Broken yet Blessed

Broken yet Blessed

Esther's Tree

This morning as I sat having my Devotional Time, I looked up and there across the room I saw it – the beautiful miniature Christmas Tree that Esther Scobie had made us for what would be Leah’s last Christmas. My youngest had decorated the room after I went to bed last night! Little did any of us know in December 2013 that it would also be Esther’s last Christmas.

Tears spilled down my cheeks as I remembered the many thoughtful cards and notes that I received from Esther over the years, but especially during Leah’s illness. It is so hard to say goodbye to the special people in our lives.

Yet how blessed I am to have known Esther and how blessed I am by the many other beautiful people that God has brought into my life – some for a short season and some for the long haul.

Philippians 1:3
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you”

Sometimes there is no other way

Sometimes there is no other way


Sometimes I don’t blog because I’m generally busy getting on with life and I either don’t have much to say or I don’t have the time to say it! Other times I don’t blog because I’m feeling very sad and I’m tired of writing sad posts. Then I think; what the heck – this is my blog and I’ll cry if I want to – people can choose not to read it if they don’t like it.

This past summer was mostly good. The day of the A and AS level exam results in August was both happy and sad. Our son did fantastically well but I was also acutely aware that Leah wasn’t here to get any exam results. I went to the school with our son to get his AS results and I congratulated Leah’s friends on their excellent A level results. I was very grateful to the one parent at the school who acknowledged my grief and loss with a hug, in the midst of receiving her son’s amazing A level results.

While our son posed for a photo for the local papers with others who had received excellent results, I sat in the car in a quiet corner of the school car park sobbing. By the time he texted looking for me to come and collect him, I had regained my composure. Results day needed to be about his success, not about my sadness.

This past week Prize Day took place in both the school that Leah attended and the school that Simon now attends. We attended Simon’s prize giving event as proud parents. However I hadn’t really thought about the possibility that some of Leah’s peers would also be there receiving their prizes before departing for university. One of these was the very girl who started Nursery School alongside Leah many years ago – they walked through the door of the Nursery class together that first morning. So much has changed since then. This triggered more difficult emotions for me, which I sought to contain.

We didn’t have occasion to attend Prize Giving at the High School this year, but a kind friend gave me her copy of the programme. In the Prize Day programmes for both schools there is a section that lists which universities this year’s A level students have moved on to. I scrutinised this section in both programmes, but naturally Leah’s name isn’t mentioned. This time three years ago while in hospital in Bristol, Leah talked to me of her future career plans, but that clearly was not meant to be. Leah’s name is mentioned in another part of the programme though, where she continues to make us proud. I was so pleased to read the names of this years’ recipients of the award created in her memory:


I try hard to live in the present, to count my blessings, to be grateful for what I have, to focus my thoughts on the good things in my life and the people that I love, but despite it all, grief and loss at times becomes overwhelming. Sometimes no matter how hard I pray and look to God for the strength to go on, no matter how much I read my Bible or how many Bible teaching podcasts I listen to, the sadness just doesn’t go away and those tears have to be shed – there is no other way.


United by a Common Bond of Grief and Loss

United by a Common Bond of Grief and Loss

I have recently visited a certain local café on a few occasions. I struck up a friendship with the woman who usually manned the till. Today I was heading for lunch with a friend when he asked “Will we go to this café or to that one?” I instinctively replied “Can we go that one please? The woman on the till is really nice.” He flashed me a look that suggested “Either I’ve misheard you or you’re crazy.”

As a matter of fact, all of the staff in that café are very pleasant and helpful, but most people select a café based on the quality of the food or the value for money, but not solely on the personality of the person who rings in your purchases on the till!

Today however, when I went to pay for my panini, my usual friend was nowhere to be seen and I felt a twinge of disappointment. Mind you, the person who was operating the till turned out to be someone that I knew from a previous job so I had a quick catch up with her instead, which was nice too.

Just after I had finished eating, my lunch companion disappeared to take a phone-call. I looked around to see if there was somebody else to chat to. There in the corner I spied my ‘cash till friend’ (the one I had been hoping to see) sitting at a table having her lunch break. I slid into the empty seat opposite her and said a cheery hello. Her face lit up with a big smile – she had previously told me how much she enjoyed her job and that meeting people was one of the best bits.

I knew from our brief conversations that she had children so I asked how her family were doing. In the course of the ensuing conversation she told me that her oldest boy had died in 1993, aged 14 years. In that precise moment I knew exactly why I had always felt a connection with this woman! I told her about Leah and showed her a photograph. Her eyes misted over.

She told me of the devastatingly tragic circumstances in which her first-born son had died, of their last conversation, of the phone call informing her that something had happened, of the drive to the hospital and of her own intuition that had told her that things were very serious even before she arrived at the hospital.

She also told me a little about some of the very difficult ways in which she and her husband had tried to numb the awful unbearable pain. Then she told me of how she had finally come to a place of peace when she “surrendered her son to God” and accepted that this much loved young boy had only been given to them “on loan.” She told me too about the priest who has supported their family through it all, who never forgets, who still visits them periodically.

She said to me “This conversation is no accident you know.” I nodded in full agreement while blinking back my tears. It was like balm to my soul to be in the presence of someone who truly understood, for whom no explanations were necessary.

She thanked me for speaking to her and we hugged.

There in that cafeteria, two mothers, united by a common bond of grief and loss, sharing each other’s pain, we hugged.

Royalty-free clipart of a

Tomorrow is a New Day

Tomorrow is a New Day

My first day back at my own desk, where I used to work before I went off work to care for Leah, turned out to be incredibly difficult.

Not because my work colleagues aren’t nice – they are lovely. We even managed to pop out to a local cafe for lunch. I enjoy their company and I love eating out.

Not because I don’t like my job – I love my work.

What broke me was the vivid awareness, that the last time I drove that route to work, parked in that spot, worked at that desk, I had four children alive on this earth.

This awareness triggered an almost overwhelming wave of grief.

It took all of my willpower to get through this first day, while praying silently for strength.

At the end of today, as I headed back to my car, on a nearby street, the tears started flowing.

My intention was to drive straight to the cemetery and spend some time at Leah’s grave.

I started the car and pulled off, but very quickly parked again – I had a flat tyre!

Normally in these circumstances I would attempt to change it myself and then some kind gentleman would invariably come along and offer to do it for me!

Not this time – a flat tyre was the last thing that I needed at the end of an emotionally fraught day.

I stayed in the car and phoned my husband and sobbed down the phone.

He phoned me back a while later to say that he had phoned “Roadside Recovery” to come and change the tyre for me.

The idea of needing Roadside Recovery to come and change a tyre upset me even further.

On my last day of working in my present location after Leah was diagnosed, my car broke down. I ended up sobbing in the car, waiting for Roadside Recovery to turn up. I write about this here.

Here I was again, two years later, on my first day back in that same office, sitting sobbing in the car, waiting for Roadside Recovery to turn up.

I felt so defeated and demoralised.

I listened to “Oceans” by Hillsong on continuos repeat as I sat in my car and waited for the same Roadside Recovery company to arrive. To my immense relief, it wasn’t the same man as the last time. Emotionally I would have found that very difficult – too much déjà vu!

The young man who arrived was cheerful and pleasant. More importantly, he didn’t tease me about being ‘helpless’ or ‘incapable’. He apologised for taking so long and did what he had to do, swiftly and graciously.

By 7pm I was good to go and headed off to visit Leah’s grave.

The graveyard felt so peaceful.

The previously vacant plot opposite Leah’s now contains a baby boy. The card on one of the fresh wreaths tells me that he’s a little brother. I thought about his heart broken family.

Leah’s kneeling plate was looking all dusty so I walked back to the car for some baby wipes to clean it up a little. I don’t like her ‘joy’ being covered over.


In closing, I’ve just two things to say about today:

Firstly, grief can be rough, very rough.

The wound of grief is like a deep wound that has scabbed over. All that it takes is for something to knock the scab off that wound and the flesh is once again laid bare, painful and bleeding. For a little while, everything feels as raw as it did when that wound was first acquired.

Secondly, tomorrow is a new day.

One of my very favourite Bible verses is

Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness


Lost or Found?

Lost or Found?

Our church on a Sunday morning has about 150 hundred people and isn’t especially crowded. However if Horace and the kids go in and sit down before me I can never find them and have to ask one of the stewards to help me locate them!

At New Horizon the other night a friend who hadn’t seen me since long before Leah died, toured the tent of 2,500 people, before the meeting started, looking for me, because someone had told her I was there. She searched the faces of every row, every block, until she found me imbedded in the middle of a row, half way down a crowded block of seats. She beckoned me out and enveloped me in her warm embrace.


Her tears mingled with mine, as she expressed her sympathy over the death of my daughter. As a mother of four children herself, her heart aches for my loss.


The Bible says in Romans 12:15 that we are to ‘weep with those who weep’. It always comforts me to know how much others care and that they are praying for me and my family circle.

The actions of this friend also reminded me of our Saviour and how He searches for us too. In the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15 we read:

3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

We can be ‘lost’ in so many different ways – lost in sin, lost in our sorrow, lost in our emotional pain, lost in whatever has taken over our lives and has caused us to turn away from God.

The Bible tells us in Luke 19:10

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

No matter how lost we are or why we are lost, Jesus is looking for us. He loves us so very much, He died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins so that we can know forgiveness and assurance of everlasting life. No matter how awful our circumstances, Jesus can give us peace in our hearts.


I hope that I never have to replicate this lovely gesture though. If I can’t find my husband and children in a crowd of 150, I would never be able to locate a long lost friend amongst 2,500!

Later that night at New Horizon we sang this amazing song by Rend Collective, Leah’s favourite band. It really blessed me.

We are more than conquerors

When my hope and strength is gone
You’re the one who calls me on
You are the life
You are the fight
That’s in my soul

Oh, Your resurrection power
Burns like fire in my heart
When waters rise
I lift my eyes
Up to Your throne



Sunday – it used to be my favourite day of the week. It was a day for the six of us to be together whenever possible. Like this happy Sunday in November 2013 after Leah and I had returned from spending 14 weeks in Bristol.


Now it has become the hardest day in the week for me – the day when the “empty chair” seems most obvious. Yesterday was the first Sunday since Leah died that I baked sponge pudding. It’s easy to make and a family favourite, but in recent years Leah did a lot of the baking in this house.
I asked the kids what flavour they wanted and they replied “chocolate chip”. We still had half a packet left of the Waitrose chocolate chips that Leah brought back from Bristol and had been saving for a special occasion. I had used the other half in our baking for the gifts for some of the staff on our recent return visit to Belfast City Hospital.


I only managed a small piece of dessert but everyone seemed to enjoy it and appreciate it. There was only five of us but we managed a little family togetherness.