty grotty and rather unclear about what to do with myself as everything’s a bit muddled. It seems that all the important things I’ve worked at and been responsible for over many years no longer need my attention. Jane’s with the Lord, my kids are all grown up and they together with my grand-children are really looking after me rather than the other way round. I’m too ill to work either in the workplace or even in voluntary work such as in the church other than in a very ad-hoc way. And anyway the mature skills I’ve developed in the financial world, music and leadership have no real openings that I can see and that does feel a bit of a waste of experience. Oh dear I am getting a bit down aren’t I?

At least there are no major decisions to be made at the moment and I only have myself to please so things couldn’t be any easier… or tougher. Although thinking back they certainly were an awful lot tougher last month.

There’s a Bible verse I often think about which says something like ‘Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.’ At times like this though I reckon I have to be careful of listening to my heart too much. My heart is broken. So I suppose that this is really a time to simply grit my teeth and simply get on with doing the right thing even if I don’t feel like it. I’m determined to live as normally as possible despite the challenges of being a single person again… is a widower a single or a completely separate breed of person? It doesn’t feel like I fit anymore. I don’t like it as marriage was by far and away the most successful part of my life, although I do enjoy being a dad and continue to have special relationships with all my kids. Church remains important but I have to admit I find it quite challenging wondering how I fit in now.

I’ve started a version of the Bible I’ve never read before and it seems nicely written and engaging in a new way. I’ve been using the New Living Translation for the past few years and thought it the best yet but when I looked for a download to my Kindle it was rather expensive. Anyway the Holman Christian Standard Bible was a free e-book on Amazon and so far it feels very similar and very usable as a devotional aid in an electronic format. Speak Lord speak… through you word oh Lord stir my faith once again. Open my eyes that I might see Jesus. Help me to turn aside from all that does not please you, help me to embrace Godly life and Godly purpose. Have mercy my God, have mercy.

Colossians 1:23 ‘…continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.’ (NIV)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

16th June

I feel trapped at the moment. It’s as though I’m living in the past all the time as everywhere I go and everything I do reminds me of Jane. And there’s nothing wrong with that apart from it continuing to be rather upsetting. My youngest daughter hasn’t felt strong enough to return to work yet and so we spent the day together again. We had a really nice time together despite trundling up and down the M1. Our first stop was Leicester Museum and Art Gallery and the visit began with the compulsory coffee and Danish in the café. I sat there and within seconds all I could think about was my visit last year with Jane to view my other daughter’s drawings hanging in an exhibition. And so the tears flowed quite freely.

Then we drove quite a long way up to Mansfield Outlet Shopping Centre for some retail therapy. My daughter got lost in a clothes shop, as all women do, and I was left wandering up and down the centre… crying my eyes out, remembering the countless visits we’d made over many years buying clothes, Christmas presents, suit-cases for holidays, Thornton’s drinking chocolate in the café and who knows what else. I bought myself a new jacket but still felt sad.

I have to engage with my new life in a pro-active way as passivity leads nowhere that’s very good. Who wants to be depressed? I can have no complaints about my lot in life and have no right to feel down. A little sad maybe? Perhaps a lot sad… for a while anyway.

Philippians 3:13 ‘Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead’ (NIV)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

15th June

Life doesn’t get any easier. Of course I’m impatient I know, but I feel quite miserable at the moment and long to engage with activity that builds towards my new life rather than just untangling the old. At the moment I’m still sorting out my house, although I’m completely avoiding Jane’s possessions which are mostly out of sight now. But it’s reached the stage where I’ll be looking through her personal filing system to make sure nothing needs early attention and that won’t be much fun.

Somewhere down the line, probably sooner rather than later I’m going to have to get out of the house and meet some new people. I don’t really enjoy being on my own all the time, although I know I’ll have to get used to it to some extent, but I do enjoy meeting new people. Everyone has a story, a life story, and most people like to talk about themselves. I like to listen. And talk about myself sometimes as well! So I’ve been wondering how to go about this new adventure. Obviously one of the best ways is in the workplace, but I’m not well enough to consider that at the moment. Ministry groups at church are great for getting to know people at least a little, and then I’m wondering if some sort of night/day class learning something new would work in September. But what sort of class? I already have all the I.T. skills I’m likely to need but maybe improving a foreign language would be handy, or some sort of art class maybe drawing or watercolours or possible photography? I have a daughter who teaches a drawing class in Loughborough and it sounds like they’re usually a nice and friendly group. I’d have to practice a bit before finding one in Derby though. I used to love playing in a badminton club but those days are long gone.

I’m still trying to get my head around going on holiday alone. I’ve been working on my motorhome and find it quite distressing just being in it. This was our special place where we had so many wonderful times, just the two of us. I know I’ll try it fairly soon but I’m not really looking forward to it even though a holiday on a campsite in the countryside is my idea of heaven…

One possibility is to explore the world of singles holidays for the older traveller where there may possibly be others in a similar situation, but that feels a little daunting. One of the biggest challenges in relating to other people is the fact that just about everyone I know is married and it’s so painful being made aware of what I’ve lost. And for those couples somewhat older than me it hurts even more knowing that should I grow old it’ll be without Jane.

Genesis 2:18 ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

14th June

What a long day it’s been today. I didn’t sleep particularly well last night and then have been on the go all day so I’m feeling totally exhausted right now. But at least I’ve been nicely distracted by keeping so busy. This lunchtime I enjoyed a picnic at nearby Kedleston Hall – my third visit in a couple of weeks – with my youngest daughter as a companion and we had a little cry together thinking of her mum. I love my kids and it’s a privilege to be able to spend a few hours together, just the two of us, talking about life and stuff. She announced her engagement just a week before Jane passed away and that made us so happy, so now she’s beginning to play with ideas for the wedding which I suspect may be a little different. I’m all for it… we’re all unique individuals so why try and fit into some else’s box?

All in all I’m being well looked after by those around me… I was invited out for an evening meal  and that was followed by our church house group meeting. I don’t think I’ve had a proper sit down for 17 hours now so it’s no wonder I’m so tired. Anyway on the way home tonight I turned on the radio and caught just the end of an interview with someone who was studying grief. One idea gave me food for thought as she was talking of the process of grief. She seemed to be saying that the loss of a loved one will obviously be part of your life for the rest of your life. But if we engage with the process of grief then the expression of grief will eventually pass. There was some other stuff about different stages which may or may not be relevant to every individual but basically she suggested that there is a ‘healthy’ mechanism for dealing with loss built into each one of us. The key ingredient seems to be the passage of time, whilst allowing grief to evolve. I can do that. Whilst praying of course…

Proverbs 24:10 If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength!’ (NIV)

Monday, June 13, 2011

13th June

Tuning into ‘normal’ life is not at all easy. The whole world carries on as if nothings any different and yet for me nothing can ever be quite the same again. It’s a bit like living in a bubble, everyone I know understands my situation and is so very considerate and caring. And it’s encouraging when I visit my daughters to see that they too have a collection of sympathy cards from their own network of friends and relatives. It’s like everyone is rallying round to support and encourage at a time when it’s really needed. I spent the morning with my youngest daughter, who’s not returned to work yet, and that was enjoyable as she’s more than willing to share in retail therapy, the favourite tonic when feeling a little low.

The bubble burst just a little this weekend when I realised I had a problem with my car tax. I’d completely forgotten that I’d previously registered my car as a disabled person’s vehicle as that entitled me to free road tax. Obviously that now had to be cancelled and the unexpected £215 bill sort of brought me down to earth quite nicely. Apparently the only way to re-classify it and purchase the new disc was a personal visit to the DVLA in Nottingham, which felt a little over-complicated and quite a trek. But my daughter quite happily accompanied me… though I suspect the close proximity to Ikea softened the burden somewhat!

One of Jane’s friends kindly took the time to phone and make sure we were all ok and we had a good chat. She’s been so thoughtful visiting herself and then sending her husband out with food on a couple of occasions and this time she mentioned that they’d been thinking of me when they went to a folk music festival and maybe I might be interested in joining them sometime. It’s strange when coincidences occur and as a Christian you have to consider that maybe the Lord is saying something. I learnt my craft as a guitarist playing in rock bands over 40 years ago and more recently spent many years in worship teams. I’ve not played regularly in public for a long time now and miss that part of my life… it’s great fun! So how do I progress this seed thought? Well at the moment our church is if anything over-subscribed with musicians and worship leaders so I need a change of direction… I’m no longer interested in playing rock music; I enjoy the blues but that feels quite a purist and narrow genre and so I’ve been thinking of exploring the folk music world and maybe learning a song or two to see how that feels. Then came the phone call… as a prompt? Let’s see what happens.

1 Kings 19:11-13 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (NLT)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

12th June

The roller coaster ride of emotion continues, although the highs are not really that high. But then again I suppose the lows are not really that low. I went to our church meeting this morning and for a time felt great, I even remembered a time many years ago when I enjoyed dancing with joy before the Lord on one of those rare occasions when I wasn’t involved with leading worship. I resisted the temptation this time... I doubt if I could anyway. For no particular reason though I soon began to feel a little low and annoyingly have felt that way for the rest of the day. It’s just not easy to pick myself up on days like this. I’ve always enjoyed rainy days but today it’s just felt miserable and even my favourite sport of F1 at this moment has been red flagged for well over an hour due to rain. Boring! So many times over the years Jane has enjoyed a Sunday afternoon nap whilst I watched the grand prix and when her favourite driver Lewis Hamilton crashed out I had the thought that I would have to disappoint her with the news when she woke up. And then I remembered. I so much miss talking to Jane or even anyone about the trivia of the day. I have a great family, they’re wonderfully supportive and I’ve been out for lunch again today with my eldest so I’m not complaining but it’s like nothing feels right without Jane by my side. I feel really lonely.

I’m just so very grateful though that I know the Lord. His peace is really all that keeps me going and I have a very real sense that he is carrying me through this season of grief, fully in control of my destiny. Lord, thank you for your goodness, I trust you with my life my God. I will honour you and I will serve you and you alone.

1 Peter 5:7 ‘Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.’ (NLT)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

11th June

I feel quite encouraged today. After a good night’s sleep I tackled the daily chores and then went shopping, so it was around mid-morning, back home, that I opened the latest in the steady trickle of ‘we’re thinking of you’ cards. And the tears finally came on this new day. Don’t get me wrong, I really value receiving these cards as they’re incredibly encouraging and it’s wonderful knowing that so many are standing with us at this challenging time. But the reminder that Jane is no longer with me, and in this life never can be, touches my heart one my time and gives it a little tug. Emotions are so very raw at the moment though I reckon they’re beginning to heal just a little… tear-free until mid-morning is a new record!

This afternoon I managed another walk around the grounds of Kedleston Hall; years ago I discovered that for me the best way to spend time praying was whilst walking and I’ve missed not being able to walk as much as I used to for that very reason. I love being outdoors in the countryside where the stress of life fades away and that has to be beneficial as an M.E. sufferer. But any stress at all and Chronic Fatigue raises it’s ugly head making normal life including walking so very challenging. At least there are regular benches to take advantage of when needed and as I sat looking over the fields the tears began to flow again. When I first met Jane we would spend hours driving and walking in the countryside and especially in more recent years as the kids left home we loved to holiday on campsites… albeit in a modern motorhome. I remember the first time we talked of the love we had for one another was on a walk across Darley Park with the river on one side and the open meadow on the other. And that love never failed; indeed it grew stronger with every passing year.

So, back to my prayer time this afternoon, I believe that as we seek the Lord he will meet us at our point of need and I reckon he did. Again. I wasn’t particularly articulating any prayers, just reaching out to God, not even asking him to speak. But I believe he did, and he showed me something that in one sense is very challenging but also enlightening. Jane died prematurely, that’s obvious, but I have to believe that the days of her life were counted by the Lord and she fulfilled all that he had for her in this life. Her suffering under grace was part of that fulfilment… I don’t pretend to understand that but it was certainly part of the call upon her life. And she received an early reward for it. Anyway, thinking of me now it struck me that my life has a totally different direction, unwanted, unasked for but nonetheless it can never be the same. So I’m thinking perhaps there are things to be achieved for the Lord in the future that could never have been done if Jane were still with me sharing my life. I have freedom to make my own decisions; I have almost no responsibilities for others and can basically do whatever I want. And all I want is to please God; to follow the example of the life lived by the Lord Jesus Christ… maybe I’m overdue for re-reading one of the gospels to remind me of how special that life was?

Philippians 4:19 ‘And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.’ (NLT)

Friday, June 10, 2011

10th June

It’s so tempting to simply tough it out or maybe just rest in the grace of God and ignore the grieving process. It would be much more convenient not having to keep getting upset… I keep having to dry puddles of tears off my laptop. Coping with bereavement is a very personal process and I suspect that those affected manage it in many different ways, for me I choose to try and keep busy as a distraction and then when the tears come, and they do, I simply let them wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. Be it shopping in Sainsbury’s or working on my computer when you’ve got to cry you’ve got to cry.

And I have to trust that in engaging with the process of grief it will one day evolve into the pleasure of simply remembering Jane with grateful affection rather than the present heart-breaking sense of loss. And it’s far more than just Jane that I’ve lost. She was my whole life. I did nothing without considering her needs and I used to hate it when she was in hospital; it was incredibly stressful for us both, but I used to love being there with her. I spent countless hours sat by her bed, often simply holding hands and saying very little. My most treasured memories this year were of the times when I was able to take her off the hospital ward onto the balcony or down the corridor to the little garden. I know that she’s far better off now. But I’m not. And I don’t know what to do with my life, except cry and it’s horrible.

So I’ve been wandering around the internet looking at widow/widower forums and blogs… mostly Christian and it’s quite helpful seeing how others manage their loss and knowing that I’m not alone in how I feel. But I know the Lord still has plans for my life and pleasing him remains my sole purpose as I walk into the future… whatever it holds for me. And he will restore his joy to my life I know.

Matthew 6:33 ‘Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.’ (NLT)

Thursday, June 09, 2011

9th June

Keeping busy without doing anything, that’s the challenge. It’s quite challenging when I stop to think as the tears still flow at the slightest excuse. Keeping myself occupied is a great distraction, but in order to manage M.E. I am forced to work at a measured pace and have regular breaks. And everywhere I look there is Jane’s stuff… I’m gradually trying to put things away, at least out of sight until I’m ready to dispose of it but she has a lifetime of possessions filling our home. And everything hurts. My birthday card to her, grand-children’s special drawings, her ever-ready collection of children’s toys, her university and college course-work, the book-mark in an unfinished Les Miserables, her all-time favourite DVD ‘The Holiday’, the friendship bracelet she tried to get me to wear, her old slippers… and now I have a headache from crying too much.

If only I could be as brave walking through bereavement as Jane was through her end of life care. I came across a photo today of her wearing oxygen supply as if it were simply another piece of jewellery. And she was such a determined woman doing everything possible to engage with life until the very end. She was told her cancer was terminal some years ago and we followed it’s progress very carefully... so we always knew what was happening. As recently as last November, about the time she went sledging with our grand-children, she was putting in place a business plan and had a venue booked for an art workshop programme. I’ve just had to put away a set of unused art tools she bought especially for that.

So it’s tempting to wonder why she had so much Godly vision for life when the Lord knew her time was very short. I suppose the alternative would have been to wallow in self-pity and pursue whatever worldly pleasure was set before her, but that wouldn’t work for either Jane or me. We have to live with hope and reach out in faith for God’s goodness and purpose for our lives no matter what our circumstances say. And no matter what time we have left. Surely the Lord is far more interested in our response to his call upon our lives than he is in whether we actually completed that calling. This world is a fallen, corrupt creation and whatever we do will be flawed and challenged in some way or other. It is the response of our hearts that ultimately pleases the Lord, not our deeds.

Matthew 5:8 ‘God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.’ (NLT)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

8th June

Today’s been a bit of a slog. I’ve had to make myself work; right now it felt a real burden just to pop a ready meal into the oven. I can cook a bit now as Jane taught me a lot over the past couple of years whilst she often needed help, but I just don’t feel like doing anything. Everything feels unimportant after the intensity of the weeks and months just gone. And after caring for Jane in such an all-consuming way for so long it feels strange just having myself to think about. I know it’s far too early to properly consider, but it’s such a major change and the big questions are beginning to surface… I’m not quite sure who I am as a widower; what is my new identity? Jane and I were never really very good at socialising apart from the occasional invitees for meals and I can’t get my head around that at all when our friends are all married couples. I expect they’ll be kind and keep me connected in some way but it’s feels a bit weird when the last time I was so alone I was a teenager. I seriously need to seek the Lord for his engagement with my life again as I know idleness, even whilst preoccupied with grief is not going to work for me.

This morning I made a start on clearing Jane’s study which has become a dumping ground for all sorts of things through the course of this year. It’ll become my own office space come study now as I really have a lot of paper-work simply thrown hastily into large plastic boxes… that makes for a pretty useless filing system and I hate it. I spoke to a legal adviser today and was relieved to hear that our decision not to make a will for Jane was correct and her estate needs only the most minimal of attention and will cost nothing to attend to. It should all be sorted within a couple of days which is a relief… I’m so glad we’ve always put everything into joint names. I’ve closed down her e-mail, sorted Facebook and cancelled her mobile number so all in all it’s been quite a productive day. I also visited Amazon and treated myself to a mobile broadband dongle and a usb freeview tv stick so I can go away with all the connections I have at home. Is there anything this man hasn’t done or forgotten?

Oops, I had a lovely phone call this evening from my grand-daughter who was 5 years old today. She rang to say thankyou for her birthday presents and to tell me all about them. Apparently I bought a Peter Pan DVD, a bell and a basket to fit on her bike and she was well pleased. I put cash their way previously but I’m so glad my daughter looked after me with the actual purchases; I managed a greeting card but the thought of Toys-R-Us without Jane as my guide is well scary. I haven’t a clue.

My veggie lasagne was nice enough though.

Psalm 18:1 ‘I love you, Lord; you are my strength.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

7th June

I woke up this morning feeling quite positive, today is a new day and I wondered if I might even escape the ever present tears that have fallen so easily. It lasted less than an hour until I casually started reading the remembrance book that so many kind people wrote in yesterday. It really is so very hard looking at a picture of Jane looking so happy and then reading such nice tributes and remaining tear-free is not possible. And then all my children turned up, it’s great how they’re giving themselves to spending time back in their childhood home helping us all to grieve together. So there they were sat around the table at lunch-time laughing and talking as they always do and encouraging my youngest daughter to progress her wedding plans. And I just felt so sad thinking about Jane, remembering our own wedding and the fun we had on that special day… the video shown at the funeral was so evocative of the life we lived. Jane dressed in her white gown wearing a top hat belonging to a friend and dancing with this challenging man seeking to steal her away. In the unfolding drama I rescued my bride flooring him with a pretend fist fight. And I still can’t stop the tears. I feel really selfish now… I only ever wanted to grow old with this wonderful woman and she belongs to God, not me. I need to be and I am so completely grateful to him for the time we’ve had and for the life we’ve enjoyed together… and also the life yet to be enjoyed through eternity.

I don’t really know how to put this into words but last night the Lord touched my heart in a very specific and personal way. Today I am grief-stricken, quite naturally and it will pass of course. But the Lord gave me a glimpse, just a glimpse of how I will feel one day. For an hour or two it was as though she was there with me and we were talking quite normally… I know she wasn’t really there and I would not dream of trying to talk with her in this life ever again, I do not believe in communicating with the dead no matter who they are. But it was as though I were given a vision of how it might be after I too step into eternity to be with the Lord. We were simply discussing in a really matter of fact way the events of yesterday at the funeral. I may be wrong but I reckon that the saints who've gone before us into heaven may well be too engaged with that life to pay much attention to life back on earth. I was telling her all about it and it all felt so normal, indeed as normal as any conversation we’ve ever had. We even had a laugh about it. I believe God created Jane to be Jane, me to me and whoever to be whoever; and whether we be on earth in this life, in heaven awaiting Jesus’ return to earth or living in the new world to come we are who we are… perfected one day of course but essentially the same people. Jane’s smile is to be enjoyed for all eternity. My grumpiness will hopefully fade at least a little though!

But it felt real good knowing that one day the tears will ease and eventually be gone forever.

Revelation 21:1 ‘Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.’ (NKJV) 

Monday, June 06, 2011

6th June

What can I say about today? The greatest challenge of my life… the funeral of my wife, my best friend, my one true soul-mate, my lover, the mother of my children and such a beautiful person. It was a perfect day, everything I could have asked for worked brilliantly and I have to say that I am totally overwhelmed with the kindness of so many joining with us, I must have been hugged by a hundred people after the service of thanksgiving… and there were more than few handshakes as well! The remarks made about Jane and the kindness shown to myself and my family have left me a little shaky. It’s all a bit much. And there have been so many little stories shared of how Jane impacted lives in very special ways that I didn’t know about. She was truly loved and respected for who she was by so many. I sort of keep thinking that she would have been amazed if she had known even the smallest part of the way others see her. I reckon she’s got a good idea by now as she converses with the Lord in heaven, and I wonder if going red with embarrassment is possible as an available option in paradise… I know she would have in this life.

I prepared a couple of slightly different tributes to Jane for each of the two meetings and that was quite a tough call to make. Standing in front of assembled fellow mourners and reading whilst fighting back the tears when our pastor would willingly have read for me… but I did it and it felt good honouring the life of my lovely Jane in a way that no one else could. Most days over many years I would spend time with Jane using my guitar to sing worship songs and I decided to do exactly that with a couple of songs as part of my tribute. I even bravely ventured into the blues genre for a version of Amazing Grace that Jane and I enjoyed quite recently and I’m so glad I did as a very personal tribute to Jane’s love of worshipping God and her enjoyment of blues music. A couple of my daughters sang live the song written for Jane last year and that was precious – you can find it on my blog of 27th May. Years ago we used to sing and play a lot as a family and we could just about put together a small band, it was so special hearing my girls sing together again. One more time for their lovely mum.

Our church is so wonderfully supportive, providing every facility and staff to make this most difficult of days so very easy. They did everything we asked willingly in such a friendly serving way with catering staff working on their day off and others travelling late to a church conference in North Wales, they really put themselves out and I am so grateful. It’s great not having to consider finding ushers, a PA guy and a musician to make a meeting happen when it’s all done for you by people you already know. It was all so personal and our pastor was quite perfect in all he said and did and I am so grateful for the privilege of belonging to such a church.

Psalm 7:17 ‘I will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.’ (NLT)

Sunday, June 05, 2011

5th June

Today’s been a tearful day making final preparations for Monday’s funeral. I’ve re-read through all the sympathy cards in one go and also my e-mails and chosen a few appropriate comments to include in the ceremonies and that was comforting and challenging at the same time. People are so very kind. We’re having a private family cremation first followed by a public celebration at Derby City Church at 12pm, so that makes it quite a big day but Jane is worth it!

It still feels strange being able to go to church again, and today I went twice… a real treat. This evening’s meeting was very relaxed and completely informal. We enjoyed a beautiful time of worship led very sensitively and the presence of God filled the room with his perfect peace. For me there is no earthly pleasure that could ever compete with spending time with the Lord. One day we shall all meet him face to face but until then I am determined to honour and serve him as best as I can. I only want to please him by seeking his will for my life.

And I suppose I’ve got freedom now to do just about anything I like when I like. I have almost no responsibilities and after tomorrow my diary is basically empty. There’ll be a few family things of course but as regards my personal future I start with a blank slate and that’s an interesting challenge in itself.

Lord, help me to live a life that honours you. The thought of living without Jane as my partner is so very difficult; but I know, my God, that you can fill that void; you can strengthen and guide my steps, you can set before me God purpose and in time, my Lord, I know that I will be restored to even greater things.

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

Saturday, June 04, 2011

4th June

Having been an M.E. sufferer for 12 years I reckon I have some experience of chronic fatigue. I know the difference between extreme tiredness which demands sleep and the flu-like weakness of M.E., but today I’ve now reached a new depth of weariness that has it’s root in my emotions and I feel totally drained. It’s so hard to keep going and yet somehow I know that the Lord is sustaining me. I have another challenging day on Monday with Jane’s funeral and have no doubts that God will strengthen and comfort each one of us, helping us through this ordeal. More than that I fully expect the Lord to show up in some way and because of that I’m almost looking forward to it which probably sounds a bit odd, but I love to see God at work in my life… and who knows what further good he might yet bring out of this great personal loss?

I went out today for the first time on my own, apart from the obvious shopping. A two mile walk through the woods at Kedleston Hall was quite an achievement. A little while ago such a distance would have been challenging due to M.E., maybe the sunny weather helps because at the moment I do feel a little better and my constant headaches have certainly eased which is wonderful. I wonder also if the improvement relates to the hyper-stress of providing end of life care for Jane being replaced with the more controllable stress of bereavement… M.E. has it’s own peculiar set of rules. At least I can sleep and eat now and it’s a relief not to be waiting on the next scan result or the next medical crisis. I still feel a little traumatised by all of that as well as missing Jane so very, very much but life is moving on. I had a dream a couple of nights ago and in the dream Jane died and then I woke up knowing I’d only been dreaming and then I properly woke up…

Matthew 5:4 ‘God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.’ (NLT)

Friday, June 03, 2011

3rd June

And today I feel totally exhausted; I guess it’s the emotional strain that’s taking it’s heavy toll which is not a surprise. I cannot conceive of a life without Jane. I am totally secure in the knowledge that God will fill that void, his grace is more than sufficient for any need and he will direct my pathway into the future whatever that may hold. But today right now I feel empty and very alone. I have the most wonderful children and grand-children visiting and phoning continuously and I have a superb relationship with each of them. There are other relatives and friends reaching out to me in very practical ways… the doorbell rings and there’s a friendly weepy face bearing gifts of food and offering a hug. I’ve received the most wonderful expressions of sympathy via e-mail and cards from every conceivable relationship we’ve ever had… relatives as far afield as Australia, several long lost friends from the very distant past and even Jane’s university lecturers. But I still feel so very lonely. I only want to be with Jane.

She used to say ‘I don’t want us to be separated’… she could cope with dying but not with leaving me, we were truly one with each other. And I expect that always to be the case. There may be a physical separation, but the love of God has joined our hearts together for eternity. We were married in 1973 when although a confirmed Methodist and a regular church-goer I was not really a Christian. Nonetheless at our wedding as we stood in front of the altar I found myself overwhelmed with tears sensing a ‘presence’ sharing pleasure in that special moment. At the time I had no idea what had happened, but I knew it was something far more than just wedding emotions. Several times whilst in prayer in church I felt something similar but had no means of either communicating or processing these experiences. A decade later all the lights came on when I was born-again into a relationship with God and I recognise quite clearly the manifest presence of the Lord in my life in many ways.

I know beyond a shadow of doubt that God joined Jane and I in marriage and chose to share that special day with us despite our lifestyle of ignoring him. After we were married I even stopped attending church for the next ten years determining that my previous church-life had been nothing more than a very good moral but nonetheless purely social experience which I could take anywhere. I was totally wrong though that’s a story for another time.

Matthew 19:6 ‘So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ (NIV)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

2nd June

It’s been another highly emotional day having to focus upon the practicalities of arranging Jane’s funeral. Monday sounds a long way away but there’s still quite a bit to think about and just focussing upon that day would be far too stressful. So I’m really enjoying the changes to my home, the front room bedsit is now well established as dining/jigsaw/library room complete with it’s own sound system. My grand-children at last finished the Barcelona flower market jigsaw and started the next charity shop purchase which is an English cottage garden. More flowers but there’s not much choice… I think I’m getting old.

So today we reviewed my son-in-laws video and slide presentation for the funeral. I’ve found it quite upsetting looking at photo’s of Jane and our life together but to be confronted with a delightful video of our wedding back in 1973 and then more recent footage was seriously too much. Even my older grand-daughter joined in the sobbing. I’m ‘happy’ to do this thing called mourning properly and this is definitely part of it.

My nearly 5 year old grand-daughter started talking about the funeral saying ‘Nana will be in a box won’t she?’ It was good to be able to say that Nana wouldn’t really be in the box because she was actually in heaven with Jesus now. And it is only her old body in the box, because she has a new one now and doesn’t need this one anymore. So then my thinking grand-daughter said ‘we can’t go and visit her there can we?’ To which I replied ‘not really but one day we would though once you go to heaven you can’t come back… at least not for a long time.’ This little conversation made me feel really happy. I love my grand-kids.

Then we had to write out some cards for the flowers on the coffin at the crematorium. How on earth can you pay a proper tribute to such a lovely person on a tiny card? We all managed to say something though. And today was the deadline for choosing music for the crematorium as well, another difficult task emotionally but quite easy to actually decide. After that I had to put together a first draft of the order of service at the church… one of my daughters then tidied it up and she’ll try and get them printed tomorrow. ‘Little’ practical jobs like that help enormously, especially when I have to cope with looking at the photo of Jane on the front. She looks so wonderfully happy… but not as happy as she looks right now in the presence of our Lord Jesus!

2 Corinthians 5:1 ‘For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.’ (NLT)

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

1st June

I suppose I’ve been feeling a little low today, I know I’m very tired and probably surviving on adrenalin but there is so much to think about which can’t really be ignored. Including a certain amount to organise regarding the funeral and I’m so tired as all the time there are reminders of Jane everywhere which is  always upsetting. But I am determined to get the funeral right even if I have to handle a few deadlines right up to the wire. It’s easy to delegate just about everything and nice to have the back-up of less emotional folk who are slightly at arm’s length from Jane and me but I really want this to be as personal as possible. Obviously it’s an important day and emotions will be high but I intend to just go for doing some stuff and see what happens. Our pastor is well able to pick the pieces quite seamlessly I know… he’s great!

So I spent the morning assembling bookcases. For too long my books have been stored in boxes in the attic completely inaccessible, most of them were purchased second hand from charity shops or on-line so my library looks a little jaded but who cares? At least I can sort through them and decide which to keep. Jane only recently started a collection of classics which might be good to display but then I find some books from our early Christian life 20-30 years ago, James Dobson’s book on raising a family, a book on praying together as man and wife and a whole bunch on building marriage. It’s all a bit much to cope with at the moment and so I give my eldest daughter a hug whilst we weep together. Then we go shopping… again.

Revelation 21:4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.’ (NIV)