The Rainbow

The Rainbow

Yesterday afternoon when I was in Ballyoan Cemetery tidying Leah’s grave I found myself overwhelmed with feelings of sadness. My lovely mum was dead nine years on Wednesday past the 22nd February. On the 7th February, it was seven years since our close friend Elizabeth left us. Elizabeth is also buried in Ballyoan.

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Returning to the car, I rested my head on the steering wheel and sobbed, totally overcome with grief. I cried out to God and told Him that this was all too much, living daily with the weight of grief and loss.

Most of the time I feel like I am coping quite well, but now suddenly, everything just felt like it was too much. All at once, life felt like an impossible burden.

I lifted my head from the steering wheel and gazed through tear stained eyes at the horizon ahead. To my amazement, although it had not been raining in the cemetery, a beautiful rainbow stretched across the sky, seizing my attention.

rainbow

I immediately thought of a verse from one of the children’s Bible songs that Leah loved, one that we used to teach the children when we led Children’s Church together:

Whenever you see a rainbow

Whenever you see a rainbow

Whenever you see a rainbow

Remember God is love.

I remembered also the verses in the Bible in Genesis 9  that tell us that a rainbow in the sky is a sign of God’s covenant with Moses where God promises never again to flood the whole earth.

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Then I recalled some of God’s other promises to us, where He has promised to always be with us, such as in Isaiah 43:2

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. (NLT)

As I thought about all of this, fragments of hope once again seeped in through the cracks of my broken heart. Gradually, imperceptibly, my perspective began to change, as I thanked God for sending this beautiful rainbow to remind me that He is a powerful God who loves me and provides for my needs. Some verses from Matthew 11  came to mind also:

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Music always ministers to my soul so as I drove home I listened to the song ‘My Troubled Soul’ by Robert Critchley.

My troubled soul,
Why so weighed down?
You were not made to bear this heavy load

Cast all your burdens, upon the Lord

Jesus cares, He cares for you.

Jesus cares, He cares for you
And all your worrying won’t help you make it through
Cast all your burdens, upon the Lord
And trust again, in the promise of His love.

(I will) Praise that mighty name of Jesus
Praise the Lord, the Lifter of my head
Praise the Rock of my Salvation
All my days are in His faithful hands.

My anxious heart
Why so upset?
When trials come, how you so easily forget
To cast your burdens, upon the Lord
Jesus cares, He cares for you.

Jesus cares. He cares for you
And all your worrying won’t help you make it through
Cast all your burdens, upon the Lord
And trust again, in the promise of His love.

(I will) Praise that mighty name of Jesus
Praise the Lord, the Lifter of my head
Praise the Rock of my Salvation
All my days are in His faithful hands.

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Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

For the past approximately eighteen years, I have been visiting a woman with a significant learning disability several times a year, when she comes into respite in Derry. When our children were small they used to come with me. Sometimes I take her out for a walk or bring her out to our house, other times I sit and chat with her in the respite facility where she is staying.

Tonight when I went to visit her, she had a beautiful flower arrangement ready to give me to put on Leah’s grave. She had got Patricia's flowersone of her carers to take her to a local shop earlier in the day to purchase it. She expressed concern that it wasn’t ‘good enough‘, but to me it was absolutely beautiful, especially as it was adorned with love.

This woman is quite comfortable talking to me about Leah and about grief and sadness, she always checks with me that I’m not ‘bottling things up‘. She doesn’t for one minute expect me to be ‘over it‘ in any shape, form or fashion. Despite her very significant learning disability, she totally gets it.

I reflected inwardly on how ‘emotional intelligence‘ bears no relation to IQ or academic achievement.

Grave with flowersAfter I had said goodbye to her, I went straight to Leah’s grave with these very special flowers. As I stood there in the darkness sobbing quietly, a form emerged from the shadows and a friendly voice said ‘hi‘.

It was a former school friend of Leah’s, a young girl who’s had to deal with some very significant challenges in life. She was en route to an after school activity and recognised my car parked outside the cemetery. She took the time and the trouble to walk through the cemetery in the pitch dark, knowing exactly where she would find me.

I very much appreciated her thoughtfulness.

Let me be Singing when the Evening comes.

Let me be Singing when the Evening comes.

My baby asked for a shopping trip this week. She’s 11 and has never liked being referred to as “my baby”.

My Mum referred to me as her baby until dementia robbed her of her faculties a few years before her death in 2008. I liked this term of endearment.

Miriam and I both tried on shoes in New Look and then she tried on clothes in Primark.

She looks taller than me, but she isn't really!
She looks taller than me, but she isn’t really!

Since Leah was a toddler she absolutely loved shopping and would never have allowed us to go shopping without her.

We still find ways to include her – we went to the gardening section in one of the Pound Shops and Miriam chose some items for Leah’s grave.

On this occasion Miriam chose a solar powered butterfly and a dragonfly. She also picked a shepherds crook (with a butterfly inset), on which we can hang things, like sun catchers.

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I was glad when she chose a shepherd’s crook – it reminded me of the the 23rd Psalm and the Good Shepherd.
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When the shops had closed up for the night, we headed over to the cemetery to place our purchases on Leah’s grave.

I suppose there was a time when visiting a cemetery in the dark would have seemed like a scary thing to do. Not now though – how could the place where we left the body of our beloved Leah ever seem scary?

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We arranged our purchases with the light from the torch on Miriam’s mobile phone. Then we talked about the view and commented on the attractive variety of solar lights/decorations on some of the nearby graves. Surprisingly, it feels quiet and peaceful in the cemetery at night.

The curvy string of lights is the Foyle Bridge across the river.
The curvy string of lights is the Foyle Bridge across the river in the distance.

After this it was time for the obligatory trip to McDonald’s.

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Inwardly I reflected on the fact that it’s two years this past week since our very first visit to Belfast City Hospital.

Two years since we left behind the familiarity of our local hospital and faced all that was new and scary and unfamiliar.

Two years since a doctor we had only just met, told us things about our daughter’s diagnosis and prognosis that no parent ever wants to hear.

His phone call the previous week had told us that Leah needed a bone marrow transplant, but by the time we’d finished our face to face meeting with him, it seemed as if it was actually a miracle that our daughter needed.

For weeks afterwards a little voice inside my head kept saying “This is too much.” and another voice would quickly respond “But He is enough – God will get you through this.”

On Tuesday the 24th April ’13, before we left the house to go to Belfast City Hospital, I posted on my Facebook page, some words from one of Matt Redman’s songs that was so special to Leah and I:

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

When we arrived home that evening my heart was breaking.

I wrote underneath my earlier Facebook status that if I didn’t have God in my life to help me, I certainly wouldn’t have the strength to still be singing.

A Chance Encounter

A Chance Encounter

The view from Leah's grave this morning
The view from Leah’s grave this morning

I know that our daughter isn’t in her grave.

The Bible says ” absent from the body and present with the Lord.2 Corinthians 5:8

However, I find a comfort in going to the Cemetery.

It is a peaceful place in which to grieve and remember Leah, away from other distractions.

Sometimes the conversations I have there bring comfort too.

This morning as I watered the flowers on Leah’s grave, another woman stopped to speak to me:

“Is that your daughter? She’s beautiful? So young too.”

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We talked for a while. She told me about burying her two sons as young adults, due to a progressive genetic disorder. Turns out she’s a nurse too.

We cried and we hugged.

There can be comfort and blessing in the sharing.