Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy – John 16:22

Dear friends,
This morning the picture provided by Microsoft when Pauline turned on her computer was of a mountain range in South America. Beautiful enough in its own right, but she was suddenly aware that in the very top of the picture, floating above the peaks, were several hang gliders with brightly coloured canopies. These thrill seekers immediately reminded us of our nephew Andrew, the quietest of young men but a lover of adventure, who loved to spearfish, cycle (he once carried his bike up Ben Nevis then rode down, filming his journey via the camera on his helmet) and hang glide, once landing in his village, much to the astonishment of his parents. We lost Andrew in a diving accident in 2017 and any photos of extreme sportsmen and women always make us think of him.

This morning’s memories triggered others, all concerning people we had lost, and we realised that many of them had died at this time of year, including both our fathers who died in January, though twelve years apart. Our most recent bereavements occurred just before Christmas and we still carry that raw grief, but like all these experiences they trigger memories of how we felt and coped on those earlier occasions. We believe that the loss of a person never leaves us, and that it informs our character in subtle ways, so that we carry them with us in all our subsequent relationships and life experiences. A friend who has themselves suffered the loss of a spouse, and has subsequently very happily remarried, still holds their first spouse very closely in their heart, and this morning sent us a link to a very useful talk by someone in their own position (see link below). The speaker said that the memory of her husband’s death would always make her cry – but the memory of how she met him would always make her laugh. She hadn’t moved on from grief… she had started a new chapter when she met her second husband, but she had moved forward with her grief, not left it behind. It had made her who she is now, and that experience had marked her, and made her, permanently. ‘Some things can’t be fixed, and some wounds don’t heal’ but we will still laugh and find joy in life.

We hadn’t intended to write about this today, but the picture on Pauline’s computer, followed so soon afterwards by the message from our friend, felt like a prompt from God to express these feelings, in these dark days at the start of this year. So much feels uncertain, and many of us are housebound and isolating, so that the memories of the past, and the griefs we have known, may well loom larger than usual. It would be easy to feel guilty that we have somehow not ‘made progress’, especially as Christians who are supposed to rejoice in all circumstances, so that we begin to spiral down into despair and self-loathing. We want to say today that God knows about grief, that through Jesus He felt the whole range of human emotion, and that he understands only too well the isolation which occurs when much needed human contact is lost. If this message speaks to you then please pick up the phone and call us, or call someone else whom you know and trust, and if ever you hear us say the words ‘you should move on’, feel free to put us right, and remind us that we will never move on from grief because we are not meant to. The lessons we learn and the character that is formed when we experience it are far too important for that.

With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline