Sunday, July 31, 2011

31st July

Apparently it never rains when my daughter goes camping... that’s the claim anyway. And today has certainly been wonderful, although a very lengthy visit to the beach has left my face feeling a little dry and I’ve had to resort to a little oil to repair the skin. I’m quite confident I’ve not been burnt and it’s simply the heat which has cooked me and anyway it’s been really nice having my two youngest grand-children to share quality time. So they’ve been paddling and had a go at building stone-castles as there’s no sand here, but they’ve just spent a week near Brighton so their stony beach skills are presumably well developed by now. And the real star of the day has been Errol Flynn in a 1938 version of Robin Hood which they are totally absorbed in… and I’m beginning to find fascinating myself. It’s in full colour and looks as crisp and clean as any 2011 movie! The sound track shows it’s age just a little but it’s acceptable.

For a few minutes as I sat on the beach I struggled to accept the fact that Jane has gone though. It was as though she belonged there with my daughter, my son, my grand-children and most especially with me. I miss her so much, more than that it feels as though I need her and struggle to imagine life without her. From where I sit she was the cohesive force behind so many family activities and somehow she always seemed to be able to organise us in any and every situation. I’m quite sure my daughters fit that role perfectly but I haven’t a clue. Two of my children and one grandson have birthdays whilst we are away whilst I’m sure no-one expects much from me I can’t help thinking that Jane would have been able to inspire and facilitate the three days of celebrations in a way that I never could.

And later this year my youngest daughter will be getting married and it made Jane so very happy the week before she died when her engagement was announced. They’re planning a very small and quite personal wedding and I’m sure Jane would have loved engaging with the plans in a way that I wouldn’t dare. My daughter has all the prerequisite skills and is quite able to choose exactly the right thing to do for herself with help from her beloved… a bit like Jane really with help from her beloved.

She doesn’t need my help anymore though does she? Nobody does… aaargh there goes the poor old me thing again!

Romans 12:6-8 ‘In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.' (NLT)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

30th July

I find the early morning mist quite fascinating and the spectacle more than makes up for the tedium of motorway driving. A glance across to rolling hills as the countryside speeds on by and there, hugging the ground, lie low clouds masking every fine detail of terrain, as if pretending to be a whole series of vast lakes connected by uphill flowing rivers. The beauty of the first heaven normally visited only when flying has come down to display it’s secret mystery and I love it.

And I’m on holiday again… back in Deal. This place has become more like a second home than a holiday destination though, especially as it holds few of the normal seaside attractions being relatively unspoilt and rarely busy. But this time I’m not alone as my son and one daughter with her husband and two children promise good company and a very different experience from last month. We’re on a campsite, although only my daughter and family are actually in a tent which is now an experience I’ve consigned to history. The comforts of a modern motorhome have quite easily grown on me and would be hard to give up. But I had my first accident in many years today… at 5.30am and half asleep I reversed all of two feet on my driveway and very gently but most annoyingly hit my house and slightly damaged my bumper. I forgot it was there, silly man!

It’s non-stop with grand-children though and that will surely take my mind off things. Jane had a ‘Be Mine’ Teddy Bear we kept in the motorhome alongside a suitcase carrying Paddington Bear, and they kept the little ones occupied for a while… cause nana can’t play with them anymore.

Psalm 121:1-2 ‘I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (NLT)

Friday, July 29, 2011

29th July

It’s been a fairly relaxed sort of day spent mostly preparing to go away in the morning. One of my daughters and her family will be joining me and my son tomorrow for a week in Deal. The rest of my children and grand-children will come down on Thursday for a long weekend and then we’ll find a way to scatter Jane’s ashes on the shoreline. It’s all very strange and perhaps especially as I know that Jane is now living in a brand new body in heaven. She’ll look rather different I guess but completely recognisable… perfect in every way, relatively young, even more beautiful and absolutely healthy in mind, body and spirit. But as for me, I have to wait for that particular experience and I’m in no rush as there are things to do, such as packing the motorhome: bedding on the bunk, food in the fridge, clothes in the wardrobe, oops nearly forgot my toothbrush, grandson’s birthday present hidden in wardrobe, Jane’s remains packed carefully under the bench seat next to my toolkit… the real Jane will be living in a nice house somewhere in heaven – unless she’s packing some sort of heavenly motorhome or pegging her washing out. I wonder how we’ll live in heaven. Are the practicalities of life covered by the miraculous all the time? But one day we’ll all be living back here I reckon and that will really bring us down to earth in every sense…

I’ve had my two grand-daughters to look after for the morning and casually offered them the use of an old digital camera I own. Without thinking I then decided to download it’s photos and those on my new camera and also a digital video I have onto my laptop. So lots of photos and videos to view… some taken by Jane and quite a few of Jane, including a video of her last birthday in January and the family party we enjoyed celebrating both our birthdays. And a whole selection of images I took just 3 or 4 weeks before she died… she looked so happy, completely relaxed and alive. In one she was eating a large plate of food, smiling and wearing her oxygen tubes as though they were simply designed to match her jewellery. The heartache is unbearable.

I’m really not ready to look at photos and even more so videos. I have to say goodbye to my lover and these reminders of how special she is just hurt too much. In a very real sense she never in anyway belonged to me, she gave her life to Jesus as did I; and I whole-heartedly trust him with my life and hers. He loves her far more than I ever could and his care and provision for her is perfect in every way. From my point of view she deserves the very best that life can offer and whilst I could never give her that, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ most certainly can and does.

2 Corinthians 5:1-5 ‘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. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.’

Thursday, July 28, 2011

28th July

I feel quite tired today, but at least no headache so that’s got to be good. I’ve managed a few chores and had a good walk but really I do feel more than a little fatigued. It’s boring having a long term illness and being forced to take time out when it strikes. But I do seem able to keep getting out into the countryside to enjoy the sunny weather. That always makes me feel better and has to be good for my health as well. Maybe I can walk my way into recovery and perhaps start swimming again to really get strong. Keeping focussed and skirting around or carefully walking through any situation that causes stress is the real challenge as from past experience it’s usually that which brings about a relapse. A couple of nights ago I went to a BBQ for my church small group and though they are as nice and caring a bunch of people as you could wish to spend time with I struggled. Four happily married couples all in very long term relationships and then me all on my own… it hurts too much. Somehow I have to get used to living like this but until I do I suppose I need to be more careful particularly about engaging in social activities as I end up becoming ill. It’s all boring as I like meeting with people, I like parties and BBQ’s and I don’t like being on my own.

Some days God feels very distant. I know he isn’t but it still feels like he is, so obviously the problem is with me not the Lord. It’s so easy to succumb to negative thoughts or even the beginnings of heaviness when emotions are so high and a general sadness envelops my every wakening hour. Put on top of that the ongoing weariness from coping with ever present chronic fatigue and I can present a very good justification for becoming a little low. Maybe so, but in my heart I know it’s wrong to let myself walk very far down that particular pathway. It goes nowhere very good I’m quite sure. Within myself I see sadness in an aching heart and an emptiness that was once alive with love for Jane. But I also see the love of God and I know that if I can see that love grow stronger it will fill the emptiness with God’s perfect joy and therein lies true strength to embrace whatever the future holds for me.

Psalm 16:11 ‘You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’ (NKJV)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

27th July

A day off from the grand-children, though I’ve quite enjoyed spending time with them I have to admit. So today’s simply been different. But more normal, which really means tearful again. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about a song I came across on a Bruce Springsteen album entitled ‘Oh Mary don’t you weep no more’… it’s an American Negro spiritual from over 150 years ago. It’s basic message is designed to stir hope and apparently resistance to slavery. And that kind of fits where I’m at I suppose, as I need to keep sight of the fact that grieving is a journey and not a place of abode. I can walk through it and live again; in time the tears will ease without any disrespect to the wife I’ve lost. She deserves tears but would not want or should I say does not want me to surrender the rest of my life to them.

So the song speaks to the Mary of the New Testament whose brother Lazarus had died (John 11) and then interestingly intertwines a faith statement from an event that happened over a thousand years previously as if it were directly connected. Moses, leading Israel out of slavery in Egypt is trapped on the shore of the Dead Sea with Pharaoh’s army hard on their heels. An act of faith opens a pathway across the sea which then collapses to drown the pursuing army (Exodus 14). So then, the example of faith has to do with Moses in his impossible situation as presented to encourage Mary in hers… and of course her story unfolded with our Lord Jesus calling Lazarus out of the tomb and back from the dead four days after interment.

I find the Bible to be filled with encouragement covering every challenge that life presents and offering guidance on the way to live in every area of my life... including my impossible situations. Some days I find it rather challenging to digest but with just a little perseverance and sometimes careful study I find it absolutely comes alive as a very relevant hand-book to life in the 21st century. It truly is the Word of God written especially for me when I choose to read it. It feels as if I’m gonna cry for the rest of my life but really I know that God will one day open up a pathway leading to a fresh lightness in my spirit, a restoration of joyfulness and complete fulfilment once again. And one day I won’t be quite so lonely I’m sure.

John 11:40 ‘Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”’ (NIV)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

26th July

Despite my intention to follow in my children’s footsteps I surrendered to the inevitable today. I suppose it’s a generational thing but I really couldn’t stop myself from getting the ironing board out. As far as I’m aware my children hardly ever iron anything, something about hanging things up rather than leaving them in an ironing basket is the answer apparently. But that doesn’t seem to work for me so even though ironing has to be the most boring job imaginable, today was the day. The only way I ever survive this ordeal is by watching a movie and I found one to stir the fight in me once again. The power of motivation linked with complete determination is immense in some individuals leading to incredible acts of bravery and personal sacrifice. I find it easy to succumb to temptation and surrender to my own weakness, be it physical or mental. But I refuse to enter the land of self-pity thinking I’ve done my years of sacrificial living or indulge in self-gratification saying I deserve some treats; it’s not how I should live. Yes there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the good things that life can offer but all good things come from heaven above… for me they need the touch of God upon them not just my credit card or whatever. And although I can no longer accommodate my wife in the decisions I make, I can seek the Lord giving him preference over my own ideas… good or bad.

So then, the movie I watched was Swedish and called Arn: Knight Templar and it was actually quite good if you can leave aside the politics and brutality of the Crusades. And also the religious aspect which was surely not God inspired in any way, the whole thing was quite errant I reckon… but who am I to say, I wasn’t around at the time and history does get distorted. But this was just a movie. And a love story that perpetuated through decades of separation for a young couple so much in love. A perfect example of motivation, bravery and sacrifice provoking a response in me. The love of my life has gone ahead, stepping into eternity to take her place in heaven. How will I live my life until we meet again? Dare I doubt God has a purpose for my life? Dare I take a hold of worldly pleasures and risk missing the rewards of heaven?

I must be brave I know and journey through whatever life sets before me with simple determination always to do what is right and pleasing to the Lord.

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

Monday, July 25, 2011

25th July

Well I survived the day… child-minding that is, and only 6 weeks or so to go! There was a time when such a challenge as looking after two young girls (aged 9 and 11) for most of a day would have been a complete no-no. Even though I have 3 daughters and a son of my own who were all young once, it’s not really what I do or who I am, but I’ve changed and so have they over the last year or so. Jane showed me how to befriend children rather than simply look after them. I know I’m not very good at engaging in their world at their level but their natural friendliness towards me more than compensates and so I’ve actually enjoyed the day. They’re really well behaved and easy to care for although understanding their preference of marmite to honey as a crumpet spread is way beyond my pay grade. It just doesn’t sound childish does it? My regular 1 hour stroll through the woods at Kedleston took an extra 30 minutes as they kept stopping. That sort of suits me and I’m just pleased that they were willing to join in grandads world rather than sitting in front of a screen. And we have something in common; we don’t like walking across a large field with hundreds of sheep all munching away… too much poo underfoot!

Life has it’s challenges doesn’t it? I’ve often seen children as almost being aliens from another planet, I can’t pretend to enjoy behaving in a childish way playing with them, it just doesn’t sit very well with me… it’s not who I am. But I have learned to see children as people and begun to care very deeply about them even if they do childish things all the time… I think I’ll just stick with relatives though. We all have different areas we feel naturally comfortable with… I’m fairly happy dismantling and repairing a broken pc or fixing corrupted software. Most people including those who are good with kids have absolutely no idea how to go about it and some are almost frightened of the things. A bit like me and children maybe once upon a time. I’ve never ever changed a nappy by the way... that’s not an achievement to be of proud though. But I’m never more comfortable than when standing on a stage with maybe several hundred people looking my way as long as I have a guitar to hide behind. I don’t claim to be very good at being there… it just doesn’t bother me one bit. That doesn’t work for too many people I guess. So it makes sense to try and work at those areas of life that suit us.

Bereavement doesn’t suit me. But I have no choice. Nobody does. And I will do it in the best way I can.

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

Sunday, July 24, 2011

24th July

Well it’s Sunday today, a day of rest supposedly. So when do I get a break from feeling tearful then? Not today it seems. Perhaps it’s something to do with the weekend as last week was also challenging, today less so I suppose; but at church this morning I found myself thinking very much of Jane again and the last time she was able to attend. It was an evening meeting with a guest speaker and by chance a long lost friend of Jane’s had found herself drawn in as she was passing by on her way home. She sat and held Jane’s hand pretty much all the way through. And that was so special. But very sad. It could be a very long time before I get to hold Jane’s hand again; that was my favourite thing… walking along the lane, sometimes briefly as we drove, drifting off to sleep each night, sitting through so many chemotherapy infusions and finally as she was dying - after I’d finished massaging her poor swollen feet. She was so brave. I don’t think I am.

I need a break from myself so I reckon the best thing is to get out again. I’m told the interestingly named ‘Vicar of Baghdad’ is speaking at Trent Vineyard tonight so I think I’ll wander over to Nottingham. He leads the only Anglican Church in Iraq - over two hundred of their congregation have been murdered simply for being Christian in the last few months - and he has quite a story to tell so maybe that will inspire me to look away from my own problems for a while. Should be interesting… these people are incredibly brave as well.

Hebrews 11:13 ‘All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it.’ (NLT)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

23rd July

I feel quite at peace today and a little stronger. The day has passed with the usual domestic chores, a little shopping and then a hike through the woods again and now the suns shining. And I’m increasingly enjoying getting back into walking which used to be one of my favourite activities, so I’m pushing myself to walk a little faster each time I get out. I need to take advantage of the respite from incapacity I’m enjoying at the moment and improve my core fitness. I hate being ill with chronic fatigue. Like any long term serious illness M.E. can be almost soul destroying, taking away the quality of life in some many ways. I want to get back into the workplace; it’s where I belong and whether it’s in paid employment or the charity sector I don’t mind, but I know I’m getting older and time is running out. I need healing from this horrible illness so I can get on with living. I don’t need to be sitting around at home feeling ill; it’s not part of the plan anymore… if it ever was. I want to play badminton, climb a few mountains, make music in a band, care for the lost and needy…  basically live without continual headaches, dizziness, lack of concentration, brain fog, aches and pains and a weariness that goes way beyond exhaustion even after a good night’s sleep.

I know the journey through grief is tough but with the Lord’s help I am confident that one day I’ll move on, and my hope now is for a season of relief from excessive stress and some good mental relaxation which would certainly provide at least a step forward in my health recovery. Sunshine helps as well… I wonder sometimes if it’s not the key ingredient. Vitamin supplements never seem to replace being outdoors in the summer. Basically though only God can heal the incurable and all I can do is keep praying and trying to manage my condition as best as I can which ought to be a whole lot easier now I’ve only got myself to look after… oh no I forgot about the cat.

There… I can do it, almost a whole blog without a mention of Jane. I woke up sobbing this morning which was quite timely as I needed to change the sheets and pillows anyway.

Ephesians 2:10 ‘He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.’ (MSG)

Friday, July 22, 2011

22nd July

I need to meet with God. Sometimes life feels like hard work with little to see for all the effort. And yet I know that my God can lift me out of this slog in an instant, I’ve known what it’s like to hear his voice and then walk down the pathway he directs, enjoying his presence, receiving his favour. So although I do not deserve it, somehow I’m hoping for a fresh God encounter; more than that I suppose I’m expecting it… a life changing meeting, a new call upon my life bringing a revival of purpose. I’m impatient I know but that’s what I need for sure.

I went on a longer walk today and I’m not used to it so everything aches a little. I was tired before I set out but it seems a good idea to push myself and see if I can recover some strength and fitness. I spent the first 5 months of this year in an almost completely sedentary lifestyle as I cared for Jane and so physically that’s had an effect on my strength and stamina. My son is becoming increasingly helpful around the home as he now tackles the more physical jobs I used to manage, but it would be much better if he could get full time work. He has good qualifications but no experience in his chosen field and it seems a whole generation of young people are in danger of being stranded in low-skill part-time employment which is all that’s available at the moment. At least he works at home as right now even say pushing my petrol mower around my smallest lawn leaves me feeling a little dizzy and rather weak. And that’s no good… I have to regain my natural strength. I’m sure stress has something to do with it but hopefully I’ll be able to move into an easier season of life next. I need refreshing, time out from the battle to simply survive and some nice things to do and enjoy without pressure. My youngest daughter’s making progress with her wedding plans so that’s one thing to look forward to in the near future. And my son has just told me about another job he can apply for tomorrow so who knows… maybe I’ll start getting some board money from him and then I can go camping a bit more often. That always clears my head!

Genesis 3:8 ‘Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day’ (NIV)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

21st July

I feel quite good today with a stirring of optimism just beginning to rise up once more. There’s a predictability about the cycles of grief as it’s still early days and I suppose it’ll be a while before I can properly move on. But even though I still feel very sad it’s nothing compared with the depths of grief I suffered last weekend. Yes, I do feel good and the headaches have just about gone as well.

So then what have I been up to today? It’s been a preparing the motorhome day, buying gas and some minor repairs, getting ready for the family holiday in Deal at the end of next week. And that’ll be different this time. But still good, and it’s a real privilege to have all 10 of my children, husbands and grandchildren together for a few days. There’ll only be my youngest daughters fiancée missing I believe as he has to work which is a shame. But they’re all in tents so we could do with some sunshine to help with the holiday fun.

I did feel tired again today but sort of forced myself to go for a short walk, back to the woods at Kedleston Hall and whilst I was walking I started thinking again… as you do of course. Recalling memories of my life with Jane I was basically thinking about so many things that I can never do again. But how many of of those things I would ever get round to doing again is another story. Anyway with those thoughts comes a real sense of loss. But what have I really lost? I can never lose the past… it’s happened and cannot be changed. My future will obviously be different… but until it unfolds we never really know what the future will be like anyway so how can I lose what I do not yet have? When I grieve my focus should really be upon my present loss of Jane. I haven’t lost my past or my future. The past was good and whatever the challenges the future will be better.

I still have no idea how to go about scattering Jane’s ashes when we’re down in Deal. I think I know where we’ll do it but can’t at this stage imagine what it’ll feel like or what needs to be said or even how to do it… I suppose prayer will be part of it but maybe something more, I don’t know. I’ve never done this or even seen it done before. It all feels very strange. I just want it to be done right. In some way special…

Mark 13:11 ‘don't worry about what you'll say. When the time comes, say what's on your heart.’ (MSG)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

20th July

It’s been a dull day… not just the weather either. I don’t feel as though I’ve achieved much at all even though I know I needed to rest. And that’s boring. So a few household chores and a trip to the tip with some rubbish and that’s about it, another day come and gone. But I have been thinking about things again, at least when I wasn’t being sucked into computer land. A small search query looking for a book and a couple of hours seem to disappear with nothing to show for it. I suppose it’s relatively harmless but it’s so easy just to waste time when trawling the web in an undisciplined way. Debatably the Internet is the most powerful social engineering tool ever seen, infiltrating and changing almost every aspect of modern life but it’s mostly incomprehensible, and potentially dangerous, so despite it’s obvious value it always holds a trap for the unguarded sucking us into waste of time land… or worse.

So after my little rant, back on topic and about my thinking. A quite simple thought which may well be rather harder to explain… the Lord filled my heart with love for Jane, she stepped into eternity to live with him and my heart is broken. My whole being remains totally at peace in Christ, I have no complaints, no fear and no doubts about my journey with the Lord. One day Jane and I will be together again of course… the Lord is returning to planet earth - one day soon I believe - and if I’m still alive I’ll meet Jane then. If not we’ll already be together anyway in heaven. But that must not be my goal and purpose in life, simply a Biblical hope for the future as my focus needs to be on the work of God today as that’s all I can affect right now. I have to let Jane go. Anyway, my point… today I remain totally in love with Jane, I adore her but I can’t show it anymore. Although she’s gone, the love I have for her hasn’t, indeed it’s broken. The answer I seek is only to be found in Christ and his love for mankind and me, which is greater than any love that a man can have for a woman for sure.

Quite simply I need to fall in love with God again.

Deuteronomy 6:5 ‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’ (NIV)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

19th July

The crashing waves of grief are easing a little today. And to some extent so is the severity of my headache, so I reckon the two are directly related and certainly the whole experience is horribly stressful and not a healthy way to live for too long a period of time. But I know that whilst the process of grief is physically discomforting it is nonetheless essential in order to move on with my life. The heartache and physical pain go together and there is no shortcut to working this thing through. So this last weekend has been particularly intense but although important I guess as part of the grieving process I cannot live continually like that. All I can do is endure the extremes and enjoy the periods of respite knowing that the whole thing will gradually ease and the shock of loss I’m living with will one day be healed.

In the meantime I must press into God seeking his grace, receiving his favour and keeping a hold of his peace which continues to rest so completely upon my life. He is my all sufficient one, I trust him with my future and in him is everything I need to be completely fulfilled in every area of life. Practically speaking I’m learning to pray almost as if for the first time! And I simply occupy myself as gainfully as possible, sometimes tackling household chores or small jobs, often simply reading a novel as a form of escapism but all help in distracting from overly and purely focussing upon loss.

Our poor elderly cat – he’s over 20 - just walked past me and whilst staring intently at an empty settee started howling. And I know exactly how he feels, indeed if I thought it might help I’d give it a go myself…

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

Monday, July 18, 2011

18th July

I’m beginning to feel really weary. It’s as though this thing called grief has taken a hold of me and is wringing me dry as ineffectively as after hand-washing a big thick towel… it’s almost as wet after wringing as before you started. I woke this morning being careful not to pull the covers off Jane… and she wasn’t there. I went shopping and returning to my car saw her outline waiting in the passenger seat… and it was just the headrest. I gave my grand-children fish-fingers and home-made chips for their tea and thought that’ll impress Jane… but it doesn’t, not that I can know about anyway. I can’t carry on living like this as it’s far too exhausting and my headaches are growing stronger, and it was mid-afternoon before the pain eased at all. I suppose it’s more like a migraine really.

I made myself buy salad in my weekly shop this morning and re-balance my diet, so now I have the simple goal of using it before it goes off which will be a bit of a challenge. I try and buy organic and I’m vegetarian eating quite a lot of fruit so I don’t think I’m eating unhealthily really so it’s more to do with learning to cook for one and avoid waste by not buying too much. Although I share some meals with my son we do have rather different eating habits so at least half the time I just cook for myself. I only learned how to cook a couple of years ago when Jane went through chemotherapy and this whole game is rather strange to say the least. But I suppose it’s just one more area of my life that is now totally transformed. Jane was, sorry I should say is a superb cook - there will be food in heaven surely – and I miss her inspirational high standards quite a bit. I can remember saying at just about every meal she ever prepared that it was the best food I’d ever had and she certainly lived up to that compliment every single time.

Last year was the most enjoyable summer of my life. Jane and I child-minded our two oldest grand-children through the long school holiday a couple of days each week. We had all sorts of adventures building secret-dens in the woods, National Trust activity days and mass producing friendship bracelets amongst other things. This year I have to look after them for 3 days a week and that will keep me nicely occupied until September I suppose. I don’t have Jane’s child-friendly creative genes available so the whole thing will be a bit random this time, but at least my adult son is around and he is a most superb uncle quite naturally behaving at primary school level!

Psalm 128:6 ‘May you live to enjoy your grandchildren.’ (NLT)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

17th July

It’s been a particularly challenging weekend. Here’s me thinking that the worst is over and all of a sudden the waves of grief come crashing in and I really wasn’t expecting that. My eyes are permanently stinging from crying so much. And I’ve had such a severe headache for a couple of days that ordinary painkillers are not touching it. I need to get out of the house for a long walk but the weather's not outdoor friendly and I feel really ill with M.E. anyway. I’m bored, stressed and very tired, but I remain determined to walk through this and work things through. I will honour the Lord no matter what grotty feelings seek to take a hold of me and I know that my life is firmly held in the grip of his hand.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Jane… obviously. I keep being reminded of so many things we did together, of the life we lived and of who she was. I lived with her smiles for 40 years, we were always incredibly happy together. I think of all the things we enjoyed doing together, I think of all the unfinished plans she was making right until the end and the dreams we shared of a different life now the children were all grown up. This was the woman I loved and this is how I remember her and this is how I continue to see her every hour of every day.

And that’s not quite right.

Yesterday we shared a life together, today we can’t. Yesterday Jane had unfulfilled plans to work out, today she doesn’t. Yesterday she had dreams of a different future, today she’s living in the reality of the most perfect future. So how do I think of Jane today, as she was or as she is? Am I sad because we’re no longer together? Massively, but it should only be for me… not for her. I often remember the conversations we had when we cried out to God asking that we would not be separated. We so dearly wanted to be together when the Lord returned. But am I sad for Jane… our separation, her unfinished plans and her unfulfilled dreams. Only when I’m not thinking straight! Today Jane sheds no tears as she is comforted by our perfect Father in heaven and he has wiped them all away. And her unfulfilled earthly plans and dreams are totally irrelevant to the heavenly life she now enjoys with perfect love, joy and peace.

Today I feel very lonely and horribly sad. But I know that my best friend Jesus is not just there for me, he’s praying for me with perfect prayers and he’s carrying me through this season of tears. I keep falling over and he keeps picking me up. He has a new plan for my life and at the right time will give me a new dream and a pathway to walk down. It’ll have to wait a while though as I can’t think or even see properly with all this crying.

Romans 8:34 ‘Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honour at God’s right hand, pleading for us.’ (NLT)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

16th July

A Few More Minutes

A sleepy Saturday afternoon
     daydreaming… another time another place.
Ding ding it’s my phone, a text
     it’ll be Jane, reminding me of her love.
But no it’s 02 and their free minutes
     I don’t want their free minutes.
I want a few more minutes with my love.

We started the jigsaw together
     and now she can’t finish it.
I built her a kitchen
     and now she can’t cook in it.
Her whistles lie dusty
     there’s no-one to play them.
I want a few more minutes with my love.

A figure in the distance
     looks like Jane on her way home.
I’ll surprise her soon with that new stair carpet
     still have the sample she chose.
Pizzas, burgers, beans and chips
     where’s all the salad gone?
I want a few more minutes with my love.

Les Ramblas, Barcelona
     Museu Picasso and a seat by the fountains.
New York’s Museum of Modern Art
     the ice rink in Central Park.
Le Musée d'Orsay dans le Paris
       Le Château de Versailles and it’s outdoor restaurant.
I want a few more minutes with my love.

I want to hold her hand
     when I walk across the park.
I want to say ‘I love you’
     when the nights are getting dark.
And now I’m feeling low
     I really miss her hugs.
I want a few more minutes with my love.

1 John 4:8 ‘God is love.’ (NIV)

Friday, July 15, 2011

15th July

I suppose it’s to do with coming back home, but today has been another day of feeling rather low and getting myself upset again. Crying seems to give me a headache which is annoying as I need to try and avoid painkillers as much as possible. I took a photo of Jane a few years ago as she walked away from me holding one of our grand-daughter’s hands. They were collecting leaves in a nearby wood to use in a creative arts project back at home. Then one day Jane took the photo and used it as a starting point for one of her oil paintings and that now hangs on my wall… and makes me cry. But if it wasn’t that it would be something else I guess.

Where do I go from here? I have to occupy myself in a meaningful way I know, but what should I be doing? Sitting around without purpose is not a good idea for anyone and though I should not make any major decisions at this point in my life I still need to engage with useful activity. For the past couple of days my son has been replacing the roofing-felt on one of my sheds and it’s been great to get that job sorted. But simply showing him what to do was very tiring and there are limits to what I can do which is frustrating as I’m a natural workaholic. Being away on holiday was really good but that can only be a short term fix. I need a mini-project without time constraints to occupy me I guess, but even though I have plenty of ideas I continue to find focus illusive. I really need to hear the Lord and allow him to direct my paths. Good ideas are not enough.

Proverbs 3:6 ‘Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.’ (NLT)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

14th July

I've realised that there are some memories I really can’t handle at the moment. I live in the home I shared with Jane for 32 years and I’m surrounded by our shared possessions but that’s fine… sort of. Every relationship I have, every place I visit has a memory of Jane being there with me and again that’s not a major problem… most of the time. But I was just reminded of the final trying days of Jane’s life which were impossibly intense for both of us. I’m so glad that Jane walked with God through that and as she stepped into eternity all her tears were wiped away and she was instantly made whole to enjoy the presence of Jesus for all eternity.

But I’m still here. And that particular experience was massively traumatic for me. The mental and physical effort of providing palliative care in the home was so extreme that I suppose I’ve simply locked those memories away as too difficult to deal with right now. But having been reminded of that time I know that it’s not enough to simply ignore and try to forget the anguish within me. Yes time will heal and enable me to move on, but only up to a point. I cannot allow toxic pain from those memories to live with me as I go into whatever future the Lord has for me. I trust and pray that I would never be in that type of situation again but should a loved one need me in that way I know I would want to have liberty to support them. And carrying toxic memories may well cause me to shy away and that would be wrong. More than that, negative memories might easily release a lack of faith should I need to pray the prayer of faith once more. And it would be so tempting to back off from being close to anyone just in case they too should face serious illness and that would be so sad.

So I know that in some way, at the right time I need to allow that particular trauma to rise to the surface and then I can take a hold of the pain and give it to the Lord. It cannot stay buried, locked away, allowing me but a brief excursion into those difficult days when I inadvertently get reminded of it. I know that the Lord was present right through those final few days in a very special way; somehow I need to see that reinforced by dealing with every trace of trauma.

John 8:36 ‘So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’ (NIV)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

13th July

I’ve been feeling really lonely today. I woke up missing Jane and shed a few tears into the pillow on my far too big for one person king size bed. We played a song at the funeral called ‘My home is nowhere without you’ and it feels so very true. The home I’ve lived in for 32 years no longer feels like home, and yet I have no other. My holiday did me the power of good and though I returned on a bit of a high, today the rollercoaster ride of grieving has swept me downward once more. I can see that this journey will last a long while yet and hopefully eventually the ups and downs will begin to level out somewhat, but today I feel pretty rubbish and not very happy at all with myself. I’m sure this is all part of the journey I have to travel as I rebuild and in some way re-invent my life but I don’t like days like this at all. Somehow or other I have to return my focus upon the Lord which is not always easy when my emotions are so churned up. But I do know that my future happiness is to be found only in living with Godliness as the cornerstone of my life. I will stand against every negative thought and when they do begin to take a hold I have confidence that as I reach out to the Lord asking for mercy he will rescue me.

Last night I went to our church small group and found myself sharing a little of the experience I had whilst on holiday when the Lord filled me with his peace. I often find that talking through something brings about clearer understanding of what actually happened. So it’s true to say that the lifetime I spent with Jane was a lifetime of love. Indeed, I continually gave my heart to Jane and expressed my love to her both verbally and in lots of other ways many times each and every day we were together… especially towards the end. When she died it was as though a physical chunk of my heart had been torn out of my body leaving a very raw and apparently permanently damaged wound. The gift of peace that God gave me as I sat on the seafront in Deal was more than a simple gift to help me feel better for a while. It was as though the peace of God was actually pressed into every part of me including my damaged heart. I cannot claim that my heart was healed but I can say that the peace of God is now pressed very firmly into that area of damage so much that it no longer feels like damage. And that has to be good as I journey through this season of grief. I have no doubts about God’s ultimate control over everything that has happened with Jane, but more than that I know that all his ways are good and once more I say his favour is, and has always been towards me.

2 Corinthians 10:5 ‘We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’ (NIV)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

12th July

Ok, so how on earth do you counsel a cat? He’s refusing to eat normally and though he was rather overweight is now getting rather bony. He wanders around the house I reckon looking for Jane and her mum. He looks basically quite healthy and sleeps a lot but he’s started howling, standing in our hallway and giving out the most heart-wrenching cry. But what can I do? I continue to buy all sorts of premium brand cat-food which he ignores for a few hours until really hungry. I let him sit on my lap for an hour whilst I was reading though I don’t really like it and he knows, but at least when I put him down he went straight to the previously untouched and quite expensive food I’d put out. And now I’m wondering who’s in charge, is this some clever psychological game my cat’s playing on me?

I heard a really sad story today. A really nice friendly guy I knew some years ago moved away and ended up joining the same church as one of my daughters. Over time he found a wife and started a family. In their first attempt she was expecting twins but a month before full term they died and that was tragic. Eventually they had another child who was born with serious health problems and has suffered enormously needing total care for all that time. The child died quite recently after 6 very trying years, never even learning to talk. So the question has to be asked. Why does God allow such suffering especially by those who are so obviously innocent of any wrongdoing and have absolutely no control over their own destiny?

As I was driving home I started thinking about this question one more time and thought about the scale of suffering that the whole world suffers from. It’s not just me with a wife who’s died prematurely, or the young couple who only ever wanted to raise healthy children in a Christian environment. There are billions of people living in abject poverty, many in famine conditions without access to clean water. There are innocent victims of war suffering right now in conflicts all across the globe. Honest politicians, businessman, bankers, media personnel, indeed those from any and every walk of life seem to be few and far between. We all suffer the consequences of corruption and theft in high places. Not to mention bullying in schools, the workplace or even on the M1! It struck me that although there is a lot of good in the world it certainly does not restrain or ameliorate the suffering that we see all around us.

There are times when God does deliver the afflicted and I pray that I might have the honour of being a chosen instrument to serve him in that way for others as often as possible. But it seems that more often the Lord chooses to walk with us through our suffering, painful as it is. The whole world is filled with suffering and we share in it and are not defeated by it for his glory.

Romans 8:38-39 ‘And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (NLT)

Monday, July 11, 2011

11th July

Ok, so now I’m back home and the journey was fine, similar time to travelling down with very little traffic to worry about. Aside from the predictable 30 minute delay with an accident on the M25 that is, but my satnav earned it’s keep with a nifty evasion at the first available exit and even saved me a mile or two in fuel so that can’t be bad. I felt pretty much all right when I got home and so spent a happy couple of hours unpacking my motorhome and sorting things out at home. I still have a certain amount of paperwork relating to Jane to deal with, nothing too complicated but it all takes time and a bit of careful thought.

On reflection I have to say that this 11 night break has done me the power of good. It’s the longest I can remember being away for several years and I needed to do it. I decided to stay away for as long as it takes to sort myself out and though that work is by no means finished I feel so much better now. It’s as though a confidence in my ability to cope has been gained together with a beginning of understanding of the way forward for my life. Whilst I know I have to be careful of taking on board too much I do feel able to consider re-engaging with ‘normal’ life in some way or other. So then, our cat seems to have gone a little wild whilst I’ve been away and needs some company I suppose, although I don’t really enjoy the things he has been a family pet and brought a lot of pleasure for Jane especially, for 20 years or so. I’ll have to grit my teeth and stroke him a bit more I guess… unless I can get my grand-children to visit a bit more often? And I really might need to give my family some time as they have their own journey of grief to work through. But I don’t think I was much good for anything before I went away.

Matthew 5:4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.’ (NIV)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

10th July

Today’s been a nice day. The sun’s been shining and I feel completely at peace with the world. Yesterday I seemed to have a whole chain of little things going wrong… I’m still a beginner at this cooking lark and at lunchtime I prepared a very nice omelette mix with my last two eggs, spicy sauce and pepper. I started frying an onion to add some body, turned for a second and quite neatly elbowed the egg mixture straight down the sink plughole. The campsite shop rescued me that time. But later on for my evening meal when I took my visually under-done pizza out of the oven it turned out to be rock hard and though very tasty obviously over-cooked. But I’m learning. Then as the sun went down I went to close my blinds and discovered one had completely lost it’s wind-ability and that entailed quite a fiddly dismantling job late at night to repair and re-spring it.

Today I feel all is well once again and I’m enjoying the favour of God, as I was yesterday really. I went to church again this morning and as I was a little early I sat on the sea front for a few minutes to pass the time and soak up the atmosphere. And then I had a wonderful experience which was really the extreme opposite of the horrible one I related yesterday. I enjoy listening to the blues so of all things I was listening as always to a quite loud ZZ Tops on my MP3 player, but God somehow is able to ignore my rather worldly musical tastes. Anyway as I sat down on a bench looking out to sea I felt a lightness in my spirit and started reaching out to the Lord in wordless prayer. And it was as though the most incredible peace came and filled my very being. The presence of God was with me in a powerful way and I am so very grateful that I am not alone and he wants me to know it.

There’s not a cloud in the sky and it seems a shame but I really need to return home, so tomorrow morning I’m gonna face the motorway tedium on my own one more time. But at least I get to choose where to stop for break I suppose. That’s a privilege I never wanted…

Acts 14:22 ‘It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.’ (HCSB)

Saturday, July 09, 2011

9th July

I have no idea what it signifies but today has been remarkably different from every other day since I lost Jane. I have yet to cry and it’s not that I’m trying not to; I just haven’t felt upset at all, not yet anyway. I still feel tired, though a little stronger compared with yesterday which is good as I’m planning on returning home in a couple of days and it’s a very long drive. So again, today I’ve done very little and that feels good, more reading, a little food shopping and F1 qualifying on the TV. Is this a perfect holiday or what? I could do all of these things at home but I really needed to be away to work things through by myself and it feels good. It’s really encouraging just knowing I can do something so ‘normal’ as having a holiday, on my own without support from friends or family and still enjoy myself. And in 3 weeks I will be back here with all my children and grandchildren to do it all again… only very differently I’m sure as we bring Jane’s ashes to scatter in the sea. But my grand-children will probably want a knickerbocker-glory and a paddle so we’ll have fun as we remember Jane and her treats as well…. oops now I’m almost crying!  

I had a very weird and rather horrible experience today whilst shopping; I’ve experienced it before but not for many, many years and it caught me by surprise. I’d just been through the tills and was carrying my bags out thinking of nothing in particular, simply navigating my way through a small crowd of people when a very strange feeling came over me. It lasted barely a couple of seconds but it was as though a cold fear chilled my very soul, I felt totally alone and God was no longer with me. On reflection now I suspect that I had unconsciously sensed something of what another person was living with as I passed by but I’ve obviously no idea who and that’s a bit sad. I can remember living with something similar when I was a teenager and beginning to recognise and understand my own mortality, though it was only really in the darkness of night when I was all alone and trying to sleep that I was forced to face such fears; but they were very real at the time. I was always quite depressed until I met Jane. I suppose such fear when it takes a real hold is often demonically inspired but whilst not walking with the Lord we have no way of determining it’s real root or properly dealing with it. Distraction with worldly pleasures and keeping busy was my only recourse at the time.

It’s so easy to take the peace of God for granted and forget what it was like to live without his presence permanently accompanying me wherever I go. I have absolutely no fear of death and no doubts about Jane’s presence with the Lord. My heart is filled with gratitude for the gift from God that Jane was to me; and his word, the Bible, has given understanding of my destiny of an eternity with him… and Jane. Today my mission in life is simply to respond to the Lord’s direction for my life as he speaks and leads me on. And I will do that with praise and thanksgiving whatever comes my way.

2 Peter 3:9 ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’ (NIV)

Friday, July 08, 2011

8th July

I reckon that at long last I’m beginning to relax. I still feel totally exhausted and even a short walk leaves me feeling a little dizzy, so that means completely crashing out and I’m glad I got extra food in yesterday as I really have no energy for doing anything at all. I suppose it’s called unwinding and letting the tension out and I’ve not left the campsite today. I’ve basically read a lot and even done a watercolour painting. I’ve learned to talk the talk so I could pretend it’s in the Naïve or Outsider Art genre but that wouldn’t be honest so let’s confess it really is an almost child-like beginner’s piece of work. But that’s where I’m at and I felt nicely relaxed pushing my watercolour pencils and then a wet brush around a suitably crinkled sheet of paper, so who cares.

My parents have decided I make nice coffee so they called on me a couple of times today and that ended up with a marathon computer lesson… not!  They’re completely computer illiterate and even though they own a PC they can’t do much more than switch it on, but they remain fascinated by the internet so I gave them the tour. The Google Maps drive down a relative’s road in Australia, a glimpse of their grand-daughters Facebook world, the peregrine falcon webcam on Derby cathedral, a hint of Amazon shopping and the wonders of U-Tube… it was all there, until my dad insisted on understanding the mechanics of posting a blog and then I lost them.

The past few weeks, months and even years have been so incredibly stressed after living with an on-going death sentence over my wife that it’ll take a lot for me to really let go but I know I need to. I have an opportunity to start again and believe that in Christ I have everything needed to change my life… as I suppose I’ve always had. My life has been wonderfully blessed in so many ways and yet there have always been challenges and some big mistakes made as well. I ended up in a job that never made me happy for 27 years or so… why? I sometimes wonder if the ridiculous stress levels I put myself under at work for all those years don’t have some bearing on my contracting M.E. And now I’ve had this so called ‘incurable’ mystery illness for 12 years and maybe, just maybe if I can now side-step heavy stress I might at least take a step forward in managing the condition, or even being healed. That’s a hope I’ll never give up on.

Job 6:8 ‘Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for.’ (NIV)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

7th July

I nearly had a lie in this morning. Although I woke as usual before 7am I decided to chill and read but an hour or so later my phone went and it turned out my parents were parked right next to me asking for an early morning coffee. So that was nice. I knew they were travelling down today as they always visit for the Royal Marines Band concert in Deal at this time of year, but I didn’t particularly expect them to visit me whilst I was still in bed. The last time that happened I suppose was when I was a teenager. And here’s me thinking I cannot become a single man like in my teenage years!

But I’m still feeling so really tired, so I’ve done almost nothing with the rest of the day. A walk in the sun along the seashore, filling up the English Channel with a few more tears, and a little shopping for the always needed ready-meal and that was it… time to crash out again. I picked up my guitar and played for a long while hoping to get in the frame and begin writing some new music. I couldn’t focus at all though so maybe tomorrow. Then I picked up my old Painting and Drawing Course book and read for a while hoping to tune into starting my art-work again. But this also felt so very difficult and I simply couldn’t face it. I don’t need to do either of these things but something inside me suggests that I might enjoy them... at the right time, whenever that is.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
‘For everything there is a season,
     a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
     A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.  
     A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
     A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
     A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
     A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
     A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
     A time for war and a time for peace.’ (NLT)

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

6th July

I didn’t realise how exhausted I am until today. This morning I drove to nearby Margate thinking I might visit the new Turner Art Gallery, but the traffic turned out to be far too busy and by the time I got there I was feeling really tired. So all I really wanted to do was go back to the campsite and listen to the bird’s singing so that’s more or less what I did. I need the peace and quiet of a tranquil environment to recover my strength and unpack my thoughts at the moment… I can’t be doing with being busy at all. So now I feel too tired to even go for a walk and have settled for playing my guitar, listening to my MP3 player and reading to pass the day.

So today I’ve had time to think about my life and where I am at again. I’m sure it’ll be on my agenda for a long while but nonetheless like most men when I see a problem I feel I have to find a way to fix it. The problem I’ve been thinking is that for almost 40 years I was with Jane mostly as a married man. Today I am single but don’t feel it, indeed I’m not really sure what it means to be single as a widower. Last time I was 19 years old and I can’t suddenly become a teenager again with all that that entails. I still feel married but I know I’m not… so how do I become single?

I know I have to journey through a season of mourning for however long that takes and that is the way of saying goodbye to Jane and letting go of the life I’ve lived and thoroughly enjoyed for so long. I know I cannot have that life again as Jane is gone and she’s not coming back anytime soon, so I have to let go not just of Jane but of the life I shared with her in our marriage. My immediate future does not include Jane and I can no longer share it with her as if she were with me. Memories are a treasure from God that live in the past and are fixed… there will be no more in this life, so now I’m dripping tears all over my laptop again.

There are many things I will need to start doing that I’ve never done before. Decisions will need to be made outside of the boundaries of marriage which I need to start giving myself permission to make. I’ve already begun with some decorating at home without asking anyone and now I’ve come on holiday for the first time ever on my own, going where I want, when I want for as long as I want. I find it really hard not giving preference to someone else because there is no-one else. And that provokes a really big question to even dare to ask myself in my journey to becoming single. Could I ever love another woman? I can’t even begin to imagine that happening I must admit especially as I still feel married but as a single person it would be allowed… and loneliness is pretty horrid. But during this break on my own I’ve begun to learn how to enjoy my own company so maybe the freedom of being single could grow on me. Anyway the bigger question is really whether another woman could ever love me. I cannot conceive of anyone having the patience and forbearance that Jane needed to cope with me so the whole question is academic anyway though it’s an interesting and quite diverting question. One of many…

1 Corinthians 7:32 ‘I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. (NLT)

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

5th July

I like being on holiday as even on my own I’m enjoying myself. Am I allowed to say that? I can’t say I really feel happy but I certainly don’t feel too bad, a bit lonely now and again and still massively tearful when memories come crashing in to disrupt my normal composure. This morning I walked down the campsite road, avoiding the permanent berries strewn underfoot and passed a pitch we’d once used some years ago. It was there that Jane persuaded me to get my son behind the wheel of our absolutely brand new motorhome. As an 18 year old he’d had a couple driving lessons in a small driving school car not a large 31/2 ton van, so he only went back and forwards a few times but I’m not sure who was more terrified, me or my son. I continued walking and another pitch came to mind from about ten years ago… Jane’s health problems suddenly became rather more severe and she had to be sorted out in the middle of the night, 200 miles from home camping in a tent. She completely ignored it and the next day I remember she instigated a prolonged Frisbee game and then family badminton… wonderful memories then but rather sad today.

Anyway later on I went back into Deal, as you do, and simply walked along the front eventually finding my way onto the pier where I simply sat and soaked up the sunshine. It’s strange being alone and having no-one to talk to, although fellow campers always seem happy to pass the time of day but once out and about it becomes quite challenging to even say good-day to those passing by. I play the game of trying to catch people’s eye and at least mumble a hello but they nearly always ignore me and look down when walking past.  Makes me feel a bit odd but who cares.

So what happens when one of the locals, a guy in his 70’s, is out walking his dog and crosses my path on a large otherwise empty green? I almost collide with him as I nip in front to get back into my motorhome. We have a laugh and end up talking for the best part of an hour. Do we believe in co-incidences? Not when this man once lived maybe half a mile from where I now live back in Derby… and his brother went to the same grammar school that I did. And he witnessed the single Heinkel bomber raiding Derby’s Rolls Royce in 1940. The same raid that came close to killing my mother-in law on her way to start her shift at Rolls Royce, and was seen by my own teenage mother who thought the friend she’d just said goodbye to had actually been hit. I nearly wasn’t here and nor was Jane. But my dad’s school here in Deal was also bombed and children killed as well.

So it was good to make a friend if only in passing and we sorted out many of this country’s if not the world’s problems before sharing the more painful parts of our lives. We all have a story and fairly recently his younger wife had left him leaving him very lonely and grateful for his dog as his only companion. Then a few weeks ago a long-time friend was killed with his wife whilst piloting a light aircraft leaving him quite unsettled. So it was good to be able to share a little of my own faith journey with this rather shaken atheist and gently encourage him to explore life’s greatest truth… it was only a few days ago I was wondering how I might help the lonely old folk I kept seeing on my walks.

Isaiah 55:6 ‘Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.’ (NLT)

Monday, July 04, 2011

4th July

I’ve quite enjoyed today, the weather’s been wonderful again and I’ve been outdoors for hours soaking up the sunshine and topping up the vitamin D which seems to do me good. I managed a nice walk along the base of the famous white cliffs just north of Deal where there is an old army firing range which was pretty much deserted apart from the birds. I’ve no idea what they all are but it’s nice to see them and the world feels very peaceful so I’m beginning to relax at last.

This afternoon I met some people from the local church again and came away feeling really encouraged. More than that I feel a renewal of hope has come my way, the dark tunnel I walk may still be long but there is certainly a light at the end of it. I got to spend some time with a mental-health professional working from a Christian perspective and he helped me understand, practically, the nature of loss and the process of grief which needs to be gone through. And I can get through it, I know, which is reassuring as it sometimes feels as though my heart is so broken that I could remain trapped in this limbo of grief forever. Just knowing that many of the thoughts I have, and much of how I’m feeling, is completely normal is in one sense obvious but simply to have that confirmed is quite comforting. Especially when I can see just a little more clearly the pathway I need to take in order to move on in my life. But I’m in no rush to leave the place I’m in emotionally just yet as I am determined to grieve to completion the loss of my soul-mate, my lover my beautiful bride Jane.

I guess some tears will be shed for the rest of my life but the initial rawness and shock of loss has to heal and I am determined to walk this walk for as long as it takes. I will not carry baggage into whatever the future has for me. I have no regrets or complaints about Jane leaving me as she deserves to be at peace with the Lord after all she has suffered. Indeed I remain completely grateful for the lifetime of memories I now treasure and I know that I have eternity set quite clearly in my heart which certainly includes a re-uniting with Jane and plenty of catch-up time. But that’s gonna have to wait as I’ve got stuff to do and a life still to be lived… one day at a time.

Hebrews 4:7 ‘So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today.’ (NLT)

Sunday, July 03, 2011

3rd July

I feel as though I’ve been walking through a fiery furnace today and by and large come through unscathed. The weather has been incredible and I ended up sitting outside in high sun for far too long, but nonetheless I feel fine and don’t think I’m burned at all… just a little browner and hot. But I’m not really thinking about the sun. This morning I went to church and re-connected with a group of friends whom I’ve only ever related to with Jane by my side. Just entering the building was so very difficult but the welcome was wonderful and I was pleasantly surprised that without exception everyone seemed to already know of my loss. It’s pretty rubbish having to keep telling new people about losing my wife especially when some react quite badly. But today they were so patient and caring and that makes me oh so aware of my own shortcomings when I’ve related to people in a similar situation previously. So this group of people were very sensitive and all said just the right things. I even got invited to a BBQ straight after church for a birthday celebration and that’s how I ended up in the afternoon sun for too long.

And I’m becoming increasingly aware that I’m a raw beginner at the journey through bereavement. Wherever I go I meet those who’ve suffered in a similarly deep way and although I’m not very good at simply listening I am beginning to recognise more and more that I’m not alone. Although each of us has our own individual pathway to walk through the pain it helps to know that there are many who understand exactly how I feel.

I had one conversation today which left me with an interesting thought. God gives us everything we need to cope with whatever painful experience comes our way. He sets before us the coping mechanisms, or ‘tools’ which are different for each one of us but nonetheless they work. More than that, in his strength we can stand against every toxic thought and not allow the negative destructiveness of life’s tragedies to damage us. I may be sad and tearful but inside I know the joy of the Lord will surface. I may feel alone and rather lost but the Lord is my Shepherd and my guide, he will never leave me or give up on me. Today I may wonder who I am without Jane, what am I going to be and what am I going to do. But inside I know that I am first and foremost a child of God, my future is secure and my hope is in the creator of the universe who has plenty of good ideas to spur me on to the next chapter in my life. It’ll be a good one!

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