Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow… must be lockdown

Yesterday’s walk.
A bit duck-like? Well, that’s how I roll, my friends.

When I have my quiet time I often take photos of the sky and dream of where one day I might be. In eternity. Yesterday I looked back and to the ground to see where I’d been, to see if my walk had left any impression at all in the sand. I felt a tiny surge of satisfaction to see those perfect imprints (for once not scampered over by dogs). So! That’s what the last moment of my life had been… a solitary amble by the sea. Luce was ‘ere.

I don’t know why I feel a need to capture daily images on my iPhone or why they are so often of the rising sun and cloudscapes. I certainly don’t imagine the sky as ‘where God is’, nor do I think of eternity as a place or a time or a knowable concept; I don’t imagine myself angelic and on a cloud, or floating serenely between the planets, or purposefully soaring heavenward with muscular wings…. nor do I imagine being all too human up there in the thin, thin air, fighting for oxygen as I plummet earthward to certain death (screaming). I just gaze and wonder, wordless, revelling in the enormous miracle of existence, and then, inevitably, in the ephemeral and trivial nature of my life. My grand and important life.

But I liked the image of those footprints. Half an hour later as I walked back along the sea’s edge, all my perfect footprints had gone. As if I never was. ‘My grand and important life’ ?


When I opened my Bible this morning, heading towards the Gospels, it fell open at Isaiah (I wonder why?) and I skimmed the first few verses of Chapter 66. Then I read them properly. And then I looked them up in The Passion Translation. Wow. They’re good. I mean, ‘seriously gooooood.

The heavens are my throne
    and the earth is my footstool.
    Where is the house you will build for me?
    Where is the place where I will rest?
My hand made these things so they all belong to me,” declares Yahweh.
    “But there is one my eyes are drawn to:
    the humble one, the tender one, the trembling one
    who lives in awe of all I say.

It reminds me of another verse, in Psalm 51

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

What great good news that is! What fabulous news. When we are feeling our at our smallest, most inconsequential and feeble, well, hang on… here’s how the Passion Translation puts that last thought:

You will not despise my tenderness
as I humbly bow down at your feet.

Why is it good news? It’s good news because it means that we can be honest, that God really does take us as we are, where we are, warts and all.

When I look at the sand washed clean, as if I had never been that way, that’s when I know who I am and who God is. When I really know.

I’ve found this lockdown time horribly and surprisingly difficult. You would think that someone who has lived alone for 28 years and worked mostly from home, someone who is not by nature a crowd loving, party going extrovert, who doesn’t easily unbend for hugs and emotion, who had a loveless youth, would find lockdown a doddle. Not so. Really, really not so.

There have been days when I felt so alienated from the world, so full of loneliness, so sure that my friends were not my friends any more, that my church was insincere and pharisaical (forgive me, church!), that everything was nonsense, that life itself was futile and everything I knew and trusted was… hang on, Shakespeare’s Macbeth put it much better than I ever could:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Days when I could barely drag myself from one moment to the next. And lockdown really does ‘creep in this petty pace from day to day’, doesn’t it? Days when the pain was so much I would have done anything for respite – sell my soul, gouge my eyes out, anything. But I knew that there was no peace in any of that.

What? That’s not what you were expecting from someone who calls herself Christian and has the Christian tag on her blog?

I think we have to be honest. If we are to reach out to each other and say “You’re my sister, you’re my brother, we feel the same sorrows and joys” then we have to be honest, and share them. Own them. I have an advantage over many in that I’ve not been in the church a whole long lifetime, I’m a Johnny-come-lately and for most of my life I’ve been a half-hearted follower of Jesus, or not followed him at all. So, you’re not getting an expert here. Why is that an advantage in this instance? Because it means that I can look at the spiritual footprints of my life and see that they’re shallow, and they’re not beautiful, and they have had no lasting effect on the Kingdom of God. I have a contrite heart because I have a whole load to be contrite about.

We don’t have to hide that from God or from each other. I think sometimes we are ashamed of our contrition, but we shouldn’t be. A contrite heart pleases God, not because he wants us grovelling in the dust but because when we are contrite we are turning to him, loving him, seeing ourselves and him as we really are. Reality. We are never closer to God than when we have the deep deep joy of contrition. I want to own it.

Honesty is important. If we present a smooth untroubled face to those around us, we are not just deceiving and hiding, we’re also holding them at arm’s length. Not letting them in. If we aren’t honest about the struggles we have (a fine balance between honesty and dragging everyone down, I know) then how can we expect our sisters and brothers to turn to us when they need help? If we say to the world that we never need help, then the world will never understand that we have help to give.

This is the time, more than ever before, when we need to turn to each other, talk and listen to each other, care for each other. And take responsibility for encouraging each other. This is a time for listening, keeping each other going. Unbending.

I’m so glad that we have had this time. It’s bludgeoned me, humbled me. Wrecked me. Cleared a film from my eyes. It’s hard and horrible and I hate it. It’s killing me. And I am so grateful for it.

Weird, eh? And yet, God loves me. And however you are feeling right now, however weak and lost and flawed and quite-like-Luce you are, God loves you, accepts you, will do great things in you.

Walking by the Sea of Galilee

A few years ago, when I first started going to a small local church, and when my faith was  prodded until it woke up, I would walk on the cold seashore in the mornings and try to reimagine it as the the shore of the Sea of Galilee (I’ve warbled about that before) trying to imagine what would have been like to walk with Christ. I longed to know him better, hankering after those ancient days, a bit miffed that I hadn’t been born then, in that war torn dusty region, always trying to imagine, to reach back, to find a place for myself in his time.

That’s because I am at heart simple and ridiculous. Would I really have been one of the women who supported him and then went on to provide for the growing church after his death? No way. I’m not a great joiner – I fell into the Army at 18 and then I didn’t join another single group until I was 67. I think it’s unlikely that, left to my own devices, I would have given everything up, even for a Saviour.

Over these last few years, I’ve come to realise that I have a far, far more intimate relationship with Jesus now than I could have had back then. Then, as a woman in a fiercely chauvinist society, I would have heard him from a distance  but now I walk in him, and he walks in me. My knowledge of Jesus is far deeper now  because I’m no longer left to my own devices, nor is any one of us. The faith we have now is from him, and it grows from his nourishment, and without his death it would not have been possible.

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you (John 16:7)

It really is for our good that Jesus was ‘going away’. It’s for my good that he came as man, and it’s for that same good that he died in shame and agony. Because now,  my little snoodlepips, forgiven and redeemed by him, I belong to him, heart and mind and soul. His. The Luce who would have met him, on the shore of Galilee, before Pentecost, before the story was told… would I really have been his? You know me by now surely? Stubborn, contrary, judgmental, fearful, awkward, reclusive, impatient, impulsive, weird.

Now I am still all of those things but all of those things PLUS. Plus the Spirit of a loving God who loves me anyway, and makes it possible for me to love others, plus the knowledge of the crucifixion and the resurrection, plus the sure and certain hope of life everlasting. Which would be a right old boring thing to be assured of except, EXCEPT (sorry, I’m a bit exclamatory today) eternity will be in the presence of God. The God who loves me with a perfect love, the God who I will love with his perfect love. Bliss. The God who will transform me. Amazing!

When I walk on the beach every morning, or sit on my log, or paddle, gazing at the sky and lost in wonder and praise (or sometimes just thinking about coffee) I’m there with Jesus. I’m in eternity. Encountering Jesus, for us, isn’t an incident in a busy life as it was for the woman who touched the hem of his robe, or the woman at the well…. it’s an all day everyday fabulous exciting adventure and privilege.

Too many adjectives. I don’t care.

We’ve had a series of sermons about ‘encounters with Christ’ and it’s been a great series, like our ‘red letter words’ series, just getting to know more about Jesus when he walked on this earth, watching his interaction with the people around him, our brilliant Jesus who said the words our hearts need to hear.  If we’re Christian, we’ve encountered Jesus, yes, of course we have, but much much more than even that, we continue to encounter Jesus every day. It’s like one of those Greek tenses, we don’t just encounter, we continue….

As I chatted with my granddaughter yesterday it was as if I was holding her up to God, saying “Look what you’ve given me, all this, all this, all this…. and this grandchild, and all this love. ” and I was warmed by the knowledge and certainty that he was there with us. Galilee in West Wales.

Flip me, chickadees, there’s a real danger that I’m going to get soppy in my old age. It must be a Celtic overload – Irish genes and Welsh environment.

Shoot me now.

Before I go, here’s a story that’s hard to tell and maybe hard to hear. I know it will make me look deluded to some people, but this is what happened, and if I look a fool for Christ, well, I’ve looked worse things:

About 4 years ago, I was on one of my morning saunters – I can’t really call them walks, they’re slow and ambling as I stop and start, gazing at the sky, watching the sea foam eddying around my feet, the gulls soaring. I was paddling happily, feeling the sun on my back and heading towards a  rock where I planned to pray for a while. Suddenly I was in one of those enchanted moments, when the world slips away, leaving only the soul and God. Nothing to dilute the crystalline otherness, and I said to God – without any planning, straight from the core of me – something like “It’s so long since I had someone’s hand to hold, someone I could share this moment with, and I think I can’t quite bear it – 25 years is too long” It wasn’t a moan, it was just a thought, an honest moment of longing. It wasn’t a complaint that George is dead (he’s in glory and I’m delighted for him), no,  it was an honest human need for companionship. And as I walked towards the rocks, with my dogs pattering on ahead, I felt a hand slip into mine. It was so real that I was startled and turned to see who had sneaked up on me. No one. But I felt the hand, the warmth and the reality of it. I know that this wasn’t wishful thinking, I looked down at my hand, relaxed, ordinary, and still I felt the muscle, bones, actuality of a hand in mine. Breathless. Hardly believing, savouring the sensation, almost hefting the hand I could not see. It stayed with me for maybe ten steps, and then was gone just as suddenly.

My breath was taken away, tears threatened, but my heart was just so full of amazing delight. That hand, holding mine, has been with me, ever since. Four years of ups and downs and struggles, joy and sadness, but when loneliness strikes I remember that hand, and the memory is a deep comfort. I am not alone. I walk on the shore with God. What an amazing God. How good he is.







A Tender God

“he will swallow up death for ever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces”

That’s from Isaiah. Revelation echoes that promise;

“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.”

Roll on the day. Roll on the day.

I’m saying goodbye to a dear friend. It’s a long and lingering goodbye, and she’s in pain and distress, grown frail. I’ve known her for only about three years, but we rub along nicely, very different, we don’t have the same interests or the same approach to life, but we like each other and share an irreverent sense of humour. I will miss her.

I thought I would take this death in my stride. I’ve lost so many that surely, surely, the farewells would grow easier, familiar? I was wrong.

And I’m just a bit fed up with death being for everyone else but not for me. My turn. My turn. Enough of this bloody life. Enough already.

Of course, if you know me you know that last bit isn’t true. It’s a three year old child having a tantrum, that’s all. Forgive me.

This death hasn’t arrived suddenly, shockingly, out of the clear blue sky; and it hasn’t smashed a child on the rocks, or a young man in his prime… it hasn’t burst obscenely at a crossroads by the hand of a drunken driver…’s crept up towards us slowly, whispering its warning, and we have prepared. We are prepared. But no, we aren’t. But no, we haven’t. I’m not prepared to see my friend lying so tiny in a too-large bed, or for the hand that trembles in mine, skin breaking and bruised. I’m not prepared for the wrench of my heart when her breath is laboured and her eyes are dull. I’m not prepared for the quiet murmur “Oh, Luce, what will we do? What will we do?” I’m not prepared for her wrack of pain, the medications, injections, indignities, for her distress and her tears. I’m not. And I thought I was.

Oh, Luce, what will we do? What will we do?

We will trust God. We will. I will trust my loving God. More than that, I give her up to Him. In the brief moments when she is too ill, too weak, to trust Him, well, then my trust will cover us both. Fiercely.


I see my helplessness and her total vulnerability, and I find a fist pressing on my heart, shortening my breath, dizzying. I can think of little else, care for no one else, in this world today there is only this dying friend. And God.

Yes. And God. I’m suddenly filled with joy, that God is the God of tenderness, mercy, love.  That God is the God of the sickroom, roadside, hospital. God is the God of the broken hearted and the fearful. And He is enough.

“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.”

Roll on the day. Roll on the day.


Oh! Oh! Oh! Listen!

Yesterday I went to England, and I remembered what I’d forgotten, or forgotten to remember;  how green that lovely country is, how the hills fold and dip, how the hedgerows are different from Welsh hedgerows, bigger, older, the trees fatter somehow. Remembered that there are places where hares still dance, where farmers leave land unseeded around every field for flowers to grow and wildlife to thrive, remembered lark song (why are there no larks here in West Wales? Do the kites and buzzards get them all?) Man,  it was good being back there, even so briefly. Early as usual, I parked the car and sat in the gateway to a wheat field….


Does that seem no big shakes to you? Probably not. But now I live where the hillsides are pasture for sheep and cows, and there are very few fields full of barley or corn or wheat,  shimmering in sunshine, dancing in the breeze. And no hares. Positively no hares! I sat there for a long long time, just thanking God for that day, for that special hour, the sunshine and the healing warmth.

This morning, back in Wales, the dogs are still in kennels so early routine is different, and I have a holiday feeling! No demanding furry creatures desperate to get down to the beach… so I made a second cup of coffee, and padded bare-footed to the table to open my Bible. Nowt odd in that. All over the world thousands of people are doing the same thing, but now the idea grabbed me, thrilled me, the image of a thousand people doing that very same thing, maybe more… a million? Too much? The consciousness of people all over the world doing the very same thing at the very same time, turning to God in praise and expectation  filled my senses with delight, brought tears prickling to my eyes. Tears of gratitude.  Two thousand years after Christ,  half a world away … a world that’s hardly recognisable to the one He lived in… and yet here we are. Here we are, ready and listening, and drinking in His every word.

And then I opened the book, and look where the ribbon was:


TWO whole pages of red letter words. Two pages of Jesus Christ talking to me down all the centuries across the lands and seas and rivers, mountain and cities and every culture…. a journey of immense distance, unimaginable time…. and here He is. His word. To little old me, bare footed, scruffy,  once lost and now found, sipping coffee, lost in wonder, awe and praise.

The words of God! Savoured, recorded, translated, guarded, remembered, passed down, to nourish and instruct, guide and comfort, govern and delight.

I mean COME ONNNNNN! If that doesn’t excite you and challenge you…. pinch yourself. Check you’re still alive.

So exciting!

There’s one word in the Bible that no one is absolutely sure how to interpret. ‘Selah’. It’s found in the Psalms and it’s generally taken to mean ‘Pause and think’ or ‘Reflect on this.’ I love that word. That command. Every time I come across it, it’s as if a dear and trusted friend, maybe God Himself , is saying ‘Hang on, Luce. Slow down. Think on this.’ And I’m learning how to do just that.

But sometimes words explode into my life, and fill my whole day with delight, so that I can’t slow down. So that my mind is racing. Have you ever read a couple of sentences and been really really excited by them? It might be something to do with the frame of mind you were in at the time, or a question you’d been brewing that was suddenly answered, or maybe the words were so beautiful, so poetic that they grabbed your heart? My heart was grabbed today. Really really GRABBED. The words I read aren’t unusual, each one quite everyday-ordinary, and the sentiment isn’t poetic, and it’s certainly not a word of wisdom the world has never heard before, but today, in a busy church, as people took their places and friends were greeted, and there was laughter… I read these words and my heart just sang.

On the back of our church diary, which is handed out every month, there’s a piece of writing, usually from our Pastor, an encouragement, something to think about, take to heart and remember. Today I looked at the diary and my heart went ‘zing!’. Oh, yes, Zing!  ZING and WOWSER and YEAH!!!!!

If I could have clambered onto the pew and shouted everyone to shut up while I read it aloud to them, I would have. I had to send an email to three people, right there and then, in all the noise and chatter, saying ‘Look! Listen!”

“The most important thing about your life is that you love the Father. Let that sink in.”

I don’t know what I loved most about those two sentences – their truth, simplicity, certainty or that command…. ‘Let that sink in’.

I LOVE commands. I do. Weird, eh? Not all commands, obviously. This is me and I’m a raggedy difficult soul at the best of times. I don’t like commands about speed (20 miles an hour? Can a car go that slow?) or paperwork (I don’t do numbers) or diet (a cream cake a day keeps the doctor away) or… well, just about any man-made order really. But if we’re talking about eternal things, oh, boy, I love commands. Commands and verbs.

Love one another. Submit to one another. Be still and know that I am God. Love the Lord your God with your whole heart. Pray without ceasing. Be steadfast.

These are my anchors. And when a simple, clean, honest, Godly command hits my ears, it’s all I can do not to chortle aloud, so the lead-in to this month’s diary piece just twanged the strings of my heart and my soul leapt in response. ‘The most important thing about your life is that you love the Father. Let that sink in.’

Maybe I’d have slid over the first sentence, hardly noticing it, but for the second, ‘Let that sink in.’ and it will. I know that it will. I’m already thinking about the most important thing in my life, examining and questioning it, and just jolly well revelling in it.

You know what I’ve thought so far (it’s not been long)? I think that if loving God really is the most important thing in my life, all other considerations and anxieties are tiny by comparison. If loving God is my priority and my over-riding desire, I won’t take my eyes off Him, I will be guided by Him, and I will live with and for Him. When you’re in love with someone, you just can’t get enough of them.

Thank you, Lord, thank you, thank you for these moments of clarity and delight.

And then, blow me down with a feather, the very last words of the diary piece did the same bloomin’ thing!   “God loves you. Tell Him today that you love Him too.”

So I have. I’ve told Him. I’m telling Him now. And I’m telling you.

Sometimes a simple word of truth is all we need to touch the edge of eternity.


When Peter popped up at Poppit

Can you bear to hear about another morning of paddling? If not, look away now.

Some things are just perfect. I’m at my scruffy old desk in a silent house, and by my right hand is a large mug of coffee. The mug is fine bone china, and the coffee is strong, my favourite blend, but today as a treat (it’s Saturday!) there’s also a generous dollop of hot milk. The foam is creamy and golden, oh, here – see for yourself.


And, yes, that’s Captain Kirk keeping guard.

This is a perfect moment, in the middle of a perfect morning, at the start of what is going to be a really really challenging day. (Come onnn! This is me! You knew it couldn’t last) But the day so far has made me think of perfection, or maybe peace, or it could be joy, or happiness, or all of the above.

I’ve just returned from two fabulous hours on the beach, the dogs are fed and already dozing, and now I have a half hour to talk to you, my chitterlings. A fabulous start to any day.

The sky was cloudy but the air was warm and on the shore the world seemed wrapped in calm.   After some time paddling with only the sighing sea and the distant cry of gulls to break the silence, as Percy chased the foam and Pip careened off after a flock of sandpipers, I listened to David Suchet reading Philippians. I’ve heard it so often in the last couple of months that you’d really expect me to know it off by heart by now, but I don’t. Then we sploshed along the beach to the estuary, where we sat on a log, in the hopes that the dogs would dry and the wet sand would fall off. Some hope!

That’s when I met with Peter, the apostle. I love Peter! I think he’s the sort of bloke you could have a good amble with, chatting and discussing and arguing. I think he’d enjoy paddling and then a milky coffee and maybe even a piece of bara brith and a laugh. I think if you sat next to him in church you might both get the giggles (you reading this, Lisa?) So, I like Peter. I went to the church website and clicked on a sermon on John 21, and there he was, talking to Jesus. Or to be more accurate, Jesus was talking to him. And I sat on a log in 2019 in West Wales and really, really, there he was, Peter, and there He was, Jesus, and the morning was PERFECT.

In that sermon we were invited to imagine… how was Peter feeling… what he had experienced… what he knew about Jesus after his three years with him… what did he remember….. And I always love being invited to imagine. Being ‘given permission’ to let the imagination roll out. I love that the sparse details we have of Peter are so revealing, that we know him so well even after 2000 years, that we feel we understand him, that we see ourselves in him, and that through him we meet Jesus. I love that, in hearing how Jesus spoke to Peter, we learn more about Jesus.

The Bible, what can I say about the Bible without gushing? I can’t. I really can’t. Whenever I talk about the Bible I feel a gush coming on! In the Bible we meet them all. Lovely Peter, knowledgeable instructive Paul (I don’t ever want to be stuck in a lift with Paul), loving John, poor lost Judas….Moses, and my fave Isaiah …. Oh, and Job (he’s another great person to meet) … a cast of thousands. And the Man Himself, Jesus. To sit on the beach, on my log, and look from Peter to Jesus… like someone at Wimbledon watching the most exciting match in history. Peter… Jesus… Peter… Jesus…. PERFECTION

Ahhh, flip me, folks. My half hour with you is up. The day is transitioning and I have to go.

Thank you for staying with me for these minutes, for being part of my perfect morning.

As I drove home something was nagging at me, about joy, and I had a vague feeling it was from Peter’s writing, so I’ve just looked it up.  “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy….”

Peter, mate! You’re not wrong. An inexpressible and glorious joy.

Pull up a chair and let’s talk about death.

Last week I had several conversations with people about death. One of them was with a woman who’s preoccupied with the fear of dying and has recently been diagnosed with a serious condition. In the last few months her life has become all about her death. She sees it as a cold and brutal wrenching away from everything she loves, into a vacuum, a vast expanse of silence, in which she will be alone and lost and formless but somehow still herself, still able to fear and think, in unspeakable nothingness. We talked for a long time and she wept and grew angry, then calmed and finally met my eyes urgently “Aren’t you afraid of death?” and without even thinking the words were out, “No, because I know where I’m going.”

Straight away I wanted to grab the words back because I’m sure that sounded cocky and arrogant to this non Christian – and even exclusive – but it wasn’t meant to be. Obvs. And we did go on to talk a little bit about God’s goodness (rather than mine!) and I had the chance to say that I’m not afraid because eternity is not place or time but a Someone, Someone who loves me with the deepest unfailing love. And Someone who loves her.

But I still felt uncomfortable about how we’d left the conversation. And I wondered what I could have said differently. Wondered if she’d gone home a bit hurt. Put off by this Christian’s blithe equanimity and certainty. Oh, dear. What a twit I am.

The thing is, my little house seems to be a magnet for the grief stricken just now. Which is odd because I am the last person on this earth to weep alongside. Maybe it’s just because I’m single and so I’m mostly alone, and the door is always on the latch.

And I don’t mind tears and loss, just as I don’t mind laughter and nonsense.

I was a nurse before I was a playwright and I know there’s nothing to fear about death or the bereaved.  I’ve held the hand of the dying, and if I could do nothing else to help there were always the tiny things that might just ease the moment… turning their pillows to a cooler side… massaging feet…. moistening lips. Most people die in their sleep, they sleep more and more, deeper and deeper and deeper, until they simply don’t wake up. There is nothing in that to fear. On the wards back then we washed the body before it went to the mortuary, and this was the last precious little act of friendship. A quiet time to say goodbye and come to terms with the stillness and the unassailable nature of death. So death is a familiar and expected thing.

Not for everyone. I’ve been on the receiving end of other people’s fear, their inability to cope with the idea of mortality. Just after my husband died, a neighbour I knew well hid behind a tree to avoid me! She was in a bright red jacket (and considerably wider than the tree) plus her dog was straining at the lead and clearly visible, but she cowered there, dreading the thought of speaking to a brand new widow. Silly lady. You know, when someone’s grieving, you can still talk to them as if they’re human, they still need to laugh, to think about the ordinary things.

Death is just a part of life, demanding respect and compassion but no melodrama, no self indulgence, and no squeamishness. My generation, especially those of us brought up in the Catholic culture, are familiar with death. I agree with Shakespeare “Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead, excessive grief the enemy to the living.”

George didn’t slip sweetly into eternal rest, his was a sudden, shocking, frightening death.   Lou’s last sight of the Daddy she loved so much had been when he was livid blue, being given cardiac massage, the medics struggling to insert an airway. It was chaos and horror and she heard me telling them to stop the attempt. And they did. What a last memory, that would have been. So I wanted her to see him at peace, in the quiet and calm of the Chapel of Rest. Those few minutes were good for both of us (I think), as she said her goodbye.  Right then I recognised something I already knew viscerally but had never realised, even with all my experience both professional and personal, and I’ll never forget the cold shock of it. I’ve tried writing about it before but I can’t quite convey the reality of it. Looking at George, this man I loved and knew so well (no rose tinted specs here – we had our ding-dongs) I was paralysed by the realisation that there was no greater distance in the universe than the distance that was now between us. Between the dead and the living. I saw with startling clarity that we were ripped apart and that any sentimental wish-it-were-other, any talk about him watching over us, or his presence remaining, was untrue.  There was a vast, bottomless, unbridgeable chasm between us. He had become, quite simply, ‘other’. 

And I knew too – don’t ask me how – as I looked at my gentle Scot, that at the moment, the very instant of his death, he was with God. Not an hour later, not ten minutes later, his spirit didn’t hang about wanting to say farewell, hovering like some Dickensian imagining. In the instant of his death He was with Christ, His God. I just knew it. His story was told, his race was run. Done. Gone. And the living had no call upon him. We had no call upon him. Done. 

I don’t know how I knew. I just did.

That’s why I’m not afraid. 

So, listen, my door is open if you need to talk about your death, or the loss of loved ones. It is.  I have all the time in the world to hear everything you have to say, however confused or angry or sobbing and snotty, however prayerful and grace-filled, or bitter or bewildered, however maudlin’ you may be. The door is on the latch and I can make tea and coffee and nothing you say will shock me. I have a box of tissues, and when that runs out there’s bog roll. If it’s a marathon session I can do toast. But you probably won’t get a hug, and I’m unlikely to cry with you. I won’t piggy-back on your grief.  I’ve been where you are, and I know you’ll get through this, and the best I can offer is my company and the occasional nod. Another beating heart alongside yours.

We need to weep for those we love, and they deserve our tears.  And when we speak to each other about fear and loss, of course we will say awkward lumpy things and maybe feel, like me, a bit crass. When we see someone in the depths of grief, we will feel helpless, we will. But don’t hide behind a tree. Be there for others and if you’re the one blubbing, blub away.  You’re allowed.

But I warn you now, if you say to me “Are you afraid of death?”  I’ll probably say again, “No, because I know where I’m going.” I don’t know how else to answer that question. I do know where I’m going but the good news is that it’s not an exclusive club; you are loved, Jesus loves you, He’s prepared the way, and He’s waiting.

We sing these words at my church and every single time they take my breath away. I have a little pendant that says ‘belong’ and as I think about these words I trace that word.

Boldly I approach Your throne
Blameless now I’m running home
By Your blood I come
Welcomed as Your own
Into the arms of majesty

Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

He has already overcome the world.

So if you’re missing someone you love, and on the second box of tissues and you’re blinded by your salty tears, all snotty and hiccuping, shivering and empty, and the world is a grim and lonely place, remember a promise at the end of the Bible, a special promise for times such as this:

“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.”

This is so weird, sugar lumps. What gives me the right to talk to you like this? Where does it all come from? How come I’m so certain? It’s weird. Weird. I didn’t know I was going to say any of this when I sat down at the keyboard….. I woke up knowing I had to write something, but I had no idea what. And this is the result. I believe that this is for someone in particular, but I don’t know who.

*This morning I had a text from that weeping fearful person (relax, she doesn’t blog), and she’s driving over to catch up again. So I’m going down to the beach now, and one of the things I’ll be praying is “You know when she comes, Lord? Will you help me to nod a bit, and listen a lot? Will you be there with us, loving her, helping me to love her? I can’t do it on my own. Oh, and thank you for my door and the latch that can hold it open, and for a table to sit at, and ears to hear.”

A Poem For This Season

There’s a poem at the front of a book I’m supposed to be reading. I’ve read a goodly chunk of the book itself and although it’s well written and obviously honest, the poetry makes the rest seem tawdry and glib. I could cut and paste it from the net, but this writer seems to have edited his work quite a few different ways and there are several versions. So, because I love you, I am typing the whole damn thing out for you, my Chitterlings, and I’ve picked the version I like the most.

Don’t blame me for the lack of punctuation, he didn’t believe in it, so this is exactly as he wrote it, and it makes my skin prickle and my eyes water:

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridge to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water looking out
in different directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

in a culture up to its chin in shame we are saying thank you
living in the stench we have chosen we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the back door
and the beatings on the stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks that use us we are saying thank you

with the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
unchanged we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain

with the cities growing over us like the earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you

we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is


I don’t know if Merwin was Christian, indeed he seems to have had a late interest in Buddhism,  but his father was a Presbyterian minister and  Merwin loved hearing him reading psalms and the Bible, and certainly he acknowledged the Bible as an influence on his writing. I find this piece spiritual, vibrant, luminous.  I’m not well read so I hadn’t heard of this much respected Pulitzer winner and star of the poetry world in the 20th century.

All I know is that this poem, ‘thank you’ is how I now want to live in the shadow of my God, giving thanks and rejoicing always. ALWAYS.

I’m grateful to W.S.Merwin. His words have made me calm tonight, as I head off to bed, knowing that even if sleep again takes me to the memories I dread, in all of this, even in all of this, I am saying thank you. It’s too easy to tumble down into our own dark pit of misery, and Mr Merwin has caught hold of my sleeve, and pulled me back.

This is a hard hard season in our small community. We have young people desperately ill and old people fading, friends dying, many struggling, physically and mentally.

Tonight my prayer is going to be one of thanks, in all of this.  In all of this, thank you.