Wondering Wednesdays – over half a life time

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.

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Wondering Wednesdays – grief and newness

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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.

Honest Christianity: Celebrating brief lives

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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.

Wondering Wednesdays – living with loss

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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…

Wondering Wednesdays – the long uphill climb

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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.

Friday photos – consider the lilies

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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.

Honest Christianity – Remembrance Day

sky lark

Skylark sings
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.
Author unknown.