Funeral Ministry


I experienced two contrasting funerals today, and they have made me think about the things that unite us as well as the things that divide us.

You might know already that I am a lay minister in my church and I am in the process of discernment as to whether I am a suitable candidate to be trained further, with a view to being ordained in the future. My ministry takes in lots of different things, including children’s work, leading worship and prayers, leading study groups and so on, and recently I have been increasingly involved with the funeral ministry that the church offers. I started off by shadowing the priest who conducted funerals, visiting the family and offering some pastoral support at the event itself. That quickly evolved into me saying prayers at funerals while the priest led the rest of the service, and then I began to deliver the eulogy and address too. More recently I have had the privilege to conduct the service from the beginning right up to the point of the committal, which for Church of England funerals can only be conducted by a priest. I have found funeral ministry fulfilling as well as challenging, and I am gaining experience every time I do one.

Funeral ministry might sound morbid and depressing but it is such a rewarding experience for me because not only do we get to share good news with people at a time when they are at their lowest, but when there are no words with which to frame that good news, we can stand alongside people and show them that they are not alone.

Which is why I wanted to talk to you about today’s funerals and the way that they are sitting with me and in my prayers today.

The first funeral was of a 41 year old man and the second was of a premature baby who died after living for an hour and 16 minutes. There are further contrasts between the two funerals, in that the first was filled with extended family and friends, with six pall bearers drawn from that circle, and the second was just the two parents who had come to mourn their loss, carrying a tiny white coffin themselves.

I visited the man’s family (I’ll refer to him as A for ease now) the day before yesterday with the priest who was to conduct the service (“E”) and was struck by just how close the brothers were, especially after hearing how the family had worked together to earn money and how they had informally adopted a lifelong friend into their midst when he found himself in difficulties. The visit was a noisy one, with everyone talking over each other to tell A’s story, and their memories came tumbling out with very little prompting from either E or myself. They were all keen to share their grief as well as some of the happier times they had shared with A before he died. Visits like this one are easier for me to deal with emotionally, because their keenness to talk and to share shows me signs that they are processing the death of their loved one and are prepared for the difficult time at the funeral ahead. It also means that the conversation flows easily and there is little prompting or nudging needed for them to tell their story.

E and I also visited the baby’s parents yesterday, and for me, that is where the deeper contrasts began to show themselves.

Baby C was the third child to this couple, and the visit took place with one of their other children in the room with us. It was very quiet, despite a toddler being there, and conversation was not quite as forthcoming as it was for the big family the day before. But how could it have been otherwise? Baby C didn’t have a story to tell, no escapades at school, no achievements or disappointments with exams or boyfriends and girlfriends and so on. But the parents were just as upset over their loss as A’s family were the day before.

The purpose of a funeral (for me) is a three-fold thing: it is to give thanks for the life of the deceased, for the bereaved to comfort each other, and to commit our brother or sister to the eternal care of God, and because we do those things at every funeral, they serve to unite us despite our differences and contrasts.

So how do we give thanks for the life of a baby whose heartbeat only lasted an hour and 16 minutes? How do we offer comfort to the parents who are grieving not only the physical loss of their child but also the loss of a life not even lived? How do we comfort a family whose brother has found life so difficult that he could only find solace and strength in alcohol? What can we say to ease the pain and disappointment, the anger and distress at the loss of a loved one no matter what their age is, or how many heartbeats they have had.

It is so, so hard, but for me, the answer to those questions lies in the one thing that united the two funerals today, and that is the promise of new life when we go from here. It is the promise that was made real by Jesus Christ, and it is what we celebrate every Easter when we remember his death and resurrection.

I can’t imagine that the bubble of grief in which the two parents have existed after the birth of their baby was ready to be punctured by the gospel message today, but I do hope and pray that the ministry they received from E and I this morning will stay with them and that they could draw some comfort from the prayers we offered. I doubt that many words will have been heard today, but I hope and pray that our being there, standing alongside both families in their grief made some difference to them.

There was a time at A’s funeral, when one of his brothers was overcome with grief, that the only thing to do was to stand and hold his hand and simply be there for him while he clutched at the coffin and cried out in anguish. It was a privilege to hold Baby C’s mother’s hand as the end of the service came, at the moment when she had to say her final goodbyes. I could feel the pain rolling off her, and there were simply no words I could have said to have eased it but to just hold her hand seemed to have made a difference to her.

So, yes, lots of contrasts in the two funerals, but lots of similarities too. Most important is the unifying message that this life is not the end, and God has his hands and eyes and ears all over us, from the moment we are knitted together in our mother’s wombs right through to the moment we see him face to face and beyond.

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A Day Out in Yorkshire


Today was Easter Monday, a bank holiday here in the UK, and Kevin and I decided we were going to Do Something today. We are forever telling ourselves that we will Go Somewhere, or See Something but don’t usually get round to it, but today was different and we enjoyed a fantastic trip out over the hill to Yorkshire.

The weather hasn’t been great for the past few days but – as the seasoned campers that we are always know – there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong coat and shoes. So we prepared for a typical British bank holiday day out and packed butties, crisps, a flask of tea, some waterproofs, hiking boots, sun lotion and money for an ice-cream and set off up the M62.

We didn’t encounter any rain at all, but it was a bit cold even when the sun did break out. We were heading for Rievaulx Abbey and Terrace which is about 16 miles out of Thirsk, near a little town called Helmsley. Now then, Kevin and I have already encountered Helmsley and it brought back some rather mixed emotions and memories being there again today. It was the place on our Coast to Coast bike ride 8 years ago where we found our morale at rock bottom and where we simply couldn’t go on with our ride, until we had a cup of tea and some meat and potato pie (I swear there were magic herbs in that cup of tea) and it restored us to the extent we were able to carry on and finish the ride to Scarborough.

I’m glad to say that today’s visit was infinitely more comfortable and happy for us, and it was a lovely drive from there up to Rievaulx Terrace.

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Our visit was very nearly spoiled by another family – why do parents these days seem to think that their little darlings have the right to shout and carry on disturbing the peace of others?? – but a muttered exclamation from me (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) and they soon realised that not everyone appreciates a 3 year old and a 6 year old “expressing themselves” at top volume in a peaceful garden. Isn’t it funny how the “look” I perfected with my own two children 20+ years ago works perfectly well on other people’s children now too?

Anyway. Rievaulx Terrace is a lovely place and well worth a visit. It is looked after by the National Trust and the staff there were very helpful and cheerfully welcoming.

We moved on from the terrace down to the abbey ruins at the bottom of the steep slope. You might not be able to see from the photos, but there is more or less a cliff edge separating the terrace from the abbey grounds. Too dangerous to walk down so we drove round instead.

Rievaulx Abbey was founded by Cistercian monks in the 12th Century, and over the next 400 years or so saw its fortunes rise, fall, rise and then completely fall again when Henry VIII got fed up with Rome. It is a beautiful place, and even though its many buildings are now in ruins, there is still a feeling of spirituality and peace there.

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And so to the journey home. Back through Helmsley and off towards Thirsk.

On the way up, we had driven up Sutton Bank, a notoriously steep part of the A170 where the road climbs at a rate of 25%. Caravans are banned from that that stretch – up AND down! – and I have to admit that our little car did struggle a little bit going up. We thought we would stop on the way back to check out the view from the top, which we did. The sheer drop of Sutton Bank was formed with the retreat of the last ice age, and you can see the flat bottom of the valley that was formed between the bank and what is now Thirsk on the horizon. Further in the distance there is a line of (black) hills, where the mighty Whernside and Ingleborough were also formed by the forces on the earth by the advancing then retreating glacier.

The view was magnificent, and no photograph of mine could ever do it justice, but here’s a couple of pictures I took from the top of Sutton Bank.

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You will notice that the sky was changeable to say the least. It’s one of the things I love about Yorkshire in general, the fact that the skies are so big and wide, and so changeable all the time. Beautiful and a fantastic reminder just how small we all are.

So, that was our day. A lovely day out in Yorkshire with a bit of history and geography thrown in for good measure. Well worth a visit and I would love to go back again. And again, to be honest. It’s a lovely place and it’s no wonder people refer to Yorkshire as “God’s own county”.

 

 

 

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Tiger, tiger


I had a very rare day yesterday. So rare that I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a day like it, which is saying something. I actually had nowhere to be, nothing urgent to do, nobody relying on me to do anything and no reason not to take a day to indulge myself in the things I wanted to do rather than the things I was obligated to do.

And boy did I enjoy myself!

It took a while for me to get into the swing of it but I spent some time creating a picture of a tiger’s face, which I quickly did in oil pastels in my A4 sketchbook (and which has already been claimed by my son’s girlfriend!). I absolutely loved that feeling of applying colour to paper, and it prompted me to recreate it in oil paints on an A2 sized canvas, taking my time over it and taking care to build it up in layers rather than doing a “colouring in” exercise that I have tended to do in the past.

I copied them from a photograph online, and for the first time, I didn’t trace it onto the canvas beforehand. I sketched out the outlines in pencil for the pastel sketch, but…and I’m so glad I could do this…the painting was done entirely freehand with no backing sketch laid down first. It is totally painted and it represents a big step in my confidence as well as my developing technique. Who knows, I might even feel brave enough to take my materials out into the open air and paint something “live” sometime soon!

Here is the pastel sketch:

Tiger sketch in oil pastels

And here is the painting in its various stages of completion:

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I usually find that doing something creative helps if I am feeling a bit out of focus within myself, and yesterday’s and today’s activities have helped me feel better. Not that there has been anything drastically wrong, but you know what I mean? There doesn’t have to be something wrong for something to make you feel better.

Having a totally free day yesterday was the key to it and I’m really glad I haven’t squandered the time to myself. I’m really pleased with the results and I’m looking forward to attempting a landscape or something next time.

 

 

 

 

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Daybook Entry – 2nd April 2017


For Today… 2nd April

Outside my window… it has been a gloriously sunny day again today, and my daffodils are nodding beautifully in the garden

I am thinking… about the week ahead and what I can do with my time

I am thankful… for the opportunity to exercise my ministry in the community where I live

I am praying for… my brother who has got a difficult surgery this week, and my parents who are going to be looking after him for a few days

I am wearing… “Red Musk” from the Body Shop. It is a gorgeous scent and was a Christmas gift from Emma

I am creating… a plan of action to get the house Spring cleaned

I am going… to band practice tomorrow night. “Reflections on Swan Lake” with Pemberton  Band

I am wondering… if I ought to see my GP with this pain in my ankle. I have had trouble with my Achilles tendon for a couple of months but in recent weeks it has got really painful and I’m getting a bit concerned about it now

I am reading…  “The Colour of Magic” by Terry Pratchett. I usually get through books like this in a couple of sittings but I have been so busy recently, and my days have been so filled from start to finish, that when I sit down to read before bedtime I have been so exhausted that I can only get a few pages read at a time. It’s a great book though and it’s no reflection on its quality that I can’t read very much of it at the minute!

I am hoping… this weather holds this week so I can sit out on the deck to write outside

I am learning… to trust my instincts more and more

In my garden… Spring has definitely sprung

In my kitchen… there is very little going on, and I need to plan a menu or else we’ll be eating on the hoof for the next week or so

A favourite quote for today… Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” It is the opening to chapter 8 of Paul’s letter to the Romans and it formed the backbone of my sermon this morning.

A peek into one of my days… this picture is from one of the sessions of Experience Easter I took part in with some of the local schools. This shows some of the children re-enacting the last supper with Eddie our vicar.

One of my favourite things… is looking forward to a lie in tomorrow morning

From the board room… I love these elephants!

Post Script: You may have gathered from the lack of posts recently and reading my post today that things have been a bit busy for me. I have absolutely loved the past four weeks, but they have been pretty full-on in terms of ministry and other things. Just to give you a little flavour of what I have been doing, I have been involved with 7 funerals since last Thursday (four of them in the same morning) and done three home visits to meet with the bereaved families; I have been involved in delivering/hosting 16 sessions of Experience Easter presented at 3 of our mission partnership churches and telling the Easter story to over 1200 children and staff of our local primary schools; I have driven to Wigan and Todmorden for band rehearsals, attended my son’s A-level recital and written and delivered a sermon, a piece of liturgy and led corporate prayers four times in various services and study groups. Oh, and I did a two week spell of exam invigilation too… no wonder I am exhausted!

I did get poorly towards the end of last week with a virus or something, which left me physically drained and meant I spent most of last weekend sleeping off a high temperature and painful muscles and joints. I’m much better now, and to be honest, after such a busy four weeks I am not too sure how to fill up my time next week. I have been putting off so many things because I haven’t had the time – such as cleaning the windows, digging out my painting gear, writing, going out on my bike etc – and I feel a little bit like a kid at the start of the summer holidays with endless days stretching ahead of me to fill. I don’t actually have all that time to myself because I still have a list of things to do this week, notwithstanding the commitments I have to band on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights, a study group to go to on Thursday evening, a wedding to do the music for on Friday and Messy Church to do on Saturday and whole shed load of little bitty things which won’t take any time but still need to be thought about and done properly. Sigh… I might just get a whole day to myself sometime soon to get my paints out where I can indulge myself without having to clock-watch. I’ll let you know!

 

 

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Refine


Lent Challenge – “Refine”

I thought today I would share a song with you that I learned a couple of years ago which speaks to me on different levels each time I hear or sing it.

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Forgive


Lent Challenge – “Forgive”

 

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a permanent attitude” – Martin Luther King Jr

 

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Questions


Lent Challenge – “Questions”

Who?

Who decided that women deserve a pat on the head for a single day each year, calling it “International Women’s Day”?

What?

What do they think women do on the other 364 days of the year?

Why?

Do women fall for it year after year?

When?

Are we going to wake up to the fact that in a truly equal society, there is no need for a day to commemorate women. Or men. Or men who identify as women. Or women who identify as men. Each and every day ought to be a celebration of human achievement in scientific advancement, sporting prowess, engineering feats, humanitarian succour, medical breakthroughs, musical excellence, artistic flair and so much more.

How?

Are we ever going to make peace among ourselves if we constantly draw the demarcation lines between us?

We divide ourselves by continent: “Most Europeans can’t appreciate the poverty the Africans are suffering”.

We divide ourselves by country: “The French are so rude. Much better to go to Belgium where they are so much more polite”.

We divide ourselves by region: “People in the south have such better lives that them up North. Haven’t you heard how grim it is up there?”.

We divide ourselves by county: “Everyone in Lancashire knows Yorkshiremen are tight with their money”.

We divide ourselves by city: “I wouldn’t trust a Scouser as far as I could throw him”.

We divide ourselves by town: “Ancoats? Who wants to live there? It’s a dump isn’t it?”

We divide ourselves by street: “Heaton Park Road is so posh. We don’t deserve to have a house there”.

We divide ourselves by house: “My neighbour is forever getting in my way and leaving his car parked across my drive”.

We divide ourselves in families: “I don’t talk to me sister’s family any more. Not after she got with that idiot who drives a flash car”.

We divide ourselves in marriages: “You’re not good enough for me anymore. I want out of this marriage”.

We divide ourselves so much in so many things already, do we really need to divide ourselves on the basis of our sex too? Come on ladies and gents of the world, can’t we unite for once and instead of being divisive in absolutely everything we do?

Those are my questions for today.

 

 

 

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Fear


Lent Challenge – “Fear”

“There is nothing to fear but fear itself”, or so says Franklin D Roosevelt.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I think that he must have been very lucky in his life if he thought that fear was something ephemeral, shadowy and insubstantial to the extent that he could dismiss it with a phrase like that.

There is plenty of fear in the world that is not shadowy or ephemeral in the slightest.

Try asking an abused child about fear and they will tell you that it’s not the shadow on the back of their bedroom door that frightens them, but the supposed trusted adult who is in a position of responsibility over them who is unpredictable and violent towards them.

Try asking the child on the streets of Mumbai about fear, and they won’t tell you they are scared that the bank will slash interest rates again, driving down the value of their stock. They’ll tell you they fear not being able to find food that day, or that they will be forced to do something painful and degrading to be able to have enough money to buy food with.

Try asking a working man about the fear of losing his home. Not his holiday home, or the home built on land that his parents or grandparents own, the home that he has worked his fingers to the bone to finance with a bank. A bank that changes the goalposts on what it will and will not accept from its “customers” in terms of financial arrangements on a whim, leaving that man and his wife in desperate fear of homelessness and destitution. He’ll tell you what fear means to him, and it isn’t an intangible worry that lurks in his subconscious but a snarling, ferocious beast that dominates every ounce of his being.

Try asking a woman who has suffered at the hands of someone who supposedly loves her what fear is all about. She won’t tell you it is a wispy, edge-of-the-mind thought about someone lurking in the shadows as she walks home, waiting to jump out at her because she’s alone. She will tell you fear comes in the shape and feel of what is waiting for her when she walks through her own front door.

Fear can paralyse us, it can rob us of hope and ambition, and it can turn us into people we don’t want to be.

But there is hope, and where hope remains, fear cannot win.

Because if we hope – that someone will rescue us from our situation, or provide us with support to gain an education so we can work for a living wage, that someone will hear our cries of desperation or whatever it is we hope for – we can live.

And that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? That we live, and that we have hope and that we conquer fear.

If you are a Christian, you will perhaps be journeying this part of the calendar in Lent by reflecting on your life in God, and the hope that is offered if we believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you are of another faith or none, you might recognise something in what I have said about fear and hope. Whatever your belief system, I hope that fear does not play a part in your life, and that if you do have genuine fear about something or someone then you find something to cling to that will help you.

As for FDR, I can only assume that before he left his time here on Earth he had cause to reflect on the words he used about fear. It could be that what he said has been so paraphrased over the years to have lost its original meaning, or it could be that he said it because he was in a difficult position as a leader of a great nation with its back up against the wall and he needed to inspire his people, not frighten them further.

Whatever the truth and whatever his motivation, I have shown a little bit of what it is to feel fear, and to be frightened of things that are very real and painful. If all we had to fear was fear itself then the world would not be the painful, dark, destructive and divisive place it is. The opposite of fear is hope, and it is my hope that fear will one day be banished from this world. I suspect it won’t be, and it is only on the other side of life will we find the peace and lightness of spirit so many of us crave.

 

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Sacrifice


Lent Challenge – “Sacrifice”

What is a sacrifice? And what it does it mean to the one who is doing the sacrificing?

The dictionary defines sacrifice as “give up (something valued) for the sake of other considerations” as one way of looking at it, and as this is a Lent challenge, I think that is the one that today’s prompt is asking us to think about.

We are challenged during Lent to give up something that we value, and for most people that is something like a favourite food, alcohol, an activity they enjoy or similar. But what does it mean to do that? I saw a question posted on Facebook the other day asking was it ok to drink wine during Lent. The person who asked it had heard that you’re “supposed” to give up something for Lent and as she enjoys drinking wine, she assumed that it would be a simple thing to give it up. Except for the fact that she was at a party and others were drinking and therefore she was confused about the “rules” of Lent. I don’t think she knows why we give things up for Lent, and to be fair to her, I don’t think very many of us really get to grips why we do either.

For me, the purpose of Lent is to get closer to God and it is up to individual people how they do that. It might be that foregoing that nightly glass of brandy is a sacrifice for them, and if they can use that sense of loss or whatever by not having it to bring them closer to God, then my advice is go for it.

In recent years the Church of England has suggested that people might like to take something up instead of giving something up for Lent. More prayer, a course of instruction or study, a commitment to reading a certain amount of the Bible each day, offering to volunteer for the needy or to give to charity and so on have all been suggested, and for me, this is something which brings us closer to the idea of sacrifice than simply “giving something up for Lent”.

It might be that somebody might want to give money to charity. Now, if that person has lots of spare cash floating around and they don’t really need it spend their money carefully, then giving to charity might not be the sacrifice that we might expect of Lenten giving. However, if that money being given to charity would have been spent on something that that person really needed, or wanted then to give money in those circumstances is a sacrifice. The pain of the sacrificial giving is what brings us closer to God. But notice we’re not talking about specific amounts of money here, it’s the principal that matters when it comes to sacrificial giving.

But I’m not sure God would want us to cut our own throats financially just so we can walk closer with him for about six weeks in the spring each year. Well, not the God I believe and trust in anyway.

Which brings me to prayer. As I said above, the Church of England has suggested that we could commit more time and energy to prayer during Lent to bring us closer to God. But I can’t really see how that is a sacrifice. I mean, prayer is not supposed to be painful, and it isn’t supposed to make us feel like we have foregone something in order to achieve it. We are spiritual beings, and prayer is life to us! I would say that a real sacrifice, ie one that is meant to make us feel pain or loss, is where we choose NOT to pray during Lent…but that’s nonsense isn’t it?

As with the point about money above, I can’t believe that God would ask us to forego prayer time with him just because it’s Lent. No, I think the “sacrifice with prayer” thing would be more likely be that instead of watching our favourite TV programme or something we devote that time instead to prayer. So it’s not that we are punished by praying, but we do lose out on some pleasurable leisure time in order to do it.

All of these things that we can sacrifice in Lent all seem like small change really, especially when we measure them up against the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us when he died for us. He sacrificed himself on the cross so that we might live, but not only that we might live, that we have full and fulfilled lives too. No matter how much we give to charity, or time we devote to extra prayer and Bible study, no matter what acts of kindness and love we do for others, and no matter how we fulfil this Lent Challenge, the sacrifice that he gave outshines them all and puts things into perspective.

So to the young lady who asked about the wine – go and enjoy it, and when you are ready to think about things again, don’t beat yourself up over having a glass of wine or three, but start your walk with God again.

I’m sure he won’t mind.

 

 

 

 

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Daybook Entry – 5th March 2017


be0b6-simple-woman-daybook-largeFor Today 5th March. I am following a Lent Challenge from the Bible Society, which doesn’t have a prompt for Sundays (Sundays are not counted part of Lent) and so I’m doing a Daybook entry instead.

Looking out my window… it has been one of those “is it Spring or still Winter?” days today

I am thinking… about the significance of timing

I am thankful… for my God-given talent of music making

One of my favourite things… clean body, clean pyjamas, clean sheets (as in, what I’m about to head to tonight!)

I am creating… a crocheted blanket for my son’s girlfriend in shades of blue and white

I am wearing… a big cheesy grin because I have just been asked if I would play for Pemberton at the upcoming Grand Shield contest (more about that at a later date)

I am reading… “Wyrd Sisters” by Terry Pratchett. Very funny, very astute, very poignant and very, very telling about the human condition

I am watching… Match of the Day (Manchester City played this evening against Sunderland. I know the result but I still like to watch my men on the pitch)

I have been listening to… “Guide Cats for the Blind” – a charity compilation CD. Here is one of my favourite tracks on it. So funny that when I first heard it I nearly crashed the car because I was laughing so much!

I am hoping… I have turned a corner with anxiety and depression issues

I am learning… to not beat myself up so much when I am paralysed by anxiety

In my kitchen… we have an almost sterile floor. I bought a steam mop last week (bargain at £30) and I have been right through the house hoovering and steaming all the floors. The kitchen floor is so clean now that you can eat your dinner off it…which is a good thing because I haven’t washed any plates…!! Hahaha, jokes…

 

Shared Quote:
“It always seems impossible until it’s done” – Nelson Mandela

Closing Notes
A little glimpse into the world of Mushy Cloud aka Pam this week. You may have read last weekend that I played in my first brass band contest for a number of years on Sunday. If you did, you will know that I had a rather long day in Blackpool, and you will know that my band won – yippee!

Such a win comes at a price, and the price for me this week has been one of pain. I literally could not move all day on Monday, and it took me until Friday night to be up to going out of the house for the first time since I got home on Sunday. Partly because of the pain, partly because I didn’t want to, and partly (more than I’d like to admit to) because I couldn’t. You see, in the run up to the contest I had to adjust my medication so that I could function properly on the day with (as full) mental capacity as I could and without a dry mouth, which is one of the side effects of one of my tablets. The result was that yes, I was able to play my cornet properly on Sunday, but it took me the best part of a week to recover from it and to get my pain levels back under control.

The thing with a long term health condition is that it isn’t just about the physical side of things, but the mental side can play a huge part too. Not only was my physical pain that much worse this week, but I also had massive bouts of anxiety because of the pain that had crept up in recent weeks with not being able to take the medication I needed to. The anxiety is a multi-faceted thing and even I don’t understand it, let alone expect or hope for anyone reading this to understand it for me. The biggest part of it is that the medication I take when the pain is bad has different side-effects, such as it gives me hallucinations, causes headaches and can make me sick. Because of these three things it makes it difficult for me to go out in public – I see things that aren’t there, can you imagine what that would be like walking down the street or riding on the bus?? I have a phobia about being sick, so to risk being out in public and being nauseous is also a no-go. But…and here’s the rub…sometimes it is difficult to know when that grey area between being “ill” and “well” can be a tricky patch to negotiate, and your mind can play tricks on you telling you that you are physically unwell when really it is your mind telling you that because it is in a state of self-preservation.

I did eventually venture out of the house on Friday night to conduct my band in Todmorden, but I felt absolutely rotten. I felt like a robot when I first arrived in the bandroom and I had almost forgotten how to speak to people, let alone convey musical emotion to them. I gradually warmed up and was fine by the end of the rehearsal, but there was an element of that automaton in action this morning when I went to church. I had missed a couple of things this week because of my being ill, and it felt like the waters of church life had moved on under a bridge that I was not there to witness, and so I felt a bit out of it when I first got there.

However, it didn’t take long to get back into a better frame of mind and I had a really revealing chat with someone who had come to faith recently after a life of drug and alcohol abuse. It just goes to show – and it certainly made me reflect – that the nature of life is all about what we make it to be, and whilst it is sometimes right to go into retreat and recover from wounds inflicted by ourselves or others, it is also the right thing to do to venture out and face the world again even if we don’t feel fully healed. I doubt we are ever fully healed, and it is a matter of timing, but even so, we do have to take that step out of our own cocoon of healing sometimes and make a strike for a bit of life that will push us to better healing and further fulfilment.

 

 

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