Today, I have to share the devastating news that my wonderful wife, Fiona, passed away peacefully last week at the age of 52. She’d been suffering from pancreatic cancer.
We’d been married for 32 years; I was 21 and she was 19 when we married. We always said how glad we were that we’d married young because we got to spend more of our lives together.
We had so many adventures together: exploring our lovely country and other parts of the world; raising three wonderful children and then our two lovely grandchildren whom Fiona doted upon; exploring our faith and worshipping Jesus together. Fiona had an amazing singing voice which complemented mine perfectly.
Fiona was a Special Needs teacher at a local Church of England primary school. Over the sixteen years she was there, she touched hundreds of childrens’ lives in such a positive way. Fe had the gift of being able to see the potential – she saw it as a ‘golden thread’ – in even the most difficult of children, and of being able to bring out the full potential of each and every one of them. With a warm, loving heart and a gentle spirit, she looked after her students as if they were her own children; being there for them when they were sad, sharing in their joys, taking them to hospital in her car if they injured themselves in the playground, or simply using my first-aid cure-all – the ‘cold compress’ – and gentle words for less severe injuries.
Fiona affected so many lives that her Memorial service is going to be packed to the doors*. I’ve never known a lady so loved by so many people, such was the effect she had on them, students and parents alike. So many people have commented on how they loved the way she believed in their children, and brought out the best in them. It was such a privilege for me to be married to such an amazing lady. Her selfless giving and gentle spirit, along with her loving forebearance of all my weird Aspie traits, and the devotion with which she loved me, will never cease to amaze me. I never really felt worthy of that kind of love, but she gave it to me in full measure.
Fiona’s aim in life was to be Jesus to everyone she met, and she did this so well, living in her simple, trusting faith and devoted love for her Saviour, with Whom she now walks in the most glorious paradise which is beyond our imagination. She always loved all the seasons, with their variety of colours, smells and weather; she loved flowers, laughter (with her wacky sense of humour) music, moors and mountains, valleys and woods, walking, horses and people and watching them going about their business with a deep fascination. She’s now in a place where she can ride horses again – she’d had an injury which has prevented this for some years – and where the mountains are beyond anything we have here and where the colours are more real and radiant. And she is with Jesus. Over the last week I have had a series of solid visions showing me just what Fiona has right now, and it’s been life-changing even at a time of my life where my life is already changing because I have lost her. Now, I look forward to being with her, and although I know God has things still for me to do here, I look forward with eager anticipation to the time when I will see her again.
Her last battle was over the last two and a half years. We fought this terrible disease hand in hand and side by side, each trying to spare the other the worst of the ravages of the chemotherapy, the disease symptoms and the side-effects. We gave it our best shot, but this disease defied everything we could throw at it; I have never seen an illness so resistant to healing prayer. And I don’t understand that, having as I do a deep faith in God’s ability and willingness to heal.
Typically of Fiona, with her self-giving nature, I am sure that she underwent all these treatments not so much to save her life – we always knew it was a remote hope – but to help those who loved her, by giving them the chance to see her actually doing something about the illness. Fiona was never in any doubt about her final destination – heaven – and death held no fear for her. She really was remarkable. In her last months, she had a real, solid, lucid waking vision of what heaven was going to be like for her, which, typically, she did not share with me until only recently, for fear of upsetting me. I can’t go into the details but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was certain of her reward and that she has indeed gone to receive it from Jesus.
I don’t know the spiritual mechanics of what happens when someone dies. But I know, utterly and completely beyond any doubt at all, that Fiona is ecstatically happy, knowing that we who are left will be fine. In so many ways, losing Fiona, even in the face of disappointed hope for healing, has actually strengthened my own faith. Odd, isn’t it?
Fiona, I will miss you so much. But I’ll see you again, and next time it will be without the ravages of that bloody disease on your lovely person. You’re whole now, healed and glorified, and out of suffering and indeed in such glorious, glorious joy.
And you deserve every bit of it, you brave, beautiful girl.
*Edit: Fiona’s memorial service was indeed packed; the church was almost full. So much good fruit came of Fiona’s service; there are more details here.