If you’re in a married or a long-term relationship, the wallpaper of your mind, or maybe the tapestry, the weft and weave (let’s see how many metaphors we can cram in) of your inner life is always, on one level, conscious of your partner. You know, without thinking, where he is. You are aware, again without thinking, of when you will see her next. You knit your lives together steadily, knit one, purl one, and the stitches form and join and create something new… a married life. I mean ‘married’ in the ‘closely united’ sense, rather than the civil/religious sense. Some of the closest couples I know have never stood before God, or a registrar, plighting troth, worldly goods and everlasting romance. No less a couple, in God’s eyes. That’s what I reckon anyway. Some of you will be rolling your eyes now. On you go. Roll away. I’m just saying. When the civil law makers recognised the importance and standing of a long-established relationship, they weren’t doing anything new, they were just catching up – a bit – with God.
Legally married or not, as half of a couple, you are always, always either travelling towards each other, or away from each other, or together. There is always that part of you, absent or present, which is relevant to the other. You are, my coupled friends, never truly alone. You are part of your partner’s consciousness, just as he or she is a part of yours. Your past, present and future are bound together, grafted, your raw edges bound together tightly until you grow into each other.
I was 17 years grafted with George, always aware of where he was and what he was doing. ‘Heading home’ meant heading towards George, and I remember with such affection the nights when I’d have a play on in London, or on tour in Newcastle, or some other distant foreign place, and I would leave the theatre at maybe mid-night, my ears echoing with the nonsense and laughter of the cast and crew, and I would get into our lumbering old Lada and drive through the night, heading George-wards. I remember sneaking into the house as dawn cracked and creeping up the stairs, peeking in on Lou, and then slipping into bed next to lovely, warm, cosy George. Home.
One Sunday afternoon, he was drinking coffee, freshly home from a holiday and putting a load into the washing machine. And then he was dead. In less than a minute he was dead, and everything we had built together, all our interdependence, was gone. The best part of me, our daughter, our little family, shattered. It was as if I stood on a hilltop, looking out over towns and cities and trees and lakes, ready to walk into that world, but then I blinked, and now all I could see, stretching to the horizon, was a cold and angry wind-swept desert.
Slowly my my vision readjusted to this new world, and piece by piece we rebuilt our lives. The desert grew flowers. Lou grew up, married, had children, I beavered away and hearts began to mend.
But still I would hurry home. Even when there was no one to hurry back to, I would find myself hurrying home, as if to a waiting George. As if to the sleeping man who would stir and reach a hand out and mumble ‘Hey. Alright?’ and be asleep again before I could answer.
One day, in Wales, when George had been dead for over 20 years, and I had been alone all that time and surely – surely!- used to it by now, I caught myself hurrying over the Preseli hills and at last, at last my bloggies, I recognised that this homing instinct had nothing to do with hearth and home but everything to do with still being in love. Still having George an integral part of my internal world. It made me stop the car, stunned really, to recognise what had been going on for 20 bloody years! Hurrying back to be with no-one.
I mean, really, hurrying back to be with no one and to nothing.
And I wrote this, my final farewell:
Flying Over The Preselis
Why do I see a stranger with a bouncing step,
so broad backed,
an oarsman’s shoulders
and, for one brief second, think that this is you?
Why do I hurry home
checking the time as I fly over the Preselis,
a range of hills you never saw,
to a house you never lived in,
in case you are waiting, wondering where I am?
Some days I can’t recall your face,
but see so clearly those old blue trousers you liked so much,
hooklets of thread where the cat snagged her claws as you put her down,
and I see your hands,
safely passed on to our daughter,
and I hear your breath.
And then, a small gift,
your face is there,
even the crack at the corner of your mouth,
(because you couldn’t see the point of fruit, my Glasgow-scurvy man),
the smell of Polo mints,
and your voice.
Why do I still hurry home
checking the time as I fly over the Preselis?
Maybe because I loved you,
more than I ever knew.
So, what’s this blog about? Gosh, you’re so impatient! It could be about marriage, but this cove ain’t no expert, so relax, that’s not it. Or it could be about being alone, although that’s a bit glum so I’ll avoid that one. Or it might be about LOVE. That’s it! Bingo! That’s the one. This blog is about love and this morning.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed but my blogs are nearly always about today or yesterday. I don’t have a great short term memory, but I’m quite good at living in the moment and so that’s what I need to write about. We write about what matters to us. One of my soap-box themes is priorities. You will know where you stand in someone’s life by their priorities. If they say to you “I really wanted to come for a catch-up but the week has just flown by!” you know that you are nowhere near being a priority. We always have time for our priorities. That’s what makes them a priority. Writing is quite high on my list of priorities but above it, first and foremost, comes love.
A few weeks ago I was taught that Jesus Christ is Joy personified. That blew me away. And since then I’ve realised that He’s all goodness personified. He is Joy and Justice, Righteousness, Mercy and LOVE. And all the other virtues that I can’t get my tiny head around. He is LOVE.
This morning, beetling around doing all the things we all need to do just to get through life, I found myself hurrying. Again. Hurrying again. That same old sense of urgency, that same homing instinct, a quickening of the heart and a longing. And I realised that today I was hurrying to be with my Love, not a long gone partner, but a real-life presence. Although I was with Him already, in my consciousness and in His, absolutely a part of His life as He was part of mine, I was also hurrying, hurrying, hurrying to be in the quiet of my little house, where I could give all of my moment to Him. Not just a thought as I drove down a busy street, or an awareness of His care as I saw a crying child, not just an acknowledgement of His power as I looked up into the billowing clouds of a winter’s day, but singular, whole hearted, intentional being with Him. With God.
Quiet and solitude and time and surrender.
That’s what I was hurrying home to, God’s word, and to Joy and Love. To ‘being with’ the one I love. You can’t know someone, or love someone, if you don’t spend time with them.
I know a married couple who commit to one day a week when they will be together, exclusively. When they will plan their day together and just enjoy their time. They are each other’s priority. I think that’s bloody marvellous. It’s the highlight of their week. I’m sure that it’s not always perfect, maybe it’s never quite absolutely perfect, but the commitment and intent – man, that’s so great! There’s a rightness to being with the person we love, it’s what God requires of a marriage, a time to grow and to perfect love for each other. ‘Being’ doesn’t have to be doing, sometimes it’s just simply that, ‘being with’.
So today I am hurrying home to someone who’s there. There. And enough. And that’s just fabulous. I can have all day with Him if He’s my priority! I can! I can shut the front door, ignore the phones, open the Word, sit in prayer, and just be with Him.
Grief is real and remains. I will always miss George. He was blond and blue eyed and broad chested and strong and Scottish and gorgeous. I can still remember the smell of his arm, the intake of his breath before he spoke, I still remember how his refusal to argue drove me bonkers. I remember how he would look at food suspiciously and ask “Luce, will I like this?” and his proud boast that he had never changed a nappy in his life. And I remember how he needed to explain the difference beween a dove tailed joint and some other sort of boring wood joint, and how a combustion engine worked, and what a centrifugal force was, and how to estimate the strength of a boring bloody beam. And he had no sense of direction, he could get lost walking to the corner shop. He was the most annoying human being God ever made. And I loved him. I thank God for the years we had.
But you know what I’ve learned? Finally?
GOD IS ENOUGH. GOD IS PLENTY. GOD IS ALL WE NEED. GOD IS LOVE. GOD IS HOME.