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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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Recovering From Grief


Our regular study group at church last night was a little bit different, and we had a discussion around death instead of our usual Bible study and worship. We looked at death in today’s society and our experiences of it with a view to how it will help us in our ministry to those who are grieving or who are having difficulty moving through the stages of grief and bereavement. It might sound a little bit morbid, but to be honest, I found it a really uplifting and enriching experience and it wasn’t the least bit fearful or distasteful as it might first sound.

We looked at our own experiences of loss and grief, and then we looked at various aspects of death and, using discussion prompt cards, had a chat in small groups about a couple of them.

One question that really stood out for me was “Do we ever recover from grief?”.

My initial response was “yes, of course we do”. But then we got into discussion about it and after hearing a couple of other people give their experiences of grief, I realised that I was not really in a position to answer that question quite that easily, because I hadn’t lost someone very close to me such as a spouse or a child. I have lost close family members and I have grieved for the loss of them, but I am fortunate in that I still have both my parents, my husband and my two children alive and well alongside me. That means that my viewpoint of the question is slightly different from my friend H who lost her husband within the last two years, whose answer was “no, you don’t”. She explained that she has learned to cope with her loss but she doesn’t feel secure in the knowledge that she has “recovered” as such. I was moved by her explanation and it has given me a lot of food for thought today.

I talked about this question with my husband Kevin earlier, and we talked a little bit about how grief has affected us individually and how that the idea of “recovering” from grief very much depends on the person who has died and the nature of the relationship we had with them before they died.

After a bit more thinking and talking, we came up with this analogy:

crumpled-paperIf you take a piece of paper – clean, white, unspoiled paper – and crumple it into a tight ball, then open it up and smooth it down again, you could say that the piece of paper having gone through the grief process of being crumpled up then straightened out again is still the same piece of paper as it was before, only it has been changed by it. It isn’t quite the same; it bears marks and scuffs that show it has been through some sort of trauma, and while it can still function as a piece of paper, it has been changed by it.

smoothed-out-paper

Thinking about it further, I came up with another one that might explain what it might be like to lose someone close:

eggTake an egg, and plunge it into boiling water. When you take out that egg, it is still an egg and is still fully serviceable as an egg, but because of the boiling water experience, you can’t even begin to put it back to the state it was in before. The intensity of the boiling water did something to its internal structure and it cannot physically or emotionally be the same as it was before, yet it is still an egg.

And so it is with us. For some of us, recovering from grief may be a little bit like the piece of paper analogy. Yes, we go through some pain of being crumpled up, and for some of us the process of smoothing out again can be a further source of pain but eventually we get there. Not quite the same as we were before, but we are more or less as we were before we experienced loss. However, for some of us, recovering from the loss of a loved one is more like the egg. We go through the intensity of boiling water for any length of time and yet our outer shell might look the same as it was before, our innards have irrevocably changed and we cannot be the same people as we once were. We still have a function, and we still look and taste the same, but to say that we have “recovered” would be wrong.

 

 

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It’s The Little Things


Have you ever noticed how it’s the little things that get you when you are feeling vulnerable? I don’t just mean the bad things, but the good things too. You can cope with the big things that happen – the bereavement, the sudden illness, the car accident – but when someone is randomly kind to you, or offers you a smile when you weren’t expecting it it can undo you, can’t it?

That kind of happened to me today. I went to Asda at lunchtime to get some things for tea tonight and there was a huge Mother’s Day display at the entrance. I thought I would get my Mum’s gift today because tomorrow is going to be hectic and while I was thinking about what to get her it suddenly struck me that this year, I only have one mum to buy for. My mother in law, Doreen, died just after Mothering Sunday last year and the thought that I only needed to pick up one card, one gift this year took my breath away.

small things

The thing that surprised me most was that even though we were not particularly close before she died, she was still my husband’s mother and I still cared about her, and it upset me to think that she wouldn’t be included in the thanksgiving this Sunday. Obviously I was upset at the time of the death (I was with her when she died), and I grieved for her in the weeks around her funeral but the list of “firsts” that come in the year since someone dies have come and gone without much emotion. Christmas, New Year, her birthday, her wedding anniversary, all our birthdays etc have all come and gone without any drama but for some reason, the sight of the tacky Mother’s Day stuff in Asda today nearly undid me.

Another little thing that means more than grand gestures was this morning when I came downstairs and Kevin had made me a cup of tea on a thermal cup to take to work with me. I was running late and didn’t have time to get a drink before heading out in the snow, but he’d thought ahead and made me that tea. A small gesture but it speaks volumes..

Do the little things go deeper than the big things do you think? Or is it just that we notice the small things because they shine out in times of darkness? Let me know your thoughts.

 

Wednesday Hodgepodge

Wednesday Hodgepodge


1. What news story are you following right now?

There are a few that have captured my imagination/horror/disgust/disbelief but the biggest one is, like Joyce, the girls who have been kidnapped in Nigeria. I cannot believe how so many children can be taken like that and the authorities have done very little to try and rescue them, or even to allow others to go in and help find them. Also, I’m following the story about Rolf Harris who is appearing in court on sexual assault charges dating back to the 1970s. Stomach churning if true, stomach churning if not true that someone so high profile can have his reputation and private life splashed throughout the media and millions of children are left questioning their childhood.

2. What’s the last thing you wanted but didn’t get?

There’s plenty on my “want” list that is still in the “not gonna get it” pile, but the last thing that genuinely made me want to cry when I didn’t get it was Sunday dinner this weekend. I had been in church since 10am that morning, and after all my things there I had to wait at church until 2pm for a baptism. By the time it was all over I was so hungry I was starting to shake and I asked Kevin if we had the funds for a carvery meal. The answer was “no”…

(For non-UK readers, a carvery meal is roast meats, vegetables, potatoes etc that is served buffet style in pubs, usually a chain. They are relatively cheap and make a nice treat to have a proper roast dinner without all the hassle of making it and all the washing up afterwards).

3. May 28th is National Hamburger Day…when did you last have a hamburger? Other than your own kitchen or BBQ grill, where is your favourite place to go for a hamburger? And for all you non-meat eaters out there…when you’re invited to a cookout what is one side dish you hope is on the menu?

I can’t remember the last time I had a hamburger, but it would probably have been a McDonalds. We don’t have much choice here in the UK – it’s either Maccy D’s or Burger King (which I’m not too keen on).

4. How have your priorities changed over time?

I think my biggest change of priority as I’ve got older is my faith. As a young(er) person it used to be something that was on the back burner, almost taken for granted. But as I’ve matured it has become more of a priority. I can’t say that it was a purposeful change; it kinda crept up on me and is now probably the most important aspect of my life.

5. What’s a favourite memory with your grandparents?

Baking with my Gran. We would run up to her house after church on a Sunday morning (she lived about 200 yards away) and she would be in the kitchen doing her weekly baking, which we loved helping her with. She taught me so much in that time in the kitchen – and not all of it was about how to get your cakes to rise!

6. On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being fantastic!), how good are you at multitasking? Share an example.

My multi-tasking skills get me into trouble so much…sigh… I can usually juggle half a dozen things or more at a time, but the more I juggle the less “good” I am at it. On the flip side, the less I juggle the more I look for to multi-task with because I can’t do just one thing at once.

Example: revising for my exam next Tuesday and making notes about mental health in the 16th Century I am checking my phone, looking on Facebook, emptying the dishwasher, have TV on quietly in the background and monitoring Ethan doing his homework upstairs. Have I taken anything in from my revision? Probably not a lot. Do I really need to check my phone/Facebook? Not at all. Does the dishwasher really need to be done RIGHT NOW?? Etc etc….

In justification, I am a woman, and women are notorious for being able to multitask smoothly (holding babies, cooking, supervising other kids whilst talking on the phone) so I don’t think I’m unusual at all. Just being a woman!

So, my score would be 10 out of 10 for juggling, about 4 out of 10 for success.

7. How would you summarize your highs and lows for the month of May?

Highs: I got my highest mark for my OU module today (hurrah!); Emma was home for a few days (hurrah!!); Ethan and my Dad completed a 40 mile bike ride from Manchester to Liverpool in aid of the NSPCC last weekend; Kevin has repainted all the gloss paint on our landing and stairs and it is so new it still squeaks when we rub it; my pea plants are surviving against the odds; I have managed to work about 22 hours this last two weeks which will help keep the wolf from the door a little; and City won the Barclay’s Premier League.

Lows: We finally scattered my Gran’s ashes a couple of weeks ago; Ethan fell of his bike on his way to school earlier this month and bashed his head and his knee; I have had hand, foot and mouth disease which laid me low for nearly a fortnight (horrible virus, and I’ve still got unhealed blisters on my hands and on my scalp); we didn’t have enough money to get away in our caravan for a few days (again…); and we have had another death in the family and my Mum lost another sister last night.

Summary – it’s been high, and it’s been low.

8. Random thought for today:

 

Daybook

Daybook Entry – 3rd March 2014


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FOR TODAY
Outside my window… clear skies and a new moon. I doubt we’ll see the Northern Lights again but wouldn’t it be fantastic if we did?!

I am thinking… about the essay I have got to write tomorrow morning. It is 1500 words using two sources to describe the changes in surgery since 1800. I have done my notes and am all set to write it but my notes are already 1200 words long. Oh dear, some serious SERIOUS editing required.

I am thankful… that I have not got to get up early tomorrow. My body is sore (again) and I need to sleep.

In the kitchen… Kevin made a fantastic sausage and bacon casserole and mashed potato for tea. It was his own recipe (get in there Kev!) and was so nice I could easily have scoffed the lot.

I am wearing… sleep t-shirt ready for beddy boes.

I am creating… apart from my essay, I am working on a loose cowl/scarf for myself and still got the caravan blanket on the go. I keep having a go at that with a couple of rounds here and there when I need to stop my brain working itself into a frenzy.

I am going… NOWHERE tomorrow until this blasted essay is done.

I am wondering… if there will ever be a light at the end of this particular financial tunnel we’re in. It feels like we left the railway tunnel a long time ago and we are now well into deep shaft mining tunnels.

I am reading… just finished reading “Peter and Wendy” by J M Barrie and have started Emmeline Pankhurst’s “My Own Story”. (That financial mine shaft tunnel means that my reading material is limited to free downloads from Amazon, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I would never have bought Emmeline Pankhurst’s book but as it’s a freebie I gave it a go and WOW I was sucked in within a couple of pages. What an inspirational woman she was!

I am hoping… to get through the night without mishap or disturbance tonight.

I am praying for… Rita who has started her chemo now, my Dad who still faces the prospect of his Mum’s funeral, Baby Lucas who is poorly with mouth ulcers and a sore throat which is preventing him eating properly, Paul who has learned today that he has to have an emergency hip operation, Stuart with health problems, Becky and Tino whose baby is due any time now, and for all the children at Stay and Play.

I am looking forward to… digging my bike out of the garage soon. I want to take advantage of the lovely Spring sunshine and get some fresh air in my lungs.

I am learning… a lot about the history of medicine (still), and just how cruel society was to the poor in the past.

Around the house… Kevin is sleeping, Emma is working on some photographs she took whilst on exercises with the military this weekend, Ethan is reluctantly settling into bed after an evening playing on Minecraft. Just your typical Manchester family really!

I am pondering… about the content of the eulogy I will be delivering at my Gran’s funeral on Monday.

A favourite quote for today:

Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value. –Albert Einstein

One of my favourite things… is having my family all back together under the same roof.

A few plans for the rest of the week: essay writing tomorrow and possibly Wednesday, nothing, nothing, nothing, possibly catching up with last week’s study material, possibly some crocheting and then on Sunday travelling south for the funeral.

A peek into my day…

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I was given some of my Gran’s old cookbooks and I was looking through them today when this photograph fell out. It is of me and my brother and I’m judging from the ages of us (and the fact that we’re sat on Rupert Bear’s knee) that this must be around 1978 or 1979. My youngest brother would either not have been born or would have been a baby when this was taken. Good grief….the memories that can come flooding back from seeing things like this!

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Daybook

Daybook Entry – 20th February


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Apologies to my regular readers and followers but I have taken a few days out from blogging because of things going on at home. I’m back now but will be taking another little break sometime next week. Please read on…

 

FOR TODAY – 20th February 2014

Outside my window… we have a very mild, drizzly night tonight. A bit strange after all the bad weather we had only last week.

I am thinking… about the huge amount of work I’ve got ahead of me in the next couple of days.

I am thankful… for the life of my Gran who sadly died on Tuesday this week. You may know that she fell a couple of weeks ago and suffered a broken arm. Many of you offered your prayers for her recovery and we are all grateful for those prayers. She is now restored and healed in glory and I am grateful to her for teaching me so much about kindness, gentleness, hospitality, positivity and acceptance.

In the kitchen… we had tater ash for tea tonight. A peasant stew if you like – mincemeat, onions, carrots and potatoes in beef stock simmered until the potatoes fall and thicken up the juice. Lovely!!

I am wearing… grey and black everything – tshirt, comfy pants, socks and hoody. I’m feeling kinda grey too.

I am creating… not feeling very creative at the moment. I pick up the blanket I’m crocheting for the caravan now and again but there’s too much going on at the moment to concentrate on new projects.

I am going… to be picking my son up from the train station tomorrow tea time. He has been away at my brother’s near Bristol this week and at the age of 15 has made his very first journey away from home all by himself. He got the train from Manchester and changed at Gloucester on Tuesday, and the return journey tomorrow includes two changes…gulp. Proud (but anxious) Mama here. Can’t wait to see him!

I am wondering… how my Mum and Dad are getting on down at Gran’s flat without her. They are there at the moment and will stay until after the funeral now. We’ll be joining them for that obviously, but it feels very strange not having them here.

I am reading… a trashy vampire novel that is so trashy it is almost a caricature of trashy vamp-lit! It’s entertaining enough and passes the time. Just what I need at the moment. (Although I do have to say that it keeps raising the question of redemption in my mind – I’ll come back to that in another post though, when I can get my head round it).

I am hoping… our new banner will work to draw people in for Messy Church on Saturday. Excited about it but anxious in case nobody turns up (which has happened every time we have held one and so far we have always had upwards of 60 people attending…but there’s always a first time!).

messy banner
We put this outside our Church Hall today advertising Messy Church this weekend. This picture looks like it has Doctor Who’s tardis in the background doesn’t it?!

I am praying for… my Dad and my Uncle Phil who lost their Mum this week, and for the rest of my family who have lost such a sweet and gentle lady; someone who is facing their demons and battling with them with professional help; my friend who thankfully escaped serious injury in a car accident this week but who is suffering emotionally from it; my brother John; Rita who starts chemo next week; Eddie; the safe return of my son tomorrow; the safe sea-weekend for my daughter this weekend.

I am looking forward to… having both my children home again.

I am learning… that being a Mum gets harder the older they get.

Around the house… it has been just Kevin and myself this week and it has been wonderful – THINGS STAY WHERE THEY’RE PUT AND FOOD STAYS IN THE FRIDGE!!!!

I am pondering… which hymns to choose for Sunday morning’s worship at church. I am leading the service so it falls to me to choose the music. I love the responsibility of that particular part of the job because music is so important to me and I want to help other people connect through music too.

A favourite quote for today:

13Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:13-17

One of my favourite things… is my big comfy bed.

A few plans for the next few days: picking up Ethan tomorrow evening and then going straight to band; Saturday is Messy Church at noon; Sunday I’m leading worship at church; Monday is back to Stay and Play, and later in the week I will be travelling south for my Gran’s funeral.

A peek into my day…

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General/Journal

Boxing Day Ramble


keep calm its boxing dayIn the UK the day after Christmas Day is called Boxing Day, which is today. Nobody knows really why it is called that, but we think it has something to do with the giving of alms to poor and destitute people in the past. Nowadays it is all about shopping – as if there wasn’t enough of that in the last couple of weeks. It is also the feast day of St Stephen. You know him. He of Good King Wenceslas fame.

There are numerous Boxing Day traditions here – the aristocracy go hunting, the loonies go swimming in the North Sea amongst them.

In our house, Boxing Day is traditionally a day of rest. We make no plans to do anything or go anywhere, just to sit and relax and enjoy some time together after the hustle and bustle of Advent and Christmas. Today has been no exception. We had brunch of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toasted bagels at about 11 am and I have had a great time crocheting a blanket for Emma whilst watching “Stuart Little 2” and “Meet Me In St Louis” this afternoon. Heaven!

I made a soup for tea tonight using the leftover veg from yesterday and some of the leftover turkey meat. It was scrummy and just what the doctor ordered. Not that we overindulged yesterday – far from it! We had a simple Christmas dinner yesterday – turkey, pork, roast potatoes, new potatoes, carrots, sprouts and parsnips with trifle to follow – and between six of us we drank about 3 bottles of wine all day and evening. To be honest things have been so busy in the last three weeks or so that none of us had the energy for anything more adventurous and by 5 o’clock we were all totally wiped out. It was a case of clock watching until about 9pm when it was deemed “appropriate” for us to one by one slip off to bed. The last one up turned the lights out at about 10.30pm last night. Not so much feasting and festivities as crashing over the finishing line and craving sleep by the end of the day.

If you remember I gave you a little insight into what I’d been doing over the course of a couple of days when I wrote my last Daybook Entry. I would do the same here but to be honest there has been so much going on that it is all a blur and I can only remember the key points, such as playing as a family for our Carol Service on Sunday in church (immensely proud of my family for pulling that one off),doing Messy Church on Christmas Eve afternoon (great fun, and very messy!!!), playing for our neighbours in the street yesterday morning (thanks to everyone who gave us a wave and cheered us on), playing for our service yesterday in church (by now our little family quartet were getting rather good at playing together and we didn’t want to stop!) and visiting the in laws yesterday afternoon.

You might have gathered by now where the “rambling” part of this post’s title comes from… I do have a lot of stuff swishing round my mind at the moment and I thought if I could share it out there in blogland it might help me put some of it to rest.

In amongst all the “busyness” of the Christmas lead-up, there have been some really poignant and significant events that have happened either to me, or to someone I love. They have made me reflect on things and I wanted to share them with you in this ramble. Forgive me…

My cousin celebrated the 18th birthday of her eldest son just before Christmas. While in normal circumstances that is a big enough milestone, when you consider that when he was born he was a whole two months premature and for weeks and weeks it was touch and go whether he would survive or not, his 18th birthday means all that much more to us.

One of my friends lost his father on 5th December and his funeral was held on Friday 13th December. It would have been his 80th birthday that day, but instead it was his funeral. My friend now has no immediate family left and to all intents and purposes is all alone in this world. He does have close friends, but it isn’t the same as having family is it? He has never married, he lost his brother around four years ago and both his parents have now passed. I love my friend and wish there was something more I could for him and with him, but what can I do? I feel his pain and want to share it with him, but his very alone-ness makes it impossible to get closer to him.

I lost two of my church family in December – Neville and Brian. Both of them were elderly men and they had entirely different backgrounds and lifestyles but I loved them both and I will miss them.

One of my friends from church has been told that breast cancer has returned for a second time. She will be having a mastectomy in the next few days and my heart aches for her. She is putting a brave face on things but you can see that the light is dimming behind her eyes at the minute.

A lady I got to know from New Zealand died the week before Christmas too. Her story is remarkable and that she had survived as long as she did was a testament to her strength and faith. She visited her family here earlier this year and we knew then that her illness was terminal and that we would never see her again, but she managed a return visit at the end of the summer holidays and into September. The journey from NZ to Manchester was a gruelling one and she had to spend a few precious days away from her family and in hospital to recover. She travelled home with her husband in mid-September where her condition worsened, and she gave up her grip on life here on Earth on 16th December. Her gentleness of spirit and strength of faith in God shone like a beacon from her during both her visits and she touched the hearts of everyone she met.

My cousin, who lost her Dad two years ago, posted on Facebook on Christmas Eve how much she was missing him and how they will still enjoy Christmas even though it wasn’t right that he was not there to share it with them. She posted a photo of him too; I cried.

All of these things (and more) have gone into the reflective mood I have found myself in over the last couple of days. I haven’t come to any sort of conclusion, but the fact that Christmas is as much about loss as anything else has become more obvious to me this year more than at any time in the past.

Christmas itself is so emotive – the fact that it comes right in the darkest part of the year; the fact that there are so many images of the “perfect” family enjoying the “perfect” time together; the fact that everyone else seems to manage  to buy their kids the best of everything with gadgets and technology galore while you can’t even come close to your kids’ Christmas list; the emphasis on FAMILY and TOGETHERNESS; the pain of putting a brave face on things while you are dying inside; the guilt associated not fully grasping, or not wanting to know about the religious aspect of the season… Why do we insist on punishing ourselves when all we have to do is look outside of our own circle to see it just how things are elsewhere?

Here in the UK we have had massive storms that have left thousands of people without power, without homes even, and unable to celebrate Christmas at all. There are huge floods everywhere and Christmas has been ruined for hundreds of families right through the country. For those of us who haven’t been affected by the storms so far we are still left with the worry of not being able to meet the bills for heating our homes adequately. And we haven’t even got to the worst of winter yet.

Life goes on doesn’t it? Even in the midst of heartache, grief, bereavement, worry, hardship and threat, life goes on. The best we can do is a) to live each day to its full potential, and b) to make sure that those we love are given the encouragement to go on living their days to their full potential too.

Forgive me this Boxing Day ramble – there have been a lot of words washing round my head and I needed to share them!

We are going to be going out tomorrow for a proper ramble. I hope to have some pictures to share with you tomorrow instead of all these words.

I trust your Christmas has been everything you wanted it to be. Blessings to you all.

Pam x