Last Sunday I spoke on two of the beatitudes as an introduction to the principles of the kingdom, and used Jacob of old to illustrate the word for ‘mourn’ by his weeping over the supposed death of his favourite son Joseph. “Blessed [happy] are they that mourn . . .” The father’s weeping is the same kind of Hebrew word used in the New Testament Greek, which expresses the deepest pain of loss. To add further to its meaning I spoke about when my wife died, and this was it:
The carer had arrived for the morning duty and I showed her into Patricia’s bedroom and explained that she probably only needed washing in the bed from the waist down as she seemed especially fragile, and I then went out of the room to the garden room to finish off a small cleaning job, but as I did I heard the doorbell go again, and opened it to see the second carer had arrived.
As she was changing in the entrance hall and putting on the plastic overshoes I went back into the bedroom to see the first carer who was leaning over Patricia testing her breath. I simply said. “Is she dead” and the carer nodded. I fetched a shaving mirror from the ensuite bathroom and it was unmarked by breath and her pulse had stopped so this confirmed it. I ushered both carers into the dining room to write their report with a promise of a cup of tea. I went into my study and rang my eldest son in Bristol, and told him what and happened and then without warning just burst into tears and sobbed uncontrollably. He said “we’ll be there in 2 hours.”
I eventually came out of it and then rang my daughter who lived in Straitfields, Wimbledon, and the same thing happened. All she could say was “Oh daddy,” [something she had not said since childhood, but she was so upset for me]; “we’ll be there in 30 minutes.” The anguish of looking after Patricia for 47 years and constantly for six months culminated in a sudden overwhelming thought – “I‘ve lost my best and dearest friend” and I was in excruciating emotional pain. I could not explain the depth of hurt that I felt, it was inexplicable and hardly bearable. A carer came into my study and put her arm round my shoulder and hugged me as a kind of help, she did not really know what to do, and neither did I.
Eventually I snapped out of it and went into the kitchen and made their tea as promised [the best kind of therapy is work], they drank and as they did they asked a few questions about her life, and then left quickly, best they did. They needed to be in another environment where there was life and their skills could be used effectively. I needed time to consider where to go and what to do. I was still in shock for although I knew she was dying, I didn’t know it would be so swift.
I now know what Jacob felt and what Matthew meant about mourning; it became crystal clear, often unexplainable but understood by experience. As I prepared my PowerPoint slide for last Sunday’s sermon I was in tears again remembering that previous moment and the same now as I write this out of my soul. But, it cannot be taken away from me and it had to be to purge the pain and anguish and gain the reciprocal comfort it brings. It helps and it heals. Countless people through myriad ages have found that to be true as they have battled with failing relationship through death. I am but one amongst millions. But I can also say “God has given and God has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Be still, my soul; though dearest friends depart And all is darkened in the vale of tears; Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart, Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears. Be still my soul; thy Jesus can repay from His own fullness all He takes away – Amen
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
[Matthew 5:4 KJV]