The night after Mum’s death my Dad came into my room carrying a Bible. He opened it at Revelation and read to me:
…"I heard a loud voice from the throne saying “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:3-4)
He closed the book and turned his tired, sad eyes to look at me. “I know it feels horrible now and I am not sure what we are going to do. But I do know one thing: There is hope beyond what we see now. It won’t always be like this.” I let the tears run down my cheeks and fall onto the blanket as I let what he said sink in. At that point the pain was so intense I thought my heart was going to stop. It felt as if my world had closed in around me and I was trapped in a place of black despair. But in that moment a seed was planted which was to change my life.
During the following months and years I found myself on a journey that would have been unimaginable to me previously. I realised two things very early on. Firstly, I was either going to become a victim of my circumstances and spend the rest of life my life bitter about the hand I had been dealt or I was going to try and find a purpose that extended beyond my circumstances to strengthen me so I could go on living. Having decided on the later of those two options I knew I had no other choice than to just take the heartache head on and walk through it. No shortcuts, no burying emotions or questions. I simply had to face it. I had no reference point for the depth of pain and loss I suffered and did not know what to do with the strength of emotion I was feeling.
Day after day instead of sitting in school where I should have been learning about algebra and gramma I was out walking the fields and coastline around where I lived trying to understand myself and my world. I walked miles, just me, my dog and my questions. As Autumn moved into winter I wrapped up against the harsh winds and stinging rain and would look out across the bleak countryside and wondered how anything could survive the winter out there. I wondered if I would survive the winter. I would shout out my anger, hurt, confusion; only to have the wind snatch the words out of mouth before I could barely finish a sentence. I called out to the heavens as I trudged along the seawall, desperate for a feeling of space and freedom, so often found by the water for me. Not now though. My soul was shattered, so bruised and battered that a pleasant view wasn’t enough to heal it. Winter turned to spring. As the frosts thawed and colour returned to the hedgerows so my soul began to come out of hibernation.
Having spent many months hidden away I gradually began to see a way out of the monochrome gloom I had been living in. The key came one day as I was watching my dog Sam chasing rabbits. He never caught one. They were always too fast for him and disappeared down holes he was never going to be able fit down. Yet he never gave up. Time and time again he would set off after an unsuspecting victim only to be beaten again. He kept going. I began to wonder what it was in his doggy world which meant he kept coming back for more. I guess some of it could be put down instinct. But in the end it spoke to me of one thing. Hope. He remained hopeful that he would make a catch despite the odds being against him. I began to admire his tenacious spirit, noticing it more and more each time we went out and I started thinking about what my life would look like if I could keep hope alive. I looked into Sam’s soft brown eyes every morning as he sat at the door, full of excitement and optimism, ready for the new adventures the day was about to hold for him. I remembered that Bible verse my Dad had read to me. I turned a corner.
As I sat on the beach 25 years later watching my children playing my mind drifted back to my own childhood and times on holiday with my parents. I thought about my Dad getting stuck in the reeds as he tried to sail a boat on the Norfolk broads. I remembered my Mum making up stories to tell me on long car rides. I could hear the laughter and feel the warmth that emanated from a place of such love and security. For just a moment I was a child all over again. “Come on Mum” yelled my son, jerking me back to into the present day “we need you to field”. I smiled to myself and put my book down. The sun was setting over the beach and I was nicely full from the barbecue we had devoured in the last hour. A game of cricket would round the evening off nicely. Despite the sadness that had accompanied me through life I had so much to be thankful for. You never know what tomorrow might bring. I might catch a rabbit.