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.

elizabeths-grave

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.

genesis-9

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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Facing the No-Go Areas

Facing the No-Go Areas

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Tomorrow Tuesday 29th April ’14 Horace and I are going to the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital to meet with Leah’s Belfast haematologist and her Bristol haematologist – two very compassionate men, both of whom were adored by Leah.

They will give us the results of the mini post mortem of her lungs and this might give us more of an understanding of some of the medical factors involved in her death.

The mere act of walking through the doors of BCH will take a lot of courage, never mind the conversations that will follow. We hope to meet with some other members of the team who were very special to Leah also.

The appointment with our Bristol haematologist Dr C, has been in place since before Christmas, as it was originally made for Leah to see him and to have her ongoing recovery from her transplant assessed.

Leah planned to make some tray bakes as a gift for Dr C on this occasion. She had discussed with me what she would make – “fifteens’ (without cherries) and malteser squares.

Yesterday Miriam and I did this baking in Leah’s memory – it’s what Leah would have wanted us to do. Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to make Leah’s favourite fifteens.

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We used the Waitrose chocolate chips (for the ‘fifteens’ ) that I had bought when we were in Bristol for Leah’s transplant and we were saving for a special purpose – Leah loved these Waitrose chocolate chips.

Delving into the baking cupboard again was emotionally painful – it’s been one of my no-go areas since Leah died.

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If I had a choice, I would roll my life back to a time when I didn’t know my way around the ground floor of Belfast City Hospital, to when I didn’t know exactly which sandwiches in their coffee bar I liked best, which of their buns were the nicest and which of the hospital toilets had a hook on the back of the door to hang my handbag on……………. but I don’t have that choice.

I can only go forward, I can’t go back. I have to live life in the present, and that isn’t always easy, just as it isn’t easy for so many other people either, for a variety of different reasons.

I have learned that a lot of people are carrying heavy burdens, some like me carry the visible burden of grief while others carry secret burdens involving shame and fear.

God knows all about our burdens – evidenced by verses like this in the Bible –

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If I can find the strength, I want to visit the Bridgewater Suite tomorrow, where Leah had most of her outpatient appointments. I also want to visit the ICU where Leah spent her last days on this earth, as I don’t want to have any no-go areas in my life.

Who knows what circumstances in life may result in my having to visit those places again in the future and I would like to have these “firsts” behind me.

Our TYA (Teenage and Young Adult) cancer nurse specialist will be by my side supporting me wherever I decide to go.

Obviously, this day is going to be laden with emotion and with some incredibly difficult memories. The two and a half weeks that Leah spent in ICU were the hardest two and a half weeks of my entire life.

The majority of the most traumatic (for me anyway) outpatient appointments during Leah’s illness also occurred within the walls of Belfast City Hospital. Please can you pray for Horace and I tomorrow and keep us close to your hearts.

Painful though all of this is, I believe that it’s very necessary on our path to healing.

Not that we will ever be fully whole again – we will always bear the scars of losing our precious daughter – and so we should – as our four children are part of who we are.

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I have always said that my children are my most precious possessions in life.

I don’t wish Leah back, because her body was broken and she has now received the ultimate healing and is rejoicing forevermore with her Saviour in heaven.

However, the person we have lost is precious to us beyond words, as each of our children are, so our grief and pain will continue.

Another song that Leah loved was “Like a lion” by the David Crowder band and it was one of the ones that we played quite a lot when Leah was in ICU –

“My God’s not dead
He’s surely alive
And He’s living on the inside
Roaring like a lion”

The image of His strength inside of me being like a lion, when I felt – and continue to feel – so very weak, is a helpful thought.