Another First

Another First

Since downloading a step counter onto my phone a few weeks ago I’ve become a lot more aware of how active I am (or otherwise) on different days throughout the week. Comparing my ‘steps’ with other family members also allows for a little ‘competitive edge’!

So this evening, after a rather sedentary weekend, I headed out to walk the three mile ‘square’ around where we live. Within minutes I realised that this was the first time since before Leah became ill in 2013 that I had headed out on my own to walk the roads around where we live.


When my mother died in 2008 in her eighties, I was quite aware of the many ‘firsts’ in that first year after she died. The second year after mum died was definitely a lot easier than the first. Losing a child has been very different; even three and a half years later it feels like there are still so many ‘firsts’ that I have to face, because to have faced them before now would have been too painful. I used to enjoy cycling the country roads where we live during the summer, both alone and with the children, but I have never been back on my bike since Leah died. That’s just one of several activities that I once enjoyed, but that I now avoid doing. Sometimes it’s easier to stay in the ‘safe zone’ than to do things or go places that are likely to trigger a grief reaction.

About half a mile into my walk I came to the field with the donkeys. A friendly donkey walked right over to the ditch where I was standing – just like the donkeys always used to do when I stopped there with Leah and her siblings.


This seemingly innocuous act caught me completely off guard – for a split second I was back in 2012 and everything was like it used to be – going for walks with the children and stopping to engage with friendly donkeys. Then a flood of emotion hit me along with the realisation of how much has changed since I last stood there looking at a donkey. I found it very difficult trying to process it all. I was glad of the quietness of the evening as I wrestled with my emotions and the tears fell freely.

About a mile or so further on, I encountered some sheep. They weren’t as friendly as the donkey, but some of them stopped to look at me.

Sheep 1

As I thought about these sheep, I reflected on these words from Psalm 23  which is a psalm that I especially like:

The Lord is my Shepherd,

I shall not want,

Sometimes, when I’m very stressed, I repeat these words inside my head to remind and reassure myself that God is my Shepherd and that He has promised to take care of me. At times I recall how Leah used to sing the Stuart Townend version of this psalm  with the Girl’s Brigade choir and how her face used to radiate joy when she was singing. Listening to the words of this song brings me comfort too.

What Shrek Taught Me

What Shrek Taught Me

Do The Roar is one of my all-time favourite film clips. It’s from Shrek Forever After: The Final Chapter, which is the fourth installment in the Shrek Series. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched this little film clip. At one stage, shortly after the film first came out, one of my children saved this clip onto my mobile phone, so that I could watch it anytime I wanted!

In Shrek Forever After, the giant green ogre is married to Fiona and they have triplets called Fergus, Farkle and Felicia. However, Shrek has become increasingly more unhappy with his lot in life. He misses the ‘good old days’ when he was a big bad ogre and the villagers were scared of him.

Things come to a head at the triplets birthday party, when everyone is pushing Shrek’s buttons and – to everyone’s delight – he does one of his famous ogre roars. However, this isn’t Shrek performing for the crowd, Shrek really has lost the plot and he ends up storming out of the birthday party in a fit of temper.

Unfortunately, Rumpelstiltskin is waiting in the wings, ready to take advantage of Shrek’s discontent. Shrek is talked into signing an ill-advised contract that enables him to be an ogre for a day so that he can return to the ‘good old days’ when everyone was scared of him.

In the process, because Shrek hadn’t fully understood the ‘small print’ of the contract that he signed, he almost loses his wife, his children and his home.

Once Shrek is in this position of thinking that he has lost his family and all he once held dear, he is absolutely devastated. He realises how much they all really mean to him. There are some fierce battles where Shrek gets help from Donkey and Puss in Boots. A series of events take place that enable Rumpelstiltskin’s contract to be broken, eventually Shrek’s wife and family are returned to him.

Shrek gets a chance to return to the birthday party, with his attitude to life completely changed.

With his change of attitude, he carves out a different ending to his story.

When I first watched this Shrek movie with my children in 2010, it instantly struck me how true to life the storyline is. We possess so much, yet we can so easily become absorbed in craving what we don’t have.

In Hebrews 13:5 we are told

 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.”

You Have Enough Right Now

However, in Shrek’s case it wasn’t material possession’s – or the lack thereof – that was causing his discontentment.

Shrek was looking back at his past life and mourning what he felt he had lost. This was blinding him to the good things in his present life.

I can identify with that.

Grief and loss are a minefield. Grief has to be felt and tears need to be shed.

There’s hardly a day goes by that I don’t cry at some stage.

However, there’s a verse in the Bible that unnerves me.

It’s Genesis 37:35

All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.

The part of the verse that worries me is that Jacob ‘refused to be comforted‘. I would never want anyone to say that I ‘refused to be comforted‘.

For me there exists a dichotomy – I am learning to live with that part of me that is broken-hearted and constantly yearns for Leah’s presence in our family and that other part of me that is so thankful for the many blessings that I experience on a daily basis – the presence of God in my life, a lovely family, wonderful friends, a beautiful house, a job I really enjoy, relatively good health and more besides. I’m thankful too, for the sixteen years that Leah graced our lives.

One of the few Christian music concerts that Leah ever went to with Horace and I, was in September 2011, when she accompanied us to the Waterside Theatre to a Stuart Townend concert.

I love the depth of the lyrics of many of Stuart Townend’s songs. He co-wrote one on thankfulness, along with well known worship singer/song writer Keith Getty.

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who bore my pain;
Who plumbed the depths of my disgrace
And gave me life again.
Who crushed my curse of sinfulness,
And clothed me with His light,
And wrote His law of righteousness
With power upon my heart.

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who walks beside;
Who floods my weaknesses with strength
And causes fears to fly;
Whose every promise is enough
For every step I take,
Sustaining me with arms of love
And crowning me with grace.

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who reigns above;
Whose wisdom is my perfect peace,
Whose every thought is love.
For every day I have on earth
Is given by the King.
So I will give my life, my all,
To love and follow Him.