Dealing with grief (5)

Whole weeks go past when life seems a little easier, God feels close and the future looks bright. And then suddenly, without warning and apparently from nowhere, a tidal wave of grief will hit me and plunge me back into a place of darkness. This has been one of those weeks – triggered, I think, by a nightmare I had one night.

Friends who have been bereaved of a life partner tell me this is normal, and that I can expect it to continue for some time. My mother recounts a conversation she had, two years after my father’s death, with an elderly, long-widowed friend.

“Will I ever stop crying?” my mother asked.

“No, you won’t dear,” her friend replied cheerfully, “but it doesn’t matter.”

I have been wondering what my late ex-husband would make of all this. Would he be surprised to know how deeply his death has affected me? I think he would. This train of thought resulted in a poem:

Would it surprise you to know
how much I still cry at your passing,
how often I stand looking out at my garden,
seeing in the curling, withered leaves
of my spent bean plants
a mirror of myself?
Stepping outside to uproot those plants,
my hand closes around
the supporting bamboo cane,
scarcely thinner than your shrivelled arm
round which I closed my hand
as I tucked you in that final time
and whispered words of forgiveness
which you acknowledged with a nod,
and in light of which
you might be astonished to know
that like a vapour trail in a blue sky,
the past has been puffed away
by the same wind that snuffed out
the candle of your life.

Waiter, there’s a mouse in my soup!

My father had an interesting job. He worked, at various times, for several different missionary societies. His job involved paying pastoral visits to missionaries and took him to countries as diverse as India and Bolivia, Afghanistan and Liberia among many others. As a result he had many stories to tell of the adventures he encountered on his way.

I remember in particular his account of a visit to two missionary ladies in Senegal. They lived, like the people among whom they worked, in a simple mud hut with a straw roof. These ladies had prepared some soup for his visit, and when dinner time came one of them set the bowl of soup down in front of him.

Just at that precise moment, a mouse in the thatch above them gave birth, and the unfortunate offspring landed in my father’s bowl of soup. Without turning a hair, one of the ladies whisked his bowl away from under his nose and dealt with the baby mouse. She brought the bowl of soup back and they continued with their meal.

My father (who always made a point of gratefully eating whatever was set in front of him) said afterwards that he didn’t ask whether it was the same bowl of soup with the mouse simply removed, or whether it was a fresh serving. Being hungry, he tucked in and was thankful.

So here I am, facing the next chapter of my life. The tears come less frequently and the future looks appetising. So am I going to sit and complain about what fell into my bowl, or am I going to attack what’s left in it with relish?

St Paul said, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In other words, whatever the future holds, it will all be permeated with the love of God manifested in the presence of Jesus. What’s not to like?