Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Out-of-the-blue blues

It's so weird how you think you are starting to cope and then you feel you are back at square one. After a busy and coping weekend, I woke up Monday morning and felt complete shock and lethargy, it was incredibly hard to get out of bed. It made me ask myself if I've really faced up to things  or not. I just spent the whole day in a daze and was a bit of a wreck, even almost seven months up the road I can't believe that he won't just walk in. I wonder where he is. My stupid brain takes every sound at the door or car up the road to be his homecoming. I've also been having dreams again, not the really bad ones, just ones where everything is alright or where I am searching for him- usually in places we used to visit, shopping centres, holiday locations, National Trust properties, you name it, I am looking.
Think I'll be searching and looking for the rest of my life.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Carrying on

It is looking like Manchester is my second home at the moment. On Thursday a colleague offered me free tickets for the matinee performance of Twelfth Night  (he'd double booked with a family occasion.) I have loads of marking and prep this weekend but I wasn't passing up a chance like that. So yesterday saw me meeting with a friend in the Exchange restaurant ( nice but a bit pricey for my budget...)  then the show afterwards.  In addition, I'm attending my first evening meal in Manchester with the bereavement group this coming Friday largely because the other local members of the group don't take no for an answer.
After that, I really do have to buckle down and do some work. The students sit exams starting in only four weeks time (AS) and going through into early June (A2) so I am in a relentless cycle of preparing revision sessions on top of lessons and marking seemingly endless mounds of marking. *What, not another timed essay* I know I can get pretty exhausted just coping with work alone so really do need to rein it in soon.
Life is still not easy. I miss Kev every moment of every day and I feel bereft and broken by his death. In response, I am turning to the things and the people who offer  me help and support and help ease the burden. It doesn't take the pain away, but it maybe looks something like a life or at least like a coping, a carrying on, which for now will suffice.

Monday, 17 April 2017


The support group I've joined organised an Easter Monday meal in Manchester today. I am very lucky to have met two members who live in the same town as me and one who is slightly further afield. We all seem to get on really well and try to have coffee together regularly and attend events. Three of us met up today at the train station and travelled in together for the meal and some shopping.
It was also lovely to spend Easter Sunday yesterday with both my sons at home- the youngest goes back to university next week. I cooked a roast lamb meal which seemed to be very much appreciated and  we followed it up with rhubarb pie and custard.
It has been weird this year as I have not attended an Easter service. I think it is the first time in my entire life that I have not gone to church on Easter Sunday. The levels of anxiety and the flashback dreams I've had have meant that I haven't been able to go to church or to Quaker meeting since the funeral. In some ways this is distressing because I feel that it is another loss. But God occupies the secular world and all our encounters and experiences if we let him and I knew as soon as I saw the Easter Monday meal announced on the site that it would be my fellowship and communion for this Easter. And so it has been.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Making everything new

I’ve said before that Good Friday is the day when my faith makes more sense, I think it is because of the authenticity of the Crucifixion. Suffering, pain, failure, death and the abandonment by God seen in Jesus’s cry from the cross speak to our human condition. Easter Sunday and the Resurrection have always seemed more problematic to me. Of course, death and resurrection does reflect a universal human experience in the cycle of birth and death, setbacks and renewals that we all face, but human “resurrections” are often painful, partial and frequently non-existent.
We live in a world which can be beautiful and joyful but which can also be incredibly cruel and where the keynote is pain and futility. It is a world where the bodies of refugee children are washed up on a beach, and people join in civilised horror yet ultimately do nothing. It is a world not only in which we inflict atrocity on each other but where we are at the mercy of disease, tragedy and natural disaster. Many people’s lives are blighted by poverty and gruelling labour or those more first world problems of unhappiness, loneliness and mental illness.
So after the authenticity of a God who suffers with us, what are we to make of a God who says “I make all things new?” What are we to make of texts such as the one published on this page? Well if you have never held a text like that in your hands and honestly asked yourself if it is not really a fairy tale which we ourselves have invented as a consolation for the horror of this world, then possibly you have not thought deeply enough about your faith.
I don’t have a lot of time for Christian apologetics. I’ve never personally met anyone who has serious doubts that religious belief can offer an answer to the conundrum of this world who has been convinced by arguments or theologies. I also think apologetics often lead down a road beset with tortuous reasoning and circular arguments. I suspect people are largely won to faith through emotion- their emotional need for God.
Plenty of apologetics exist for the veracity of the Resurrection story. I remember as a child being told in church that nobody would be prepared to die for a fabricated story and so the disciples must have been telling the truth.
It is absolute nonsense.
Many people have died for fabricated and utterly implausible stories if they believed in them, as religious mass suicides show.  I once watched a documentary about a group of people who believed they had known each other in a previous life. They had recreated the 16th century village they believed they had lived in and were seeking out other reincarnated relatives. They all seemed on the surface perfectly sane. There are implausible beliefs we sanction and those we call insanity.
I’m not sure whether I am sane but I know that I don’t believe in the hope and promise of a world redeemed from pain and suffering because of intellectually convincing arguments. I think all the evidence of the world points away from it. The only thing I have to hold on to is, as I have said before, that glimpse I have had of God’s love and a half grasped understanding of its beauty, wisdom, magnitude and sheer grace. It is that that gives me hope that all things might be possible.
I will hold my hands up before any skeptic or atheist and say that, yes, this is completely and entirely subjective. It may be a kind of lunacy. But I believe it is revelation, just as I believe that the empty tomb on Easter Sunday is revelation.

That fragile and subjective hope, in the face of overwhelming evidence against it may not seem much to hold on to but it is all I have.
 On this Easter Sunday 2017, for me, it is enough.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Good Friday

 On Good Friday we see a love which is prepared to accompany us in our suffering.The promise of God with us is realised as Christ experiences our deepest agonies, despairs and even our sense of being abandoned by God. The kind of love that walks with us into the darkest places where nothing else seems to help is very precious.

When we show that Christ-like capacity to walk with others then we bring hope and healing, not because we can take away pain but because our presence affirms their dignity and value as human beings. It is that which redeems life in spite of all its ugliness, and futility. On this day we see how such a love turns the bleakest, darkest moments to good.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Getting out

Went to see Jane Eyre at the Lowry yesterday, it was a good production which explored themes such as madness, not just that of Rochester's insane wife but the madness of life in general. It was clearly a feminist take, quite rightly in my opinion as the book is very much about individual autonomy and the struggle women faced in the 19th century to live with dignity and freedom. Of course, this is still the case in so much of the world for women and often men as well. I love 19th century novels in general, no doubt marking me out as a bit of a girly swot, so it was an adaptation of a work of which I am very fond, although I think the much neglected Villette to be infinitely superior.It was also a positive day out with friends, a meal and lot of talk, mainly about the play, our families and inevitably current affairs both home and abroad.  As we were leaving the theatre, someone called my name, it was a former student who is now studying drama and we  managed a brief catch up, it was lovely to see him again. Part of me had dreaded going yesterday but it did make me feel a bit more part of the real world which is still out there and still carries on

Saturday, 8 April 2017

On being a fuckwit

Something I’ve discovered is how many stock phrases are said to bereaved people. One of my least favourite is the question “Is there anything I can do?" Now, think for a moment about what the other person can’t decently say because it would seem too presumptuous or needy.
They cannot even say:
You could invite me round for a meal.
You could just ask me round for a coffee.
You could phone me for ten minutes on a Friday night because that’s when I feel such despair at the weekend stretching ahead.
It may be that they do have someone they can say these things to but as the enquirer you need to a. assume that they don’t b. ask yourself if they can really say them to you. If you think they can’t, YOU ask them round or phone them for a chat. 
In the end, when people asked me if there was anything they could do, I would respond:
Not unless you can think of anything (fuckwit.)
The fuckwit is in parenthesis because I didn’t actually say that bit. In any case, I’ve fallen into the fuckwit category myself in the past. I’ve even gone a step worse than asking if there is anything I can do and I’ve just said nothing at all. I did this when someone in the office lost her husband years ago. I really wanted to tell her how sorry I was. The first time I went into the office I plucked up my courage…and then someone else spoke to her about a letter that needed sending and the moment just wasn’t right. After that I felt stupid saying anything because I’d already seen her and so the sum total of what I said was this
absolutely nothing…
 I felt guilty about this but I told myself it didn’t matter as she no doubt had lots of other people helping her and I might be intruding on her grief and anyhow she would know how sorry I felt, surely that was a given?
 All absolute fuckwittery on my part.
When you are grieving, you will usually find a source of solace in those who have been through a major bereavement themselves. Apart from a few rare souls, most other people will be as much use as a chocolate fireguard. Those who have been bereaved come to you out of their own pain, they almost come because they need help- and there’s nothing wrong with that.
This post has come about because I've bumped into a few people recently who've all told me they've been thinking about me constantly or  been wondering whether to get in touch etc, etc. I've no idea if this is true, all I know is that they haven't been in touch. I don't blame them for this because I know that most of us find  subjects such as illness, suffering and death very difficult to deal with. I wish we didn't but we do. Meanwhile I just remain fervently thankful for those people who have kept in touch and pledge in the future to show more empathy  myself-  or be less of a fuckwit if you prefer that idea.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Belief and unbelief

 A really interesting piece by Michael Collett examines the problematic issue of whether God would condemn him for his sincerely held atheism and a response by Michael Jensen called Sincerity is not enough. My sympathies and agreements are all on the side of Collett. I think Jensen posits some rather tortuous arguments which don't add up and deliberately misinterprets what Collett is saying, for example accusing him of an irrational protest against a God he doesn't believe in when Collett is quite clearly rejecting a concept others claim he must hold about God as a prerequisite for belief- an entirely different matter.
It also interests me because my immediate family are largely unbelieving, one son is a staunch atheist, my other son is agnostic and Kev had his serious doubts about Christianity and the Church. Many of my extended family are fundamentalist Christians and regard such beliefs  as guaranteeing  hell-fire. I have never had any concerns that God is going to send them to hell because I have had some sort of glimpse of the sheer love of God and it simply doesn't square with what I know. I know how much I love them and I know that God's love far exceeds mine. If anyone thinks that is an argument based on subjectivity then  they can jog on; the whole thing is subjective if we are going down that line.
 I am not sure I am quite a universalist, although I am getting there. I've lost even the desire to condemn my grandfather (who sexually abused me from the age of four to thirteen) to everlasting damnation and,if the glimpse I have had of God is right in anyway, then he is whole lot more capable of  managing and reconciling justice and forgiveness than I am. I have found God in surprising places over these last few months (no, don't give me that one about was he behind the sofa...) and I've come to wonder whether some atheists might not really be Christians. Jensen might be interested to consider that not everyone who says "Lord, Lord" knows Christ and there will be those who will be surprised that they have met him without knowing that they did.
I've no doubt that some Christians would give counter quotes about Jesus being the way, the truth and the life and that no-one comes to the Father but through him. Well, you can use scripture for anything, but in any case this verse does not quite say believe or you go to hell. It  says Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, it is quite possible and very humbling that some seem to find that way, that truth, that light without any explicit religious beliefs.