I don’t know why….

but this cartoon tickles my funny bone;

How am I? Oh, filled with hopeless longing… and you?

I do love the silly world-weary bleakness of that caption.

Maybe I’ve thought of that today because it’s grey and wet and cold here in West Wales and on a day like this it’s so easy to be filled to the brim with hopeless longing. But we have a choice. We do have a choice.

 Keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Phil 4:8 (TPT)

Easy peasy, eh?

No. It’s not. It takes some small degree of humility and a dollop of trust, and a smidgeon of discipline, and a whole HEAP of grace to fasten your thoughts on God when your mind is wandering off on its own sweet way. I know, my friends, because I am that soldier!

I’ve been clearing out a load of old paperwork ready to move house and this afternoon I came across a bulging envelope and I tipped it out onto the table, expecting to see ancient receipts or bills and invoices. Instead there was a small mountain of condolence cards sent to me after George died. Frankie and I sat and read through them, and I could see that she was fascinated, trying to make a connection with the grandad she never knew. I was about to write that it was ‘a bitter-sweet’ experience but there was no bitterness at all – although the sweetness was there in plenty and of course it brought along with it some sadness, a reminder of grief.

It’s nearly 30 years since I read those notes; some were from friends who knew us both and they were full of humour and fondness, remembering us together, and then there were notes from people who knew George but not me and they told me what he meant to them, to his team. And then there were the notes from my colleagues, who didn’t know George at all but knew what he meant to me. All of them, of course, written in shock because his death was so sudden and unexpected, and as we read card after card, letter after letter, the echo of that shock crept into this room, so many years later. It was as if George was there, or maybe his hologram, with all who knew and loved him walking around him, their words and affection bringing him to life again. And there in the middle of all the notes was his passport, his Army records, his CV. , even a treasured cassette tape with his voice, waiting for me to find some way to play it. Or will I? Ever? Will I ever be able to bear the sound of his voice again? It’s in my head as I write this, his broad Scots, his energy and lilting laughter, but could I bear to hear it again, in this world when he is in another, unreachable?

Nope. I reckon I’ll not be listening any day soon. But I’m glad we had those few minutes, Frankie and me, confirming who George was and what he meant to the world and a reminder too, of where he is now. It made me think of those Andrew Gormley statues on the edge of the sea up there in wherever-it-is, poignantly titled ‘Another place’.

So, the choice is simple – to wallow or not to wallow? That is the question.

I choose to think of the authentic and real, not on the sentimental and lonesome. I choose to think of my life with George, the life that God gave us, of our laughter and our nonsense. With God’s help, I’m thinking about the wonderful work of creation that was George Marshall. And I’m giving thanks. He was just the best and I miss him still.

Moments of grief are good. They are! No, you don’t want to slosh around knee deep in tears, but when we lose someone we love, we can be honest when sadness floods in. Even after half a lifetime, grief can take us by surprise but it doesn’t have to overwhelm us or drag us down. Grief is beautiful. It’s a confirmation of love. And even in grief we can know joy. Joy that we’ve known love, that we know eternal love, that love reaches down to us… and we can be filled to overflowing with joy because we know that one day

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ Revelation

The tenses used there are important;

‘He WILL wipe away’ future tense.

‘There WILL be no more …. crying’ future tense.

‘for the old order of things HAS PASSED away’ past tense.

We are already in a new reality, George and me, and the chasm between us is an illusion. Death is defeated. Time is in this world but we are in eternity, we are in God. And who could be sad for long knowing that?

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