We were given a dozen eggs by the lovely people who are caring for the chicks in the chapel that hatched at the hospital at Easter. I know very little about eggs apart from the ones I buy are always very smooth and unmarred. Thus my question, did it hurt? What caused the scars, the marks, the irregularities? I am beginning to ponder what the scars will be as I or we emerge from lockdown, will they even be scars? Perhaps wounds are more likely which may turn to scars sometime down the line. Clearly lockdown is hurting many of us individually and corporately and we will need to find ways to process that hurt and find healing, again individually and together, and realise that some things are lost forever. Grieving is a process that goes on for a long time often, I grieve now for some of the losses bit realize it may take a while and hit me in unexpected ways at random times.
I was zooming in our back room and looked out of the window to see this view. All at once a lyric from a Jagger Richards song came into my mind:
It is the evening of the day, I sit and watch the children play… I sit and watch as tears go by.
It struck me that there are so many things I can’t sit and watch at the moment and I am missing that. No sitting by the sea, no sitting in cafes, no sitting with family and friends. There have been tears at different stages of this strange season and sometimes they come upon me unexpectedly as I reminisce and feel overwhelmed in the moment. I am trying to be real about loss as then I can grieve.
As we commemorate VE day today it also seems like an apt song. I can imagine there were many tears as well as joy as this news was announced and people looked back to what once was and the changes, challenges and losses they had experienced.
https://youtu.be/fIl_XGIVJvM for Marianne Faithful’s version of the song
Sergeant Pepper opens with the line it was twenty years ago today… When I heard that line as a child, twenty years seemed such a long time. It was thirty six years ago today my Dad died, out of the blue, no chance to say goodbye, one of those quick deaths you may wish for someone without pain and suffering but hard from this side of it. Someone asked me does it get easier, in my experience it has done, it is more of a small ache than a large gaping wound and I don’t tend to think I wish I could tell Dad that. He didn’t get to walk me down the aisle or see my academic and publishing achievements of which he would have been so proud. It wasn’t always an easy relationship particularly as a teenager but it had begun to change as I got a little older and had a bit more understanding. The picture is Rupert the Bear, apparently Dada used to read that to me as a child and I got to be able to turn over the pages at the right time as I knew the books so well. An early love of books was nurtured. With love and prayers to all who are grieving the loss of someone significant today.
Sometimes a phrase that I read sticks in my head. On our retreat last week I read Michael Mitton’s Seasoned by Seasons. In it he quotes Walter Brueggemann saying that ‘only grief permits newness’ and goes on to say ‘if we want springtime newness in our souls, we must learn to grieve well’ (p.17). The picture is of Cuthbert’s Island from the beach. Part of our worship was to ask if anyone wanted to pour out some wine on the earth to honour sacrifices made. This was something Paul had done in this place many years ago and for him was an act of grief too. But in engaging with ritual, offering things to God we become a little freer to enter into the newness God has for us.
Michael Mitton Seasoned by Season Abingdon BRF 2017.
Many of us have been to funerals and memorial services of those who have died after a reasonably long life. They are sad events but often times of celebrating a life well lived, many achievements, too many memories to mention.
Today I went to our Women’s hospital’s annual new borns memorial service. I am always impressed by the courage of the families that attend such events. What they have in common is the passion, significance in which families refer to the child / ren that have died, sometimes after only a few minutes. The shortness of the time they had with them is a factor but not a limiting one to the affection that their name is said, character recalled, the significant place they hold in their families. Pain has been joined with the joy of affection. We talk about not judging a book by its cover nor can it be judged on its impact by its length. All are loved.
This week we remember baby loss in all its facets, miscarriage, still births, neonatal, many of these no matter where they lived, in or outside the body, the potential to celebrate the brief gift of life cannot and should not be diminished.
This is the gift we can all offer these families, and perhaps ourselves, safe places and people to name names.
I love reading all the different inscriptions on memorial benches as we come across them in all sorts of places. We saw this one on a walk this week. It reminded me of something I read in my Lent book….
I have heard it said that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was among the last Americans who wore the black armband publicy after his mother died. In many cultures, people who grieve wear black for a period of time, often a yaer. … So many of us at any given time are limping around silently grieving a devastating loss and all the while trying to keep up appearances of normalcy. But what if there were this subtle symbol, cluing us into the painful reality of a fellow human being. We might be a little more patient… it would force us to stop pretending that everything is okay and evoke the compassion that naturally comes when we realize that many of us are dealing with much more than meets the eye.
p154 Broken Hallelujahs Beth Ann Slevcove IVP 2016.
We talk in paediatric chaplaincy of finding a new normal – that often doesn’t come quickly, compassion for ourselves or others is important – perhaps we have lost something in privatising mourning…
It isn’t for the moment you are struck that you need courage, but for that long uphill climb back to sanity and faith and security Anne Morrow Lindbergh
I am reflecting on loss for Lent. I am not good at loss, I tend to bury it rather than processing it and grieving properly. This quotation is a chapter heading in the book I am reading and resonates with me and reminds me of some of the struggles of friends at the moment too. Emotionally I need to go where I physically go in this picture – I climb the hill to the hermit’s chapel at Rame and I meet God there, it is one of my shelters, my thin places and there are losses that I need to bring to God and acknowledge and grieve.
When Pau’s Mum Jean moved from her house to a flat she no longer had a garden so we inherited two pots. They arrived in the winter looking like there was not much in them but this summer have blossomed. In one was a beautiful, big, bold fuschia and lilies like this were in the other one. Beautiful reminders of a woman who came through adversity and blossomed. The end of the passage about lilies (Luke 12.27-29) talks about not worrying and in this post funeral period we are trusting God to hold, sustain and keep us knowing that there will be days of grief but there will also be days of beautiful memories, like this lily evokes.
In a blog called marker posts and shelters it is difficult not to write about what is a significant marker post, the death of a parent. We pray too for any who have had memories stirred by the posts, that God would comfort you too.
all day long.
Day not long enough.
On Remembrance Day, it seems appropriate to blog on bereavement. This is a Japanese haiku that has inspired my child bereavement work over the past 10 or so years. I find it respectively holds the tension of grief and celebration. It acknowledges the beauty of the life that has been, with the reality of depth of loss. This feels like a constructive mentality and attitude towards bereavement under whatever circumstances, both statements are as true as each other.
In most circumstances, the day is never long enough, especially when we think of the average age of the young men and women that have been killed in wars.
As we are charged on this day, to never forget, this is not an option for most of those that grieve today the loss of a child or loved one. Let’s be virtuous in our care and have both courage and respect in holding and reflecting these tensions in our standing along aside individuals and our nation.
We sing this song each year at our memorial service, to the tune of Morning has broken – if a sky lark’s song had words then these would be good ones:
Fleetingly known, yet ever remembered
These are our children, now and always,
These whom we see not, we will forget not,
Morning and evening, all of our days.
Lives that touched our lives, tenderly, briefly,
Now in the one light living always,
Named in our hearts now, safe from all harm now,
We will remember all of our days.
As we recall them, silently name them,
Open our hearts, Lord, now and always,
Grant to us, grieving, love for the living,
Strength for each other, all of our days.
Safe in your peace, Lord, hold these our children,
Grace, light and laughter grant them each day,
Cherish and hold them ‘til we may know them,
When in your glory we find our way.
For those of you who are thinking this is a bad photograph, I took it like that purposefully = reflecting the light and shadows and dark places of my memories. This is an ashtray, over forty years old, one of the few physical reminders I have of my Dad who died thirty years ago today. I can still recall the phone call telling me the news, I was living away at that time and Dad hadn’t even been ill. I can still recall my very pregnant friend, Elaine, driving me home. I can still recall slipping into what was my old bedroom and seeing my Dad’s dead body before the funeral director took it away. I can still recall the funeral visit where all I really heard was the Vicar wondering why I didn’t worship at an Anglican church anymore! I still have the grey suit I wore to the funeral – not that it would fit me anymore!
I have now lived longer than my Dad lived – by 2 days. His birthday was two days after mine. Positively, if I look back over my life I am very blessed by what I see, I have accomplished much I never would have expected and some things didn’t happen the way I thought they would. I have very, very few regrets. Dad’s death taught me that we have no idea how long our life may be, I have hopes and dreams, I don’t have a bucket list. But as I write this the tears are streaming down my face for the years I didn’t have with Dad, for the things he missed, that I missed. With a difficult teenage relationship largely behind us I was slowly getting to understand how he became who he was and although I don’t really remember it I have heard stories of how he would endlessly read Rupert the Bear stories to me and I think that must have been one of the roots of my love of reading. He built a Wendy House for me in the garden and I remember all the happy hours I spent in that with my tea sets and dolls! He never met Paul although spoke once on the telephone to him…
This was not written today – I have a wise friend who never posts things on the day she writes them if they are about difficult things and today I am teaching for six hours and need to have largely processed the grief which hits at different levels each year. I think this year is perhaps harder because the number ends in a zero and my lifespan now eclipses his. I also recall the picture I took of the beautiful flowers my friend Sheena gave me on the day of the funeral, I took them back to Sutton with me and have a picture of them with a rainbow behind them which was a sign for me that although it felt a little like my world had ended I could trust in my God who was my Father too.