Grief and mourning are part of losing someone dear to us – in my case, my dear wife, Fiona, who passed away a month ago today. But I have found that life goes on; I still have to manage my home, earn a living, look after my family. I still need to keep myself happy, to do the things I do, like flying, playing my (solitaire, billy-no-mates) boardgames, writing my blog, fellowshipping with my church, spending time with my family.
And sometimes there’s this really irrational thought there – How can you do (that thing that you enjoy) now that Fiona is gone; you used to love doing that together and you can’t enjoy it without her, because it will remind you of her.
Now, I understand that this may be a defensive mechanism to prevent us from being reminded of the pain of loss. But I also know that Fiona would have wanted me to continue with that pastime that we used to share, whatever it was.
In the unspeakably amazing book, The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien writes of the hobbit Merry Brandybuck, who was looking forward to discussing ‘herb-lore’ (in this case, tobacco) with his master, King Théoden of Rohan, once the war was over. But Théoden was killed in battle, and Merry couldn’t face smoking his pipe and being reminded of Théoden…
” “Good!” said Merry. “Then I would like supper first, and after that a pipe.” At that his face clouded. “No, not a pipe. I don’t think I’ll smoke again.”
“Why not?” said Pippin.
“Well,” answered Merry slowly. “He is dead. It has brought it all back to me. He said he was sorry he had never had a chance of talking herb-lore with me. Almost the last thing he ever said. I shan’t ever be able to smoke again without thinking of him, and that day, Pippin, when he rode up to Isengard and was so polite.”
“Smoke, then, and think of him!” said Aragorn. “For he was a gentle heart and a great king and kept his oaths; and he rose out of the shadows to a last fair morning. Though your service to him was brief, it should be a memory glad and honourable to the end of your days.”
“Merry smiled. “Well then,” he said, “if Strider will provide what is needed, I will smoke and think. I had some of Saruman’s best in my pack, but what became of it in the battle, I am sure I don’t know.”
“Master Meriadoc,” said Aragorn, “if you think that I have passed through the mountains and the realm of Gondor with fire and sword to bring herbs to a careless soldier who throws away his gear, you are mistaken…”
“Was there ever any one like [Aragorn]?” [Pippin] said. “Except Gandalf, of course. I think they must be related. My dear ass, your pack is lying by your bed, and you had it on your back when I met you. He saw it all the time, of course!” ”
J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King
If you have suffered a similar loss, and you find that life has lost its lustre because of that loss, then may I encourage you to ‘Smoke, then, and think of him’, in whatever way means something to to you.
For me, it’s like this:
I love going out for country, moor and fell-walks; Fiona used to love our walks together and with the dog. ‘Walk, then, and think of her’.
I’ve just heard my daughter singing in the shower. Fiona had a phenomenal singing voice and so has my daughter. ‘Sing, then, and think of her’.
I love sitting and reading; we used to do a lot of that together, particularly on a quiet morning. ‘Sit, then, and think of her’.
I fly too – of course! – and although Fiona didn’t really have the same, shall we say, ‘passion’ for it that I do, she still encouraged me in it. “You were born to fly”, were her exact words to me once upon a time. So, I will ‘Fly, then, and think of her’.
We loved worshipping together, whether in housegroup, in church, to recorded tracks in the kitchen, or just standing around my piano while Fiona sang or played the flute. ‘Worship, then, and think of her’.
For she was a gentle heart and a great woman and she kept the faith.
Just to paraphrase Aragorn…