I guess week three of lockdown was always going to be a bit of an interesting one. It’s the first week of “the germ factory holidays”, the week we were supposed to have close friends from 250 miles away staying with us who we haven’t seen in over six months, and the first anniversary of my grandfathers death.
You’d think that would be enough for one week.
To be honest, it really was.
But sometimes God lets you have a little bit more to contend with and demonstrates not only how much you need Him, but also how much He can handle if you let Him.
By the Tuesday a close friend was in hospital, on a ventilator, with organs failing. The small people had connected the dots and asked the very direct question “will they die?”, and I faced explaining how many many people were praying, and that many many people did not want that to be the outcome. All whilst internally screaming at God, “why?”, “what are you doing here?”. In the last 12 months we’ve walked this road three times, and I am, albeit on the back burner, dreading the day when someone else goes in to hospital and I have to try and explain that it is not actually 100% of people that go in to hospital that don’t come home again. I also wonder what God has in store for their lives when they’ve experienced so much grief, in such a short space of time, whilst so young. What is He preparing them for? Once more we are teaching them to pray and praise even when things make no sense and hurt. And I am human, so I just want to know WHY?
But it was the Wednesday night that broke me. The husband happening to go for a walk, and seeing a friend outside their house, one of those God-incidences, and me ending up sitting on a cold drive because of lockdown rules and keeping two metres apart etc etc. There was laughter and reminiscing, but it was simply to fill the time spent waiting for this final attempt by the doctors to be undertaken. A few weeks ago I wouldn’t have claimed to be strong enough to do an evening like that, but now I know I’m not. Some things you can only hold onto God and hold on tight whilst you (don’t really) deal with them.
How do you support a friend as they have to answer the question about turning life support off? And if you think you can answer that one, how do you do it from two metres away? When they’re having to do this over the phone? Frankly I still have absolutely no idea of the answer to any of those questions.
I know that being able to pray with someone in those final moments is an immense privilege. I will always be grateful I could, but that doesn’t stop it being so hard to deal with. Then. Now. The day immediately after I barely ate, and what I did I just threw up again.
How do you support a grieving family when you cannot enter their home? Cannot come within two metres of them as individuals?
And I’m struggling with it all on another level too. The person I’d have talked all this through with, well, they were the one I was saying goodbye to.
I’m writing this somewhat after the end of week X-3, and still don’t really know what to write. It may well be months before I do. Of all the deaths in the last 12 months this is the one that makes the least sense to me.
At the end of the week I did two things. Record a message for Good Friday for the small people at Church and write a tribute for the “normal” (now online…) prayer meeting, that turned into a tribute session, the following week. How I did the first I don’t know, it can only be given as evidence that when you step out with God He doesn’t let you fall. The second, is below. And I shook more reading that than I did giving either testimony at Church.
Sometimes in life the only thing you can do is trust that God knows how the bigger picture unfolds already and He’s not asking you to deal with any of it on your own.
To concisely summarise what Edwin meant to us is really hard, because him and Lorna mean so much. They’re part of our wider family, a first point of call in the ups and downs of life, unconditionally there.
Thinking of Edwin as gone seems impossible. He’s poured so much of himself into our lives and shaped who we are. The hours spent looking at scripture whether one-to-one or in groups, working through all the questions, however detailed, and praying with us at some pretty dark points. His preaching challenged and inspired, but Edwin was more than simply our pastor, he was our friend. Our memories are within our own home, not just the Church building. Your pastor rejoices that a baptism is happening and agrees to baptise your Dad too; your friend asks why he needs to fill the tank when you have a pond in the back garden. Very few meetings about the finances stayed on topic, and we’d talk about pretty much everything else going on in life too. When the time came for us to step back from the finances his concern was not primarily about who would take it on, but more about us as individuals.
Edwin lived out what he said, and when he said that him and Lorna would be there any time, it wasn’t empty words, he meant it, and he did it. Not just the easy times like being amongst the very early visitors when our children were born or their dedications, which we couldn’t have asked anyone else to do, but also travelling to simply support us at family funerals and even babysitting in an emergency! He was the first person we told about all five pregnancies and the one who sat with me whilst my husband made it home at the start of both miscarriages, which says a lot about the depth of friendship and trust. I know my parents, 40 miles away, have been immensely grateful over the years that we have family just down the road in Edwin and Lorna.
We will miss seeing Edwin with Flynn on our way to school, his insight in his sermons and his larger than life self that made him who he was.
After the online meeting ended, a friend texted that it didn’t feel like enough. I responded simply with I don’t think anything will ever feel like enough…