“Till we meet, till we meet,
Till we meet at Jesus’ feet;
Till we meet, till we meet,
God be with you till we meet again.”
If only I could be so certain.  If only we today had that rock-solid belief that we would in fact “meet on that beautiful shore” and be together with those who have left us.  The old-time religion that never doubted for an instant, how I long for it. 

Today marks one year, the worst year of my life I have to say — without, I hope, any self-pity.  It is a simple fact.

I asked Don what he wanted to do today: come home with me and spend the day quietly together, probably pretty gloomy and down, or stay at the nursing home, where there would at least be people milling about and we could push the grief thing out of our minds some of the time.  He didn’t hesitate.  “I want to come home.”

Good.  Because sometimes (quite often, actually) you don’t want to get away from the grief.  Especially at the beginning.  This is a poem written by someone whose little son died at 5 months:

I don’t WANT
To do anything
To make me better.
I like it down here.
I don’t want to climb out
And leave him behind.

So we came home and I read some cards and emails that people had sent, and also read some of the cards we received a year ago that we couldn’t quite bear to read just then, and then I played some music (Till we meet again, Through the love of God our Saviour all will be well, and Where is my wandering boy tonight) – and then we had lunch and then watched a comedy I taped (One Foot in the Grave, if you must know, and yes, I know it is corny stuff) and Sunday’s Insiders programme that he had missed.  And then we did some of the crossword and then the taxi was there to take him back, and he said he was very tired and ready to go back.

Thank you friends for remembering, and for your emails and phone calls and cards and flowers and faithful prayers.  Last year Ross’s dearest friend said to me in a strained, breaking voice, “I didn’t know there could be such pain in the world.”  Exactly.  And I think of our dear, beloved son every single day, still with pain.  But it does help, to know that we are surrounded by such love and care, by those whose hearts are breaking with us.

Barclay prays gently for “those we have loved and lost awhile“.  Comforting, that.  So I am not sure and certain, in the way that our forefathers were, but I want to believe, and I do half-believe.

Oh dear! I hope I don’t have all my readers in floods of tears by now … I’m just writing as I feel.

Thanks Ruthie for the flowers:

flowers from Ruthie

Vale Warren

I just attended the first funeral since our son’s funeral last May.  I thought it would be enormously difficult, bringing it all back, and mentally steeled myself  in advance.

But no.  Sitting in church (yes, the same church!) I realised this was not about me, not about my family and my grief, not about Ross. It was all about Warren, a beautiful person without a mean streak, marathon runner extraordinaire, deeply committed to his church, his family and his work, carried off before his time to a sudden and aggressive cancer.

I was sorry there were no hymns in the service.  Apparently this was requested, but I believe the funeral is for all of the grieving community too, and for that packed church (standing room only, even with the hall opened up and full) it would have been good to have hymns.  So many church people there, we would have lifted the roof, and it would have been a very fitting tribute to a man who was there pretty well every Sunday.  More than that, it would allow us as a community to stand and express in words and song something of our grief and our hope.

Vale, Warren.

Going through some old stuff, my sister found a letter from our mother, Jean Hanna, written over 40 years ago. She shared it with all our siblings at a recent get-together, and we marvelled at the sheer personality that came through in that letter – the humour, the wry comments about people, the exuberance of her breathlessly busy and productive life that she found so satisfying.  Cooking all day for a street stall, manning the op shop for the disabled, studying for her Lay Preachers Certificate, up till midnight writing sermons, providing a bed and a home for a few days for a neighbour’s children on the spur of the moment — and all this in the single week that she was writing about.

Your parents are always old, or at least “the older generation”, so it gives me a slight shock to realise that this letter was written when she was almost 20 years younger than my brothers and sister and I are today.

The year after we left school, the year we turned 17, my best friend’s father died suddenly of a heart attack. Of course I was shocked, and sympathised with my friend Carole.  But it was not till years later – after my own father died, in fact – that I realised I had had not the faintest inkling of what it must have been like for her, to lose her father.  When we met up at a school reunion two years ago, I expressed to Carole something of this, and how little I had really understood at the time. She said yes, it was hard, and shocking, but that she and her father were going through that very difficult teenager-versus-strict-father stage, quite a distant relationship.  What she really regrets, she says, is that she was never able to know her father as an adult, as a friend.  To only have seen him from a child or teenager’s perspective – to have no memories of the real person that she would have come to know in later years.

Vale, Mum.  You were not just a brilliant model for us all, but you became my best friend.  I still miss you, every day.

A Light Has Gone Out

Our son Roscoe has died.  We are preparing for his funeral next Monday.

“O my son Absolom, would God I had died for thee!”