I can’t believe it’s thirteen months since we lost my precious wife, Fiona. Time seems to have flown by.
And as part of my grieving process, I have been meeting with a bereavement volunteer; she’s a very wise lady who works as part of my local Hospice’s Bereavement Service.
One of the many interesting things that I have learned from my helper is that the way that the grieving process is viewed, by people who study this sort of thing, has changed over the last few decades.
In the past, it was usually considered ‘normal’ that, eventually, bereaved people ‘just get over it’, and esentially just pull their socks up and get on with life. Maybe that’s part of the British ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality; more likely it was simply a lack of understanding of the processes involved. And in any case, research should – by its very nature – change the way we view, and do, things, especially in the broader field of medicine. You find things out, so you modify your systems accordingly. That’s how progress works.
And so, the current thinking is that when we lose someone who was close to us, someone we had a deep relationship with; when that happens, we don’t actually lose that relationship – it’s just that it changes.
I must say that I can identify with that.
In so many ways, the relationship goes on.
Now, ok, I realise that this might sound like wishful thinking, like ‘she’s not really dead’, all that sort of thing. But no, it’s not that; of course, part of the grieving process is accepting that she really has gone. And, even bearing in mind my firm belief in Heaven, I have fully accepted that, for this life at least, she’s not here*.
But the relationship does indeed go on. You see, everything that Fiona built into my life just by being herself and being my wife, with her gentle wisdom and loving nature, everything is still there. Of course I miss not having her here to discuss things with, especially decisions and that sort of thing. I miss her knowledge, wisdom, her ways, her presence, her voice, her smell, her touch, and at this point it’s getting too personal 😉 . But in so many ways, what she was to me still exists even though she is not physically present. I find this difficult to put into words, so I hope it’s coming across.
One way in which this happens is that I – mainly unconsciously – respond and do things the way that Fiona would have done. Some Christians use the concept of ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ (WWJD) as a guiding principle for life, and I like that. It’s a good idea, and if it works for you, go for it 🙂 Some people even have the logo ‘WWJD’ as a tattoo, hopefully the right way up so they can read it as a reminder… 😉
Well, in a similar vein, I suppose it’s as if I have the letters ‘WWFD’ tattooed on my personality, or that I wear a ‘WWFD’ wristband like this one here 🙂 What would Fiona do? Well, I could obviously never be a ‘replacement’ for her in the lives of people whom she blessed on a daily basis just by knowing them. But still I have found that I have taken over just some of the roles she had, and I have done this in exactly the same serving spirit that she would have had. And that’s because she made me into the person I am, just by being herself and transferring her attitudes to me, albeit unconsciously. And I’m sure it worked both ways; I know that she had attitudes and principles that were a result of her knowing me. We all ‘rub off’ on each other our whole lives, but this is especially true for people who are close.
There’s more. This is very personal, but about two or three times a week, I dream about Fiona in my sleep. Not just in the sense that I described earlier in this series, but now it’s different. In the dreams, I know she’s dead, but it’s like she’s just sitting there beside me, without necessarily saying anything, but just being there. She’s very solid, very real, and the really solid thing about her is her presence. Again, this is difficult to describe, but the take-home feeling and impression I get is that she is always there, and always will be, even though she’s not really here any more. Or is she? To be honest, the mechanics of this are quite mind-wrenching, even for a mind like mine, so I just let it be without trying to go too deeply into how it all works. But the solidity of her presence in those dreams, I am certain, is either my subconscious mind showing me that all Fiona’s influence is still solid in my life, or maybe it’s even something far deeper than that, but which I will leave to my readers to interpret in their own ways. And this whole thing provides me with yet another assurance that the person she was, and is, is still present with me in my life. In a very real way, that old adage of ‘as long as we remember them, they are not really dead’ is apparently true for Fiona in my life.
You see, Fiona and I had been together for 34 years, and married for just short of 33 years, and for all of that time we were inseparable. We had such a close relationship, it was almost like we could read each other’s thoughts. And a relationship like that is not broken by death. Sure, our marriage service included the words ’till death do us part’. And I believe that’s true, at least on a temporary basis, dreams notwithstanding. But, you know, there is a deeper truth here. As well as the ‘ongoing relationship’, there is also something even greater that the future holds. As I have said before, death is no longer the big deal it once was. Because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have seen a foretaste of life after death. Jesus put it like this, ‘Because I live, you too will live’ (Jn 14:19), and ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die’ (Jn 11:25). Because of the Resurrection, death has been given notice that it will no longer hold the tyranny of fear over humankind that it has held for countless centuries.
What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. (Romans 6:8-10 Message)
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever. (Isaiah 25:7-8)
Do you see what this is saying? I am not using these as proof-texts; I don’t like using Scripture like that! What I am saying is that, because of the grieving process I have been undergoing, I have come to realise that the truth of the presence of Jesus in my life, the reality of His Spirit in my heart, the reality of His life-changing power at work within me, all point to the genuineness (is that even a word??) of the story of Jesus that we all know so well, but which is so often read like it’s still bound up in a dusty old book. No. This is real! And so, I give these texts as examples of things that I already know to be happening in my own life, and to show what the future has in store, not only for me, but for all humanity. Death indeed does not have the final say. Death is no longer separation from our loved ones for ever. Heaven awaits, and in that place we will indeed see again those whom we cherished so dearly in this life.
And on the other side of the veil waits my Fiona. Fe and I had ‘our song’, ‘Where you go, I will go‘. And when I die on this Earth, that’s what will have happened; I will have gone to be with her where she is. So I would hope that, when that time comes, people will be able bring themselves to grieve with joy, knowing that we are together again, forever, in the incredible place where we lived our entire lives longing to go to.
And the relationship goes on.
*I also believe in miracles, including that of raising the dead. I believe God can do that. But, as I have said before (I think, anyway; my mind is such a fizzing whirl of ideas that I have difficulty remembering things sometimes!), I do think that it was Fiona’s time, and there’s going to be no raising of Fiona before the Great Resurrection. Crazy talk? Well, this is my faith; I have no doubts as to God’s abilities in this regard, but He’s not going to do it. Plus there is no way in which I could ever selfishly ask for her to be whisked away from her heavenly reward. No way in the world.
Header picture shows Fiona at our beloved holiday retreat at Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire, in 2011