Memories, like the corners of my mind

I love the Facebook memories function. I enjoy looking back at them; most of the time they are a good laugh. One day last week, some memories popped up that threw me back to what was a very dark time, and I suddenly realised how far I’ve come.

When we moved back to Ireland in 2007 I was in a bad way. I finally let out the sadness that I’d been holding in for a long time. I was on mild medication and going to counselling. I thought that was the beginning of the end; but it turned out to be the beginning of the slow road back to health and strength.

I’m surprised to see myself smiling in the memory photos; inwardly I felt like I was crumbling. Even my hair was awful. I remember coming home from the hairdressers and I cried my eyes out. It didn’t take much to make me cry, but I was so upset by the hatchet job I’d ended up with. Maybe I was too dazed I didn’t communicate properly. I’m sure I showed her a photo, but whatever happened I pretty much ended up with a crew cut. I looked as dreadful as I felt.

The photos are of a holiday we were taking in South East of Ireland in 2008. Friends let us stay in their holiday home. It was a refuge we were grateful for. It was in the middle of nowhere, with no wifi and hardly any phone signal. Just what we needed. Richard was doing a lot of reading and studying for Bible college and sermon prep. I would sit on the floor each day with my guitar, singing and crying to God. It was the lowest I had ever been. I felt sure I’d never recover. I was convinced I was going to die of sadness. It was like I’d saved it up for years; it all came out in one go. Seriously, how I’m smiling in those pics, I don’t know. I remember feeling so empty.

It’s hard to believe the difference. And I suppose that’s the point of this post really. To say that things can change. I didn’t believe God would be ‘the strength of my heart’ – even though I sang it through tears, sitting on that floor.

After my mam died in 2005, God had led to me a beautiful verse which I had taped to my monitor in work. 1 Peter 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. I had been hanging on to that hope. I didn’t just want restoration. I wanted it to be true that “he himself” would restore me, even though I did not believe he would.

Over time though, it has become true for me. I feel stronger, firmer and more steadfast than I ever have. That’s not to say that I don’t have rough days,  just flick through some old posts here and you’ll get the drift.

I just want to encourage anyone who feels overwhelmed with sadness. It can change. God can turn your mourning into dancing. It takes time, and a lot of clinging on. He does it though; I promise.

Better than that… HE promises.

Don’t give up! One day, these sad days will be memories.

A x

Crying with Laughter

I met a friend recently and the idea was that we would get together to write for a couple of hours. Spur each other on with a fantastic word count. Almost an hour and a half (and a pot of coffee with biscuits) later, we had done no writing. Well, we had not written anything down. We’d spent the time story telling.

We reminisced about family life, losing our mothers and the painful hilarity of grief.

There’s no doubt that for both of us, losing our mammies was hard. But the stories we shared about their last days and the time spent giving them their final farewell were full of laughter mixed with tears.

I think the release from grief that laughter brings, is a fantastic gift from God. I of course am sad that my mother is no longer around, but the couple of weeks before she died that I spent with my 7 siblings is very precious to me. So many people don’t get to say goodbye to loved ones. I feel very blessed that for two weeks I got to sit by my mother’s bedside and laugh and cry with my siblings as we watched her slowly drift away from us. 

I had the rare chance to sit alone with her, at this stage she wasn’t conscious. Quietly, I sang ( a very ropey version of)  ‘The Lord Bless You and Keep You’, the Rutter version, to her as she slept. It’s a precious moment that is, in equal measure joyful and painful.

Sunshine and Rain together 🙂

So much sadness, and yet we two friends were able to laugh and laugh as we remembered precious sad/funny times with people we love and the loss of the women who bore us.

I’m a firm believer that God has a sense of humour, I’ve looked in the mirror… 🙂
I think it’s a measure of his grace that He has allowed me to ease the pain of loss by giving me moments and memories that make me laugh, or at least smile.

They say you have to take the good with the bad, and the rough with the smooth – it’s so much easier when they come at the same time.

photo credit: josemanuelerre via photopin cc

I’ll never be the same again

The last two weeks have changed me forever and I know I’ll never be the same again.

I don’t mean that I will always grieve or that I will always be sad. I know that over time I will get used to the fact that my dear friend Tom O’Gorman is gone; and the ‘how’ of his death will become easier to bear.

I know this because I remember in 2002 when it was confirmed I would never have children, I thought I’d never get over it. I lost my ‘sparkle’ and thought I’d never get it back. But I did. It took many years and still at times it makes me sad. But it turned out that it’s true…
Time heals almost everything.

I remember at my lowest, God brought me to this verse, 1 Peter 5:10
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
I clung to that promise then and I do so again now; the promise that Christ himself, will restore me, will confirm me, will strengthen me and will establish me.

When I say I’ll never be the same again what I mean is, I’ll never look at the newspaper headlines the same again. I’ll never pass a shocking front page and wow for 20 seconds before returning to what I was doing without further thought. I’ll never see a leader without knowing that there are people who will be distressed by the giant printed words on a page. I will never trust the papers again. To my knowledge, nothing they reported was untrue. But they were not compassionate, they were not caring or kind. I wouldn’t have expected The Sun to be anyway – but I expected more and better from The Independent. And I will never look at their business in quite the same way.

So though I am sad now, I will not always be sad. But I will always remember that behind the dramatic headlines there are people hurting and grieving.
And I think that makes it a good thing, that I will never be the same again.

Added note (27th Jan 2014) I should add that my comments above re newspaper headlines, refer to the initial reports of Tom’s death. I acknowledge that there were some lovely tributes reported in the following days.

The Half Circle of Life

Round and round it goes.
The whirligig of life.
No stopping it, impossible to catch
There it goes, hatch, match, dispatch.
Babby becomes mammy and she becomes granny
And around we go again.

It’s a wonderful thing.

The next generation consoles the loss of the last
The sights and sounds of new life ease the pain of absence, a salve.

But I’m stuck with this half circle
It keeps moving one way but refuses to come back around.
I feel the benefits and blessings of the salve of others
They ease the sting.

But the absence for me is doubled-up pain
and never more than on this day.
Each year Mother’s Day comes around
It holds my half circle in front of me
I look at it and smile through tears
For in it I see my 27

Dedicated to the memory of my mother, and to my 27 nieces and nephews.

The Hardest Thing I Ever Had to Do

Looking at the stuff in my ‘Drafts’ folder of the blog and I found this!
I thought I’d posted it ages ok! So I’ll do it now. My mam will be 8 years gone on March 16th 😦

This is another post based on one of the random titles I was given to write about – testing my ability to write ‘on demand’.
The title ‘The Hardest Thing I’ve ever had to do’ was suggested by Karen Mulreid

I have a Top 5 list of the most special times in my life. The hardest thing I ever had to do comes right in the middle of one of those times. It was, saying goodbye to my mother.

The 2/3 weeks previous to that were painful but wonderful. I came home from the UK as mam was sick and spent the next couple of weeks with my 7 siblings, going in and out of the hospital. We laughed and cried and ate together. Some of my fave things to do 🙂 Not all of us could see her at once so we’d go in and out in small groups while others waited outside.

At times it was awful! As she was on a ventilator, she couldn’t speak. So communication was an issue. But then we would end up in fits of laughter cos we’d try to work out what she was saying and when we got it wrong she’d be throwing her eyes to heaven. We started to call her Lassie at one stage.

She didn’t want us to bother the nurses. Even when there was something wrong or she was uncomfortable I’d offer to get someone and she’d stop me. I was not to trouble them.

I had the odd moment alone with her. It got to the stage she was deteriorating and was always heavily sedated. I sat by her bed alone and very quietly sang a tearful version of John Rutter’s setting of Numbers 6: 24-26 as she slept.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” I knew it was the beginning of my goodbye.

Betty Keeley – my mammy 🙂

On the day she died we gathered around her bed with my dad, and one by one I watched my siblings say goodbye. As crushing as it is even now to think about it, I feel privileged that we were together. I am thankful that we didn’t have to watch her suffer for years or deteriorate slowly needing more and more care. Not everyone gets to say goodbye like that… or at all. I know how totally blessed we are to have that. So we said goodbye and when she feel asleep for the last time we moved out to let her own siblings and then her grandchildren come in and say goodbye.

For the next two weeks we were all together. We brought her home and we spent time with family, friends and neighbours and we laughed and cried and laughed again. It really was an amazing time.

Losing my mammy – wow! so painful, even now, more than 7 years later! I thank God that the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is surrounded by weeks of joy, laughter and family.
What a privilege!

Come Back Soon!

For some reason it’s a week of memories for me.

I told this story in one of my articles for VOX Magazine*. Maybe it has come back to mind because it happened around this time last year, or maybe it’s because my friend has just lost his mum.

Probably a bit of both…

Come Back Soon!
I had to say goodbye to my husband for a month recently. We haven’t spent much time apart so the prospect of 4 whole weeks wasn’t fun!

In the days leading up to the goodbye I managed to hold it together but when we got to the barrier in the airport that only I could pass, I was not able to hold back the tears. We said our goodbyes and as soon as he was out of sight I let go and sobbed like a child.

By the time it was my turn to send my bag through the scanner and walk through the security doorway thingy, I was a total mess. When I walked through, a female security guard stopped me and asked if I was ok. Through the various liquids associated with sobbing, I managed to say that I was ok. “Are you sure?” she said, “Will I get you a chair so you can sit down for a minute?”
“No” I said, “I’m ok really. It’s just that….. I’ve just left my husband and…..” that was as far as I got. I burst into another bout of ‘extreme crying’ (a much underrated sport in my opinion)!

She stared and me and said, “You’ve just left your husband???? Oh my goodness! Let me get you a glass of water or something!”

By now there was a queue behind me, a crowd around me and a conveyor belt of hand luggage going nowhere. I tried hard to explain that I hadn’t actually LEFT my husband, I had just left him behind and REALLY was ok. The other security guards had heard enough and resumed looking sternly at people.

Suitably mortified, I gathered my belongings and scuttled away praying that none of the people who had witnessed the incident were on my flight.

By the time you read this we’ll have been reunited but as I write I’m still missing him. I know that soon he’ll be back but at the moment I’m longing for the day when we’ll be reunited.

I love hugs 🙂

But I’m not the only one longing for a reunion am I? Saying goodbye to people is a sad inevitability of all our lives. Whether it’s goodbye at an airport or goodbye at a graveside – parting is hard. But a day is coming when there will be no more goodbyes, no more partings, no more tears. That is a promise from God – our happy inevitability. And as I wait to be reunited with my beloved, I’m also waiting to be united forever with my Beloved.

I can’t wait! For both reunions 🙂

This article was in VOX Magazine October 2011 as part of my regular column ‘Confessions of a Feint Saint’
This year, for the first time they are producing a Christmas edition. Click here to go to their website.