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.


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.


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.


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:

Matthew 11.jpg

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.

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Before we went to Bristol I read the daily devotional Streams in the Desert via an app on my mobile phone. I was being blessed and helped by these devotional readings, which were first published in 1925.

While Leah and I were in Bristol one of the ways in which friends and family from home blessed us was with post – lots of it. We were the envy of the other families staying in Sam’s House because most of the post was for Leah and I.


Every time Leah moved to a new hospital room, her boyfriend Nic helped to arrange her cards so that she could gaze at them from her bed and receive encouragement from them. During the weeks that Leah and I were able to stay at Sam’s House, her cards adorned our room there too.


One day in August 2013 a package addressed to me was deliver to Sam’s House. The first thing I always try do is guess who a parcel is from. However the handwriting on this parcel was unfamiliar to me.

When I unwrapped the package there was an array of pocket sized items, thoughtfully chosen for my situation; lovely lip balm, pretty tissues, M&S boiled sweets, scented alcohol hand gel – all such necessary items for the circumstances that I was in at the time. Best of all, there was a beautiful leather bound copy of Streams in the Desert. All of this from a “Bible study friend” at home in N. Ireland.


This little book, along with my Bible, has been a treasured part of my life since then. I would describe it as the daily devotional that reaches the parts that other devotionals don’t reach. Two and a half years on and it continues to be the gift that keeps on giving. I never cease to be amazed by how relevant it is to how I’m feeling or to what I am going through.

Here is an excerpt from today’s reading:

Streams in the Desert 16 April 16

The Importance of Encouragement

The Importance of Encouragement

At the age of 40 I became pregnant with my fourth child. That was a surprise – albeit a very pleasant one! Now, at the age of 50+ I have become a University student for the first time in my entire life.

Previous to this, my closest contact with any university, was attending weddings in the Honan Chapel in University College Cork or more recently attending Foyle Vineyard at Magee in Derry.

All of my nursing training was hospital based. I trained in the days when students weren’t supernumerary – we ran the wards, with only a small number of qualified nurses there to supervise us.

Things are very different now of course. Nursing training is university based and it’s a lot more academic than when I trained.

I have let my nursing registration lapse and I want to renew my mental health nursing qualification –  the only way to do this is via a Return to Practice course, which I am doing at Ulster University – Magee Campus. Most of it will be placement based, two days per week. It will also involve E-learning, a lot of reading and an assignment. I intend to do this while also continuing with my normal job, which is part-time. Time management is going to be a very big challenge.

This week I took annual leave from my work in order to attend the five full days of Induction/Theory Block which form the introduction to the course. In the lead up to starting this course I have felt both excited and terrified. Excited because I have always enjoyed working in the area of mental health and I’m looking forward to developing my skills and my knowledge. Terrified because I didn’t quite know what to expect; fear of the unknown and fearful of the challenges of time management.

There was one problem that I didn’t foresee though. Of the thirteen of us in the class, only two of us are returning to mental health nursing, one is doing children’s nursing and the remainder are doing adult general nursing. I of course knew that this would be a likely scenario, I just hadn’t thought it through to it’s logical conclusion.

The logical conclusion is that all of the teaching so far has been geared towards nursing in an acute care setting. This is not in and of itself a problem, as most of it is stuff that we all need to know, like drugs administration and infection control.

The problem for me however, is that all of this discussion of scenarios regarding the care of ill patients in an acute hospital setting is constantly reminding me of the many weeks that I spent in hospital with Leah and everything that this entailed.

You might think that I’m naive, but I never anticipated this.

I’ve been back at my work, in the Health Service, for over a year and I’ve experienced more “grief triggers” in the first three days of this course than I would normally encounter in an average month when I’m doing my job.

One of the nice things about my current job, is that I plan my own work and it’s mostly based around home visits, so if I am struggling emotionally, I can move things around a little and take some breathing space until I’m feeling better. Even the fact of driving several miles through beautiful countryside to get to some of my home visits is very therapeutic.


All of this has been really helpful for me in coping with grief. In the early months of returning to work after Leah died, there was even days when I decided to just do paperwork rather that face the public. Having this flexibility has enabled me to have zero sickness absence and still get all my work done by “pacing myself”. 

One of the difficulties for me this week is the intensity of it all – not much pacing and not a lot of breathing space for somebody like me who is at times dealing with some very strong emotions.

Today’s lectures were in a building in the grounds of Altnagelvin Hospital. I found this difficult, as the car park is opposite the South Wing where Leah had two admissions. I was walking through the hospital grounds, lost in my thoughts, when I met a man that I used to work with and be quite friendly with before Leah was born. I’ve met him once since Leah died and I had only only bumped into him a few times in the years previous to that, as we have both changed jobs since we last worked together in the late 1990’s.

When I bumped into him today, he looked at me with compassion in his eyes and told me that he prays for me almost every day. He told me that every week day when he’s driving to work (approximately 27 miles) he prays individually by name for each person that he knows of who is especially in need of God’s comfort. I could barely get the words out to thank him, I felt so overwhelmed with his kindness and so very thankful.

Isn’t it good to know that there are people like this gentleman – a qualified social worker – working in our Health Service?

There is a passage in the Bible in Exodus 17 where Joshua is fighting in a battle. Whenever Moses holds up his hands in prayer, Joshua and his army are winning, but whenever Moses gets tired and lowers his hands, then Joshua and his army starts to lose. So then Moses’ friends, Aaron and Hur come up with a bright idea:

Exodus 17:12-13 (GNT)

When Moses’ arms grew tired, Aaron and Hur brought a stone for him to sit on, while they stood beside him and held up his arms, holding them steady until the sun went down. In this way Joshua totally defeated the Amalekites.

I love this Bible story because what it tells me is how important it is to receive support and encouragement and to give support and encouragement. There were four key players in this story – Joshua with his army, Moses who prayed and Aaron and Hur who encouraged and helped Moses while he prayed.

Encouragement is so important. In another Bible story – the one about the twelve spies entering Canaan, Joshua on this occasion is one of the encouragers, while others are spreading negativity and discouragement:

Numbers 14:5-7 (NIV)

Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good.If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.

In the New Testament in 1 Thessalonians 5:11(NIV) we are instructed to:

Encourage one another and build each other up

Who can YOU encourage today and tomorrow, at home or at work or wherever you are?


I don’t look like the girl on the magazine


The inside of Leah’s bedroom door is covered with post it notes on which she had written sayings and Bible verses that were very meaningful to her. One of these was 1 Peter 3v3.
I just came across an excellent blog-post based on this verse:
“How many people would think you were beautiful if the whole world were blind?”
If no one could see your face, your body, your hair, and your clothes, how beautiful would you be to them then?
Would they think you are beautiful because you use your mouth to speak kindness and encouragement into people’s lives?
Would they think you are beautiful because you use your hands and feet to help those who are in need?
Would they think you are beautiful because your heart is selfless and dedicated to serving Christ?
Click this link to read the full article –

True Beauty is Beyond What is Seen

Not ’til the loom is silent….And the shuttles cease to fly

Not ’til the loom is silent….And the shuttles cease to fly

Leah had some notebooks in which she wrote out poems, Bible verses and sayings that she found particularly encouraging. We were due to fly home to Ireland from Bristol on Sunday 27th October ’13. On Monday 21st October Leah was found to have a clot (thrombus) in a blood vessel and was admitted – yet again – to cubicle 4 on the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. This is what she transcribed from the internet into her notebook as she sat in Oncology Day Beds waiting to be admitted:

“Life is but a Weaving” (the Tapestry Poem)

“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”

Tapestry 1

A small improvement

A small improvement

This morning the ICU consultant was 95% sure that Leah would need to go on a ventilator but said that he would monitor her condition for another hour.
However Leah’s condition has stabilised again thankfully.
Her oxygen levels and breathing have improved a little.
This has enabled them to swap her cpap face mask for nasal prongs for part of the time.
This is a little more comfortable for Leah & enables her to take sips of fluid and to occasionally speak some single words.
The effort of breathing continues to use up most of her energy though.
Any improvements no matter how small are very encouraging.