It’s been good to write

It’s been good to write

I recently had a long and very helpful conversation with a Christian friend who writes about her experiences as a bereaved Mummy and how God has given her the strength to cope.

One of the many things I found interesting in our conversation, is that she didn’t actually start writing until long after her children had died, whereas for me, writing has been one of my coping mechanisms.

When I mentioned this, she said something like, “I didn’t grow up in an era where it was fashionable to keep a journal.”
I laughed and replied “Well actually, neither did I.

I’ve been scribbling in notebooks since I was thirteen.

At home, or at summer camp, I wrote.

My peers sometimes found this unusual and I was at times questioned as to what all this writing was for.

My young self had no wise words with which to answer them.

I just knew that writing was how I coped, but I couldn’t explain this.

As I got older and life got busier, I stopped writing every day and I only wrote when I was deeply troubled.

Sometimes I wrote often, sometimes I wrote infrequently.

On the day that I received the phone call informing me of Leah’s diagnosis, I knew one thing for sure, that I needed to start writing.

I started a new notebook that very day. I chose a “Project Book” – one that was divided into five sections.
Section One was kept for hospital appointments. Before every appointment, Leah and I agreed what questions she wanted me to ask and I wrote them into this notebook.

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It became quite a laugh at our appointments, as the doctors and nurses would glance anxiously at my notebook, to see if we had a full page, or a half page, of questions for them to answer.

I remember on one occasion in Bristol, our favourite Doctor was on duty. Leah and I were ready for him with a full page of written questions. He good naturedly accepted the armchair that we had pulled up to the bed in anticipation of his arrival. He knew that there would be no hope of escape, until every question had been discussed.

I’m so glad now to have all of these recorded memories.

Deep distress and trauma blurs our memories and can leave blank spots.

Many times since Leah has died, I’ve poured over my notebooks, trying to piece things together, trying to make sense of it all.

Sometimes I read things that surprise me, even now.

We received Leah’s diagnosis on Friday 19th April 2013. I know that I googled it that weekend. I’m a nurse so I have some understanding of medical matters. Yet, on Tuesday the 22nd April one of my written questions was “Is this 100% curable?” How could I ever have been so naive?

When I look back now I can see how hope/faith/denial can get all jumbled up.

That’s ok.

We have to stay sane.

We have to keep hope alive.

Many times over the years, in my work with families, my colleagues and I have wondered how parents can seem oblivious to how unwell/delayed their child is, when it seems so blatantly obvious to us.

Reflecting on my own journey through Leah’s illness and reading my own journals, gives me some insight into all of this.

Sometimes the truth is so painful, that we just aren’t ready or able to take it on board.

What the doctor told us on Tuesday 22nd April was awful, but within weeks I was able to bury it and move on a little bit.

Then in June, when we had our first outpatient appointment in Bristol, the consultant there told it to us all over again. I was nearly physically sick. I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to believe it.

My writings tell me something else too though.

They tell me of God’s grace and His faithfulness and the loving kindness of the many people who have blessed us along the way.

One of Leah’s and my favourite Matt Redman songs says it better than I can:

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace

Never once, no, we never walk alone

The Project Book also has a pouch where I stored some of the beautiful cards and written prayers that people sent to us, along with hospital appointment cards.

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I kept one entire section for encouraging Bible verses and quotations that people sent to us.

Here’s two by Rick Warren that I found written in there:

The ultimate test of faith is not how loudly you praise God in happy times but how deeply you trust Him in dark times.

Job is a book of questions, most left unanswered. The most important one is this – will you serve God no matter what happens? 

For me, I can truly say, it’s been good to write.

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