Category Archives: Personal

The Burial

This entry is part 27 of 27 in the series Fiona

Well, at last we’ve gone and done it. A few weeks ago, we buried the casket containing Fiona’s ashes.

The casket had been sitting on a shelf at the Funeral Directors’ premises, over the nearly eighteen months since we lost Fiona. We had postponed the burial of the ashes because we didn’t feel the time was right; however, now, we have come to terms with it being time we buried the ashes, and we called the family together and went ahead and did it.

Fiona’s ashes are buried in a beautiful woodland burial site here in Devon, with lovely views and a wonderful peaceful atmosphere.

It was just a small gathering. Me; our children David, Richard and Ellie; Fiona’s Dad, her brother (and his wife) and Fiona’s sister; and Fe’s three closest friends. I put the casket down into the ground, we each threw a little earth into the grave, we talked a little and that was that. Once we’d moved off, the young man who’d dug the grave came to fill it in and it was marked with a temporary wooden cross, pending the installation of a marble plaque which will mark the grave in the long term. You can see a similar plaque in the background in this photo.

I was very surprised by the emotions I felt on that day. I thought I had, well, not got over it – I never will – but at least come to terms with it. Now, granted, I should have expected some surprise in emotional terms, given that this event marks the end of the funeral process, for want of a better term. But, in a similar way to when I went up to our old home town in Yorkshire, I was ambushed by strong emotions that I wasn’t expecting, although you’d have thought I’d have learned by now that this is quite normal 😉 The burial was scheduled for 15:00 (3pm) on that particular day, so in the morning I collected the casket of ashes from the funeral directors, put it in the front passenger’s footwell of my car, and set off for home.

It wasn’t long before my mind realised that all that is physically left of Fiona was sitting right there in the car with me. It’s a really strange sensation. And of course it brought back to me strongly the immense loss that I have suffered; that my wonderful wife should be reduced to the contents of a wooden casket roughly the size of a shoe-box. I managed to drive the car despite the tears streaming down my face, but I had to stop a couple of times as you can imagine. Of course, now she has her Heavenly inheritance, she is so much more alive and whole than she ever was when she occupied that mortal shell. The ashes do not limit what Fiona is now. When I went to visit her body in the funeral home, it was obviously apparent that the person that Fiona had been was no longer there. There is a profound stillness in death; the person’s body lies there with not the slightest flicker of life – of course! – and while she was of course recognisable, what was in that coffin was not Fiona. Her spirit had really departed; the animating factor that made her who she was, was completely gone. Unless you have lost someone really close to you and seen their dead body, it is difficult to understand what this is like.

But still, there the ashes were, and I took them home with me preparatory to going up to the burial ground. The small ‘ceremony’ – such as it was – went well and people, I think, were glad to be able to close out the ‘funeral process’ at last.

But, just like in the coffin, what is there in the ground is not Fiona. Fiona herself has gone on into the Presence of her Lord. In fact, my eldest son mentioned to me the other day that he had the distinct impression that Fiona was actually really excited to go and be with her Jesus. Isn’t that just so typical of that amazing girl whose deep, simple and trusting faith gave her that kind of comfort in the face of certain death? Wow!

The burial has been a release for the rest of us, of course, and another milestone in the grief journey. But hopefully the burial should give us all some more closure on this horrific chapter of our lives, that has been such a mixture of agony and blessing. And all the while, knowing that Fiona is safe in the arms of her Saviour, I have to say, is a huge comfort to me and also to those who share my faith. Although we know she’s not actually present, we now have a place where we can go to be close to Fiona’s remains, whenever we want to do so. Maybe take up some flowers for her birthday or for mother’s day, that sort of thing.

And I’m glad it’s done at last. Rest well, my love, until we meet again.

 

20

Combat Fatigue

This entry is part 26 of 27 in the series Fiona

I have lived in the South-West of England for over 20 years, and Fiona and I lived the greater part of our married life here. While we missed Yorkshire, we never regretted moving here and I would probably not move back, unless my Dad wins the Lottery and buys us a cottage in the Dales 😉

While I am progressing well along the grieving path having lost her eighteen months ago, I was taken completely by surprise by an unexpected emotional response I felt a few weeks ago.

Ellie and I were up in Yorkshire on holiday, at the holiday cottage near Skipton where our family have stayed for the last sixteen years – with the exception of last year as the anticipated memories would still have been very raw. And the cottage was no problem; we had a lovely week in our tranquil, idyllic refuge from the hustle of everyday life. Fiona’s memories were strong there, of course, but in a good way.

Where I came unstuck was when I went to my home town of Yeadon, passing through my original home town of Guiseley, to see my old friend with whom I’d arranged to meet up. Seeing all the places that Fiona and I used to frequent in our earlier years together, was what I found made me feel very odd, and indeed rather sad. While we love South Devon, our formative years as a young married couple were spent in Yeadon, and the memories evoked by the visit that evening – even though it was a dark evening and I couldn’t see much – were poignant and sad. I arrived back at the cottage that evening really quite shaken by the intensity of the emotional reaction I’d had. I have so many happy memories from our past life in Yorkshire, before the immense and life-changing adventure of moving more than 300 miles away to start a new life.

Memories of taking our boys out for walks, with the dogs, in their prams and pushchairs (the boys, not the dogs!). Seeing how hugely my home towns have changed over the past 23 years (since I left) – and not for the better, either*. Memories of surviving in poverty and hardship, where the last few pennies we needed to buy a loaf of bread had to be scraped out of the back of the cutlery drawer. Memories of the boys’ birthday parties; my Dad’s bodybuilding gym; our tiny first house; and our second house which was like a palace in comparison. The grubby black muck of melted snow and the bone-numbing cold so typical of Yorkshire in the winter. Memories of friends, music and worship; walks and stunning views from the hills; memories of seeing God work amazing things in our lives. The griefs, the challenges and the joys of two young lives shared and merged into one.

Somehow, all that came back to me in a rush, comparable to the combat fatigue I had experienced during the fight. And it shook me up good and proper.

I think of it as combat fatigue because it took only a small trigger to kick off all the painful feelings again; the feelings from the battle with cancer and the pain of losing her. Dr. John W. Appel, a U.S. Army combat physician, had this to say about the strain of constant battle: “…there [is] no such thing as ‘getting used to combat’. Each moment of it imposes a strain so great that men will break in direct relation to the intensity and duration of their exposure. Thus psychiatric casualties are as inevitable as gunshot wounds in warfare“. (1) And that’s what it was like, and still is even now, years after the constant, unrelenting battle (which began in late 2013 and ended in October 2016). I am bruised, broken, damaged, and in need of continuing healing from my best friend, Jesus, Who holds my hand on this road.

I suppose that what I have realised is that, while I have (largely successfully) dealt with – and come through – the pain of losing Fiona, and coming to terms with living here in my house that is now so obviously devoid of her light and presence, I had not appreciated how much it would cost me to revisit the good memories of the past, in the places where they happened. The places we went together. The place where I first saw her; the place where she used to live before we were married; the place where I first asked her out. All those familiar, physical places, which, again, no longer look like they used to do back then, so it’s almost as if the memories are all that is left. And that’s very painful; seeing the places where I grew up so changed, and being reminded of the good times we had there. Yes, it’s great to remember those times, but it also has the effect of reminding me of just what I have lost, for this life at least. It has highlighted the gaping space at my side which is where Fiona used to be. In the same way as the old landscapes up there in Guiseley and Yeadon have been lost forever under the blight of tarmac and concrete, so my lovely wife is no longer here with me – until we meet again on the other side of the veil.

So, how do I cope with that?

Well, I am processing it all in a similar manner to how I have processed everything else that’s happened. I confront the feelings, see where they come from and how they affect me, and then turn them around for good. I remember the good things fondly and with gladness and gratitude, and I remember the hard times with gratitude also because God always came through for us, and He never once let us down. And so, the happy memories I hold precious as examples of how good life was, and indeed still is. In essence, whether Fiona is here or not, those memories would only ever be all I have left of those times, because what is past is indeed only ever memories. But the lasting effects of all those experiences are what build up wisdom, gratitude and love – both for God and for others. They convince me even more that death is not the end – don’t ask me how; I actually don’t know, it’s just a deep-seated conviction I have about that.

St. Paul puts it like this: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” – (Romans 5:1-5, emphasis mine). And it’s that hope – something to look forward to, and to live in, in the here and now – that keeps me going. Hope for this life, and hope for the next.

As always, with any painful experience, it’s how we deal with it that determines how we will come through. If we can find the strength and determination to just press on and get on with it, that will carry us through, no matter how hopeless things seem. Even if it’s just one small step at a time. And even if you don’t feel it, even if you are not aware of it, still the Presence of God is right there with you as you struggle with your feelings. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted, and He saves those who are crushed in spirit (Ps 34:18). He really is, and He really does. In the meantime, keep your hope alight and press on. Determine that you are not going to let this time beat you. The human spirit is tougher, stronger and more resilient than you would ever believe possible, but it’s not until the hard times come, of course, that we actually see that in action. Wholeness is coming, and your salvation – that wholeness – is at hand.

Be encouraged!


Header picture shows my beautiful Fiona at the age of 29, with my son Richard on her shoulders, in May, 1993. Rich would have been nearly four years old there; he’s now the same age as Fiona is in that photo. She was so gorgeous, wasnt she? 😀 What a blessed man I am to have been married to such a beauty.


*My Dad always used to say, “When I were a lad, all this were just fields”. And now I know how he felt.


References

(1) Dr. John W. Appel, U.S. Army combat physician, quoted in ‘Eighth Air Force – The American Bomber Crews in Britain’ by Prof. Donald L. Miller, Aurum Press Ltd (2007), p.129

50

The Litmus Test

I feel that a good question to ask of a church one is thinking of attending (I’m not thinking of switching churches, by the way!) is this: “What are your attitudes towards LGBTQI+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning and Intersex, and others) people?” Or some variation on that.

This question will reveal, all in one go, their attitudes on Biblical inerrancy and infallibility; Bible as Rulebook; their attitude to legalism; their ability to love others they may not agree with; their attitude towards judging others [they would naturally call it something more palatable]; their attitude towards ‘mercy not sacrifice’ (Hosea 6:6); and – in short – to be Jesus to the people they meet.

To me, this is a real litmus test of a church’s sincerity when they say ‘all are welcome’. Is it really ‘All are welcome’, or is it ‘All are welcome, but…’?

I have, in the past, asked such questions of various Christian organisations. I have to say that those people have achieved the pathetic result of not one answer in reply. Not even one. No acknowledgement; nothing.

So, if you are interested in joining a new church, here’s an idea of the sort of question you might ask:

“Hi there

Just been looking at your pages on [churchname].com

I have a question, and it’s this: How do you cope with people of ‘different’ sexualities? (LIke Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual etc.) I have contacted churches with this question in the past, and have not once received a reply! What I mean by my question is, how much do you integrate people of ‘alternative’ sexualities into your church? I’d really love to hear from you on this subject!

Thanks for your time

Anthony”

[Edit: I have just heard back from one church today. Well done, those people!]

20

Arms of Love

This entry is part 25 of 27 in the series Fiona

This piece is being published on what would have been Fiona’s 54th birthday.

Over the seventeen months since I lost my wonderful wife Fiona to cancer, I have been comforted in my grief and sadness by many different people and activities. I have always found writing my blog to be a great therapy, as it allows me to crystallise my ideas, thoughts, feelings and discoveries on to ‘paper’ so that I can make sense of them, and also help others cope with their grief too in their own way. I have friends who are always there for me. I have flying, which is simply out of this world. I have my family, who have been a tremendous support. I have had my work, who have been really supportive too, and I love to lose myself in my work and go to deep concentration levels where everything else fades away and I don’t even hear people speaking to me. I have had the help of an amazing lady who was, until a few weeks ago, my grief counsellor from the local hospice. And most of all, overarching all of this, working through these channels, yes, but also comforting me directly, has been my friend Jesus.

Most of the time, particularly during that first year after losing Fiona, I felt a constant closeness to Jesus that I had never felt before. Sure, I have always been close to Him, but not like that. I felt as if He was wrapping me up in His Arms of Love. Much of the time, it literally felt like a soft, heavy, warm cloak being held around my shoulders. It’s because He knew exactly what I needed, and He met me at that point of need, as He always does.

Today I would like to share a song that expresses this particularly well, and it says everything I want to say to Him in gratitude for the way He looks after me. Here it is: Craig Musseau’s ‘Arms of Love‘, Vineyard (1991), sung here by Brian Doerksen. Fiona loved this song, and when we lived in Leeds, I used to play it in worship meetings a lot and it reminds me of those times. She’d have been so glad to know how much this song means to me now, being able to sing these grateful words from a place of total reality.

Beautiful.

I sing a simple song of love
To my Saviour, to my Jesus
I’m grateful for the things You’ve done
My Loving Saviour
My Precious Jesus

My heart is glad that You’ve called me Your own
And there’s no place I’d rather be
Than in Your Arms of Love
In Your Arms of Love
Holding me still, holding me near
In Your Arms of Love

 

20

Wings

This entry is part 19 of 19 in the series Beautiful Destroyers

This instalment of ‘Beautiful Destroyers’ is a little different, as I am not showcasing a particular aircraft. Instead, I’m looking at the origins of military aviation and also sharing a lovely piece of music. Enjoy!

As both a military historian and an aviator, I am of course passionately interested in the use of aircraft in military operations – or ‘military aviation’. The history of the military use of aircraft is in itself a fascinating tale of high-end technology (military aircraft have always been at the forefront of technological development), courage, technical skill, determination, tactical development, trial and error, mistakes and success. Of course, warfare is an unforgiving crucible, and because of this it is one of the major motivating factors in the development of technology of all kinds. Military aviation is a prime example of this, if not indeed the pinnacle of modern military technology. It was realised fairly early on in World War I (1914-1918)* that control of the skies was of paramount importance in tactical (and later strategic) warfare. This continues to be axiomatic in modern warfare; he who controls the skies, controls the battle.

But of course it had to start somewhere. The first recorded use of aircraft in military operations was (as far as I know) the use of manned observation kites by the Chinese in the late sixth century – about 594CE. Hot air balloons were first used decisively by the French in 1794; however, although balloons continued to be used for observation purposes for long after, these kites and balloons were of course tethered to the ground and couldn’t really go anywhere. Military aviation therefore really only came into its own during World War I, because with the advent of powered aircraft like aeroplanes and airships, people could actually go more or less where they wanted to go in the skies, rather than having to stay in the same place; this operational flexibility, of course, meant that virtually anything was possible from then onwards. But even then, fully-dirigible (that is, mobile and steerable) aircraft were still in their infancy; airships had been around for only two or three decades, and as for aeroplanes (or ‘flying machines’ as they were often called back then), the first powered aeroplane flight was only in 1903, so the technology was still very much experimental, and flying aeroplanes was very much a hit-and-miss affair (in other words, dangerous) because of this. So it was an historical period quite unlike any other as far as military aviation was concerned.

Having just finished an excellent book on British aerial combat operations in WWI, Fighter Heroes of WWI, by Joshua Levine, I bought the DVDs of the 1970s classic BBC series ‘Wings‘, which for some reason I was completely unaware of at the time (that is, in 1974-76 when it was being shown on TV) – which is a shame as it would have been right up my street. It’s an absolutely superb series with excellent characterisation, engrossing story writing, great acting, historical accuracy and (most importantly to me!) superb and authentic flying sequences. Anyone interested in the early development of military aviation will not fail to be captured by this series; it’s simply brilliant.

And the theme music is gorgeous. In fact, despite my lengthy preamble, this music was actually the main inspiration for this post today – it is simply lovely. It has a nostalgic ‘music-hall’ feel to it, with a beautiful chord structure and bass-line, and above all, a catchy and poignant melody. And I recommend you listen to it on headphones if possible, in order to catch all the lovely nuances.

So, here we are – the theme music from ‘Wings‘, composed by Alexander Faris:

Gorgeous. Hope you liked it!

[Edit]

The theme music for the series ‘Wings‘ was released as a 45rpm vinyl record in 1977, and since first writing this article, I have managed to buy one. You can pick up a copy of your own from Amazon if you like; click the cover graphic below to go to the sales page:

In case they have sold out, here is the title track as an orchestral arrangement, digitised from the A-side of the record:

During one of the early episodes in Series 1, some of the characters in the screenplay can be heard singing a military-style pub drinking song to the same tune. Since I like to have the lyrics for any songs I really like, I was delighted to find that the B-side of the record contained this vocal arrangement, entitled ‘A Sussex Lad’, which is the same song that the characters sang in the episode. The whole feel of the song is just so World War I; it’s a perfect song for the series:

And finally, here are the lyrics so you can sing along:

I’m a gentle lad from Sussex
With a heart that’s light and free
So a frown did pass across my brow
When my girl said to me
“They are fighting on the land, Jack,
And they’re fighting on the sea
Will you be a sailor-boy
Or will you join the New Army?”

I’m a loyal lad from Sussex
With a heart that’s brave and free
But the Sergeant-Major’s language, Lord!
It simply horrified me!
And I would not joint the Navy
For I’ve never liked the sea
So I put my brave heart to the test
And joined the RFC

I go skimming the tops of the mountains
And soaring all over the sea
I think of my girl as I’m flying
And I know she is thinking of me

I’m an airborne lad from Sussex
With a heart that’s flying free
I’ve a pair of wings upon my chest
My girl’s so proud of me
They can keep the Royal Navy
They can […] the infantry
For the sky is now my pasture
It’s an airman’s wings for me!

I’m a daring aviator
And I fly so skilfully
But my aeroplane lacked common sense
And crashed into a tree
Now my wings are lying broken
And my girl she weeps for me
For I’ve left this world and God’s unfurled
These angels’ wings for me


The inclusion of this blog post in my series ‘Beautiful Destroyers’ was apt, I thought, because it describes the very early origins of military aviation. Without the tireless efforts of those pioneers of the past, our ‘Beautiful Destroyers’ would never have existed.


The aeroplane in the header picture is a flying replica of a Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c, the mainstay of the Royal Flying Corps in 1915, when the series ‘Wings’ is set. A very stable aeroplane, and ideal for its designed purpose of reconnaissance (being a stable camera platform), it was not really designed to fight other aircraft; the idea of aeroplanes fighting each other hadn’t really been thought of when this aeroplane was designed! The image is a direct screenshot from the opening titles of Series 1 of ‘Wings’. I’m not sure there are any replicas still flying nowadays; remember this series was made in the mid-1970s 🙂


*Hostilities in World War I, known at the time as the ‘Great War’, ceased when the Armistice was signed on the 11th November, 1918. The War was formally ended in June, 1919, with the Treaty of Versailles. This explains why the dates on some war memorials say 1914-1919.

10

We Did So Well!

This entry is part 24 of 27 in the series Fiona

In my last post in this series, The Fight, I described how it was for us during the fight against pancreatic cancer. My lovely wife Fiona went to be with her Father in October 2016 after fighting this dreadful illness for over two and a half years. In that last post, I described how we found the strength to carry on, and how we lived life to the full despite the illness.

Now, I have just recently finished a series of sessions with my volunteer bereavement counsellor. In our final session together, she used a phrase I hadn’t thought of; she said,

“And you did so well!”

It was interesting that she should say that. I had to think about it a little, but she was right, you know. Y’see, when you’re actually going through these shattering events, you don’t notice how well you are doing; it’s only when someone tells you – maybe how ‘brave’ you are – that you take notice and think, ‘Oh yes! I hadn’t noticed that!’.

Not long after Fiona was diagnosed with the cancer, I remember chatting to someone about our approach to the illness. I said that if Fiona was supernaturally healed, or cured medically, great – and we’d all celebrate and have a well-woman party and say “well done, everyone!” because it would have been a team effort. Everyone would have done their very best and we would express our gratitude for that, and for its fruits – Fiona being well once again.

And the other scenario was that we would lose her to the illness, and we would of course mourn her, but the underlying principle would be the same: We could reassure ourselves in the knowledge that we did our best; we tried our hardest. And that is indeed what happened. Virtually everyone who knew and loved Fiona rallied round us in some way. They provided meals; they sent flowers; they came round for a chat; they shopped for us; they abided by our house’s infection control policy*. Some of Fiona’s close friends set up a charity to raise money for a special medical procedure which I consider gave Fiona an extra year of life; moreover, it was a year free of pain and other symptoms of the cancer. It cost £14,000 to do that, and they raised the money for it. We will always be grateful to these amazing ladies for doing their best too, and working so hard for Fiona. Wow!

And then there’s the courage, the hope, the lessons learned, the bearing up under pressure. How we respond to our tribulations is just as important as the tribulations themselves. Gaining these benefits and life-skills means that the suffering was not all wasted; it was not all in vain. And the same can be said for members of my family: in going through this furnace, this crucible, they have all emerged as better people for it. And our friends were with us on this walk, in that furnace, and on this learning curve, too. All of those who walk through the fire in this way are changed by the experience, and it’s our choice, as we walk through that fire, whether to let it change us for the better, or for the worse.

As you will have read in the other posts in this series, I have learned so much, been so much closer to God, had so much insight (which has already been a tremendous help to others in similar situations), that I would not have had if I hadn’t gone through the dark times. So, rather than moping about and complaining, we just got on with the everyday business of living life to the full. And that meant that all the darkness, all the pain, all the loss, it all had a benefit in the end. We packed so much fun and life into that time, in the midst of the horror and despair. And then we carried on with that attitude once we had lost her. In this way,  the life-lessons learned and the insight and wisdom gained have not been lost; this means that Fiona’s loss does in many ways still carry meaning. And that these lessons have not been wasted would have been just what Fiona would have wanted for us. Of course, I’d still rather not have lost her, but making the best of the situation is a great way of not letting it defeat you.

Not that I believe God throws these things at us; not for one minute. He’s fully aware that terrible things happen in life; shit happens, and it’s how we cope with it that counts. Nobody is exempt from having tribulation in their lives at some point; its how we cope with it that counts, and God promises to be there for us in those hard times. Never will I leave you or forsake you (Heb 13:5, Dt 31:6) says God, and He means it. The most famous of the Psalms, the 23rd Psalm, says this:

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” (Ps 23:4 KJV).

David, the guy who wrote that Psalm, went through some pretty horrific stuff in his life, yet still he wrote that verse and likely meant what he wrote, and it was evidently true from his words that he’d had the same experience as I and many others who pass through the valley of the shadow of death. God is with us in that valley. He’s had personal experience there Himself. He knows His stuff, and He leads us too into knowing that stuff. Indeed, we walk through the valley, but He is with us.

So, yes.  We did so well! Thanks to the Grace of God, His unearned favour, we are coming through that valley, and we are reaping the rewards of our faith. We did our best – for Fiona – and we are still doing our best. It doesn’t stop once the mourning and the grief are lessening. There is no other person’s hand I’d rather be holding than that of Jesus, because He holds on tight, and healing flows through that Hand just like it did two thousand years ago.

Be blessed!


*Because, as I described in The Fight, chemotherapy patients are usually immunosuppressed as a side-effect of the treatment, and are therefore highly susceptible to infections – and these can easily be fatal. Because of this, I put in place an ‘infection control’ system in our house where anyone who had an infection – a cold or whatever – was respectfully asked not to come in to the house. In addition, we had a hand disinfectant bottle just inside the door, and anyone who did come in was asked to sanitise their hands as they came in, thus minimising the risk of Fiona getting a potentially lethal infection.


Header picture shows me, Fiona and Ellie at breakfast on our ‘House of Anubis Road Trip’; a week-long tour that we did in September 2014, in between doses of Fiona’s chemotherapy. (We called it that because one of the purposes of the trip was to visit the filming locations for the teen mystery drama series House of Anubis‘). We did not let the illness defeat us; we took it on the nose and carried on enjoying life to the full. Look how radiant Fiona is!

The bandage on Fiona’s arm is the covering for the PICC line, which is described in the article The Fight.

10

Thoughts and Prayers…

Yet another tragic shooting in the United States. And it has of course brought out the usual plethora of one group of people saying, ‘Our thoughts and prayers are with you…’ and, predictably, the other group of people who rant on about how valueless ‘thoughts and prayers’ are.

In the very same Facebook group (that I am a part of), I saw two consecutive posts, one saying how useless ‘thoughts and prayers’ are, and the very next post saying that this person appreciated the ‘thoughts and prayers’ that had been expressed for his situation.

Make your minds up, folks.

I know that some politicians and other professional apathists use ‘thoughts and prayers’ as a platitude. And I know that it’s sickening. I know, right?

But I also know that there are many millions of others who, appalled at the violence and suffering, do indeed hold up the victims of these crimes, and their families, in their ‘thoughts and prayers’.

Sometimes, when you live thousands of miles away, ‘thoughts and prayers’ is the best you can do. I’m not trying to be insensitive, but everyone has their own problems and worries and, while we do all we can to help – maybe send money and whatnot – the sheer fallacy of condemning those who ‘have thoughts and prayers but do nothing’ is fallacy indeed. What, do they want us to drop all our responsibilities and fly over to the disaster zone to help personally? What a ridiculous notion. I sometimes think that, in their rage, these people don’t even know what they are talking about; they don’t know what it is they actually want.

And let me tell you something. I have personal experience of the power of prayer. Here’s an example. I know someone who was having an extramarital affair. One night, Fiona and I decided that enough was enough, and we engaged in a thorough prayer battle about that situation, we kicked the enemy’s ass good and proper, and the very next morning the person in question called their spouse and asked to meet up to talk it over. That couple is now back together again and have been so for 25 years or more. The person having the affair ‘suddenly realised’ (at exacty the time we were praying) that this was not the person they wanted to be. Call it coincidence if you like, but it is my firm belief that this person changed their mind because we prayed. I have other examples too but that one will have to do for now. I want to get on with my rant.

My point is that prayer can change things. It is also especially galling that those who decry ‘thoughts and prayers’ are often themselves Christians who profess to believe in the power of prayer. Sorry, but yeah, right. I have actually stopped following one particular person’s Christian blog (and removed it from my recommended blogs/links page) because every third post or so he would continually rant about the worthlessness of ‘thoughts and prayers’.

Listen: Prayer is God’s way of empowering the powerless.

Who are we to say that ‘thoughts and prayers’ are useless?

How dare these people insult the beliefs and caring practices of countless millions of compassionate people, of all faiths and belief systems, all across the world who care enough to think and pray deeply and sympathetically about these poor people who have suffered so? For some of these compassionate people, ‘thoughts’ are the only thing they know how to give. For others, they can think but they can also pray – using the Godly gift that can move mountains. For most, indeed ‘thoughts and prayers’ are all they can give.

So do not belittle the care and compassion of the countless millions who are ‘thinking and praying’ right now for these victims and their circumstances.

You have absolutely no idea how ungrateful you sound.

And you have absolutely no idea what things God is prompting millions of unsung heroes, behind the scenes, to do right now.

Including ‘thoughts and prayers’.

Rant over.


[Edit]: And I must also add that my friend Darren has only today posted on Facebook this very thing:

“Of all the ‘actions’ that you can perform to influence and change another person’s life for the best, secret prayer is the greatest and most effective!”

Thanks Darren! 🙂

10

A Magical Evening’s Flying

Well, after the wonderful night flight I did back in November, I went ahead and trained for my Night Rating to add to my Private Pilot’s Licence. I’ve already been flying on my new Rating, with my daughter Ellie – who absolutely loved the night flying – but I also wanted to go up again for some practice flying in order to consolidate my night training. Plus, I just love it!

I’ve tried to do more night flying since just after Christmas, especially wanting to take up my son David (who is also a Pilot), to let him have his first night flight, but the weather has been completely unsuitable for any kind of flying lately, let alone Night Flying, which needs a certain set of weather conditions in order to be viable*. But this week I was fortunate to have picked an evening where there was a ‘window’ of perfect flying weather, so off I went.

Here’s the aeroplane I fly, Piper PA-38 Tomahawk G-RVRL (“Romeo – Lima”), on the South Apron at Exeter International Airport, Devon, UK, which is where I fly from:

(Note: All the photographs in this post are fully zoomable; just click them to get the larger image)

I got there deliberately early so I could preflight the aeroplane in the daylight. I had her booked for a three-hour slot but that was fine – I wasn’t ‘hogging’ the aeroplane – as nobody else seems to want to do night flying at the moment. I don’t think they know what they’re missing… Anyway, ‘official night’ in the aviation world begins 30mins after local sunset, so I had plenty of time to inspect the aircraft and get her ready. For instance, in the above picture, the wing flaps have been lowered so that I can examine their condition, the hinges and control linkages, and check them for correct and symmetrical operation. You don’t just jump into an aeroplane and go flying! I have seen many Pilots – some of whom should have known better – simply check the oil and fuel and then off they go. But not me. I have a reputation for being an extremely safe Pilot and I want to keep it that way. I always perform a full (what’s called a) ‘Check Alpha’ on every aeroplane I fly. Every detail is checked, from the flaps to the fuel to the fire extinguisher to the first aid kit; my life depends on that aeroplane working properly and I leave nothing to chance, especially at night.

So, after preflighting the aeroplane, I started her up and ran the engine for a few minutes to warm it up a bit. As dusk fell and ‘official night’ drew closer, I performed all my power checks and pre-takeoff vital actions at my parking spot, so I’d be ready to go on time. This is the view from the Captain’s seat (the left hand seat) across the South Apron, just after sunset. Perfect for flying: good visibility, high cloudbase, and virtually no wind.

So, performing a night take-off, I climbed away from the airport and set course for Torbay, one of the most beautiful and scenic parts of the local area. All these pictures were taken with my phone’s camera, and the light was pretty dim; the phone has made the pictures make it look lighter than it actually was. But then that’s better, because then you can see what’s there…

Here’s the view from over Dawlish, looking south with Teignmouth in the foreground and Torbay in the distance. The dusk sky was absolutely beautiful, as you can see:

Looking over to the north-northeast, the lights of Exeter are visible in the growing twilight. The Exe estuary is just visible as a lighter blue patch to the right of the picture.

A few minutes later, coming up on Torquay. Torquay is the ‘capital’ town of Torbay, in the area known as the ‘English Riviera’. You can see the Marina and harbour bottom centre, with the lights of all the boats lined up at their moorings. The next town around the Bay is Paignton, and the pier is easily visible, all lit up over the water.

Directly ahead, and on the opposite side of the Bay, is the fishing port of Brixham. Paignton Pier is visible to the right, and if you know where to look (on the zoomed photo) you can just see the beginnings of the flash of the lighthouse at Start Point. As you can see, despite it being dark, the visibility is tremendous, being able to see all the way to Start Point, the southeastern tip of Devon.

A bit of a different view, now; looking out to the east and over the English Channel. Each of those small white lights shows the position of a ship or boat on the water. And of course it’s darker in that direction.

A couple of minutes after I took this photo, I inadvertently flew into cloud. At night, it’s so dark up there that you can’t always see the clouds before you’re into them. Suddenly, you can’t see the ground anymore, and you are surrounded by a silver-grey flickering, billowing mist, illuminated by the flashing wingtip strobe lights on the aeroplane. But this is easily remedied in that you go straight on to instruments (which, at night, you’re doing for much of the time anyway) and do a gentle, level 180-degree turn out of the cloud. After only 90 degrees of turn, I was clear of the cloud anyway – it must have been only a small one – but in order to prevent any further cloud incursion, I descended 300ft or so in order to be sure I was completely clear of the cloudbase. This illustrates the sort of quick decision-making, forward thinking and real-time tactical planning that is essential in all flying, but particularly at night.

Over the middle of Paignton, now, this slightly blurry photo is of the main crossroads on Torbay Ring Road, known as ‘Tweenaway Cross’. The famous tourist attraction, Paignton Zoo, is just below the orange area at the bottom of the picture (the orange area is a supermarket car park (Morrisons)). Note how the little remaining light from the sky reflects off the aeroplane’s wing…

The night was completely dark not long after that shot. Although the moon was up, it was only just over half-full and didn’t really illuminate all that much on the ground, if anything.

Thoroughly enjoying myself, I was struck once again by the wonder of flight, and night flying in particular. This was the sort of flight where I simply didn’t want to come down!

It’s almost surreal, and, if you think about it, almost counterintuitive. Here we are, tanking along at what amounts to nearly a hundred miles an hour, over half a mile above the ground, and I can’t really see where I’m going, and yet it all works. Incredible! I suppose there’s nothing to actually run into up here; even other aeroplanes are easy to spot because, like mine, they have lights on them and also I have a radar service from Exeter Radar – kind of like an extra pair of eyes, if you like. But tonight, apart from a few airliners being directed in to Exeter, I’m the only aeroplane up here. It’s all very quiet and quite beautiful.

Heading back up towards Exeter from Torbay, I flew over Newton Abbot, and took this picture of the Penn Inn flyover, part of the South Devon Expressway. This is a long-awaited road that has transformed the transport links in this area, and it has been open for just over two years. Prior to the opening of the Expressway (also known as the Kingskerswell bypass), road users from Torbay and all the areas beyond had to queue through the town of Kingskerswell, adding at least half an hour to their journeys. This road has opened up the area like nothing else. And here’s what it looks like at night:

Finally, here’s a photo of the final approach into Exeter’s Runway 26, with all the lights and whatnot. This photo was taken back in December by my daughter; because I was by myself on my latest flight, I couldn’t have taken a photo myself at this point, having my hands full with the landing and all. Features to note are the approach lights (the yellow lights laid out like a Christmas tree) which help the Pilot line up properly with the runway, the green threshold lights, showing the start of the runway, the main flarepath lights which show the runway itself, and the short row of four lights to the left of the runway. These are what’s known as ‘PAPI lights’ (Precision Approach Path Indicator) and they show you if you are on the correct glideslope. Two white and two red means you are on slope, like in the picture. If you are too high, more of the lights turn white; if you are too low, they turn red. So four reds is way too low, four whites is way too high. Part of the night rating training is to learn how to land without the approach lights, and/or without the PAPIs, to help the trainee learn how to land at night in the event of failure of those particular lights, and also to learn how to land at aerodromes that do not have those kinds of lights (not all do). However, if the main runway lights are unserviceable, you’re talking diverting to another aerodrome because those lights really are essential for a safe landing. The others are just trim; they make things easier but they are not essential.

So, there we have it. An absolutely magical flight for me, some lovely photos (although flying at night does make it harder for the Pilot to do photos; better if he has a camera-armed passenger!) and a safe landing at the end. In fact, it was one of the best landings I have ever done, and in the dark as well! I think it’s going to take me at least a week to lose these euphoric feelings that happen when I fly, and especially at night. Walking back across the airfield from the aeroplane to the flying club, I was actually laughing out loud with the sheer joy of it all. Thankfully it is a huge, dark airfield, and there was no-one nearby to hear 😉

Once the nights get lighter, and night flying falls off the end of the airport’s opening times, I will be daylight flying again right up until the autumn. I will really miss night flying at that time; I really love it and to be honest there’s nothing quite like it. So I am going to get in as much night flying as I can before the cutoff around Easter!

Love it!


Header picture shows the Teign estuary all the way from Teignmouth to Newton Abbot, and the glorious sky beyond.


*Ok, I will explain: in night flying, I still have to fly under what’s called ‘visual flight rules’ or VFR. This means I still can’t fly in cloud (although sometimes I might inadvertently enter a cloud – like in this story – because you just can’t see them at night). For that reason, not only does the weather at Exeter have to be good enough for VFR flying, but also the weather forecasts at my planned diversion airfields, and the en-route weather to those airfields. Why is this more exacting at night than it is in daylight? Well, it’s because, in daylight, if you have a problem at your home aerodrome (say someone’s pranged an airliner and blocked the runway, or there’s a terrorist incident or something that closes the airport), in a pinch you can just land in a field if necessary; it’s called a precautionary landing. At night, you can’t even see the fields. As you can see from the photos in this piece, even when it’s still twilight, everything that isn’t a town or road is simply black and you can’t see what’s actually there. And so, in case such an aerodrome closure event occurs, you have to plan to be able to fly to another major airport that has runway lighting; in my case that would be Bristol, Bournemouth, Cardiff or Newquay-Cornwall. Or, if Dunkeswell are doing night flying, I could go there (it’s only ten miles away). So you see the planning and weather briefing has to be much more detailed for night flying. Of course, that’s all part of the training…

Talking of precautionary landings, one wag once told me that if you have to do one at night, you switch on your landing light (it’s like a small car headlight) and take a look. If you don’t like what you see, you switch it back off again… 😉

 

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The Fight

This entry is part 23 of 27 in the series Fiona

It’s fifteen months ago today since my lovely wife Fiona left us to go to her Heavenly reward. A year and a quarter. My goodness.

I have to say that I feel like I personally died, figuratively, several times over the time leading up to her loss. By nature, I am an ideas man; a fixer, a problem-solver. I can fix anything. But I couldn’t fix Fiona. When you can’t fix something; you can fix everything else but not the thing that’s most important, it leaves you thinking you can’t fix anything else. Here’s a quote from a chap on the Channel 4 series ‘Escape’, who had lost his daughter at the age of one month old – “When you come up against a challenge you can’t win; you just physically can’t fix – I couldn’t fix her – no-one could – and that’s the thing that makes you wonder if you can do anything ever again.” I can so identify with that. This was something I couldn’t fix, and that’s hard for me to accept. In this post, I would like to try to describe what it’s like to engage in that terrible fight with cancer, and how I coped with it. I’m sorry to share this even at all, but I figured the message of hope it contains more than makes up for the darkness!

The Fight

Over the three and a half years of Fiona’s illness, my heart was battered so many times by so many colossal blows, like standing in the sea and being smashed by a series of huge waves: Fiona’s early pains in mid-2013, where, being a professional in the medical field, I had a pretty good idea of what was going on; the shocking diagnosis itself in early 2014 and feeling the ice water of terror running through my bloodstream (an experience I would not recommend); seeing Fiona waste away under the terrible effects of the chemotherapy; not knowing from one day to another what was going to happen; how long we had left. The uncertainty. The worry. The anguish. Seeing the girl whom I love beyond any other mortal person fighting the fear, the pain, the symptoms. Seeing her weaken and not be able to do the things she wanted. Living for all that time under the death sentence that is pancreatic cancer, not knowing whether or not she would be healed, knowing that the only human chance for her to be made well would be to have a brutal operation that could well remove the tumour, but an operation in which one patient in twenty dies on the operating table. An operation which she could not have, in any event, because the tumour was wrapped around too many important blood vessels thus making the tumour inoperable. An operation which, even after all that, gives only a 50% chance that the cancer will not return (I had a friend who actually did have the operation, and he died last year despite it). Living each day knowing that her condition could (and eventually would) suddenly deteriorate and that each day could be her last. Living with this constant companion of horror, of fear, of – as I said – the death sentence. It’s like being on death row together.*

Can you imagine the kind of psychological and emotional pressure that this creates for the patient, for her family, and for someone like me who was her prime carer? The weight of the constant vigilance for certain signs and symptoms that might indicate a serious infection (due to the chemotherapy suppressing the immune system), and the responsibility for making sure she gets the proper care in that event? In my lifetime, I have personally saved several people’s lives, from that of a girl I was going out with (before I met Fiona) in early 1982, whom I saved from being hit by a truck, to a friend in my car when I was driving and we were nearly forced off the road by a rogue trucker, to my own father in whom I diagnosed a serious, acute, life-threatening illness and got him to hospital just in time. But Fiona’s life I saved several times, particularly on one especially memorable occasion when my daughter Ellie called me home from work because her Mum was really ill, and I got home and took one look at her and knew exactly what was going on. Without our intervention right there and then she would have died within a couple of hours, that was how serious it was – a condition called ‘neutropenic sepsis’ – a systemic infection which simply runs rampage because the immune system can no longer fight that infection effectively. It just goes to show how amazing our (working) immune system is; every couple of hours there are infective threats like this dealt with silently and unobtrusively by our body’s defences, and we don’t even notice it! But when someone is immunosuppressed – that is, the immune system is degraded for whatever reason (in this case, the chemotherapy) – the chances of a lethal infection are quite high.

Another time, she was on a new chemotherapy regime and she had what’s known as an ‘adverse drug reaction’, a name that speaks for itself. Her heart rate went tachycardic (very, very fast, in this case getting on for 190-200 beats per minute) and if I had not called it, she would have died there and then. And this kind of thing takes its toll. What this stuff does emotionally and psychologically to a person, to a family, is beyond description. Unless you have personally lived through this sort of thing, you have no way of knowing what it will be like – it’s different for everyone – or how you will cope.

(Warning: This next section contains a couple of mildly medical pictures. If you’re squeamish, you might want to be careful 🙂 )

Well, each of us copes in different ways, and one of the ways in which many carers, partners and relatives care is by doing things to help. So long as the help is welcome (remember that the patient may not want to feel dependent on others, so there needs to be sensitivity here) then this is a good way to feel you are doing something positive. Helping with shopping, transport, cleaning, cooking, washing, writing to officialdom, and of course just being there when needed. I have the useful ability to be able to come instantly, fully awake at any time during the night, and that was really useful if Fiona had bad chemo side effects at night, so I could check her signs and symptoms with a clear head, and decide whether or not medical intervention was needed.

Also, although I am not medically-trained, I am, as I said, a professional in the medical field. For 12 years, I was in medical research, and I have now worked in pharmaceuticals for over twenty years, and for all my adult life I have been a trained First-Aider. For that reason, the nursing staff in the chemo ward were happy to train me to service Fe’s PICC line, which is a simply amazing bit of kit.

Allow me to explain. A PICC line is a ‘peripherally-inserted central catheter’ and is simply a plastic tube that goes into a vein in the patient’s arm just above the elbow…

…and continues right inside into the chest cavity, exiting in the superior vena cava, which feeds directly into the heart.

This allows us to administer things to the patient easily, like antibiotics, saline drips, fluids, and of course chemotherapy, all of which can be administered via the same route and without having to make any extra holes in the patient, which is of course painful, uncomfortable and not without risk, especially when administering chemotherapy. The PICC line also allows us to take blood samples directly as required, again without causing pain or discomfort to the patient. It’s all very clever and very useful, improving patient comfort no end.

But the PICC line needs to be ‘serviced’, and that means flushing it with saline and anticoagulant once per week; also the skin around the insertion site needs to be cleaned and the dressing changed weekly. Normally, this would mean a visit to hospital, or at least staying at home so that the District Nurse can come in and do the honours. But being able to service the PICC line ourselves, without ‘outside’ help, meant that we were free to go off on holiday (or even just service the PICC line at home when we wanted to, rather than wait in for the Nurses), and simply take the PICC line servicing kit with us – dressings, saline, syringes, sterile wipes, blood sampling tubes and what have you. I would say that, for us, this was the main specialised way in which I could help and free up a lot more time simply for us to be together. I have no doubt that others reading this may be able to use their specialist skills to help their loved one in a similar way.

Another part of the fight, though, was the pain of seeing my lovely lady wasting away. Fiona always had all the right curves in all the right places, but chemotherapy plays havoc with the body in so many ways, and one of these ways is the loss of appetite, and sometimes the inability to keep food down.  And so, Fiona lost a lot of weight over those years, as well as having much of her hair fall out. Notably, though, in many ways this allowed Fiona’s inner light to shine out all the more strongly. So far on my blog, I have posted pictures only of the healthy Fiona. I have not posted pictures of her as she was during her illness, because seeing those pictures brought back the memory of the horror and pain of those times. But now, thanks to talking these things over with my grief counsellor, I can look at those pictures more easily.

So today I have posted pictures of her, radiant, even with little hair and sometimes much thinner than she was.

So, why am I writing all this? Why all this talk about the literally life-changing illness that cancer is? Why describe all the horror, the adjustments, the changes?

Because in all this, in all the despair and hopelessness, I want to testify to the closeness and comforting Presence of Jesus. In all this stuff, all this horror, He was constantly there, letting us feel His Presence, letting us feel His peace, such that people commented on how ‘brave’ we all were. But this was the ‘peace that passes understanding’; the supernatural peace that comes when you know God has got everything under control, even if the eventual outcome is probably not the one you would have wanted. It’s not so much that God necessarily changes our circumstances; it’s more that He helps us get through them. Some would say, ‘Why use God as a prop? Most people cope without him!’ Well, I am not sure they do. How do we know that God is not the One Who provides the strength for people to cope even when they do not acknowledge Him? God causes the sun to shine on the righteous and unrighteous alike (Mt 5:45); why not also His Grace, albeit unasked, to cope with our circumstances as they happen? Surely God draws near to the broken-hearted, no matter what their faith background, because that’s just what He’s like. Christians by no means have a monopoly on God’s favour; they are simply more aware of it than others.

As I have said before, I have a steady confidence that death is no longer the end**. I believe that I will see Fiona again. I also believe in God’s healing power and His ability to work miracles. I tried on two occasions to raise her after she had died, on the proviso that if God did choose to raise her, He had to do it without bringing the cancer back with her. But it was not to be; she has gone to be with Him and I am content with that. As I’ve said before, I would not now, even if I could raise Fiona from the dead from her ashes – which is something that I have not the slightest doubt that God could do – I would not want to bring her back. Although my heart was broken over and over again over the three years fighting the cancer, and in finally losing her, I would not ever want to pull her away from what she has now.

You see, God’s hand has been in this all along. In the midst of the suffering, terror, anguish, pain, horror and death, One has walked beside me Who has been through all that Himself. Jesus is no stranger to human suffering. But after all He went through, He was raised back to life. I believe that not because the Bible says it, but because I personally have experienced Him walking with me in everyday life. And if that’s true, then He is simply the forerunner, the downpayment, of the life after death – a new kind of life which is unimaginable to us now – and the demonstration and guarantee that death is indeed not the end. Knowing this changes a person’s entire outlook on life and death, and everything that goes in between.

It also gives us hope, which I believe is absolutely vital when fighting an illness like this. Hope is what keeps you going; hope is what you can hold on to even when the future looks impossible.

When you are first given the diagnosis, and there is little medical hope, still there is the chance – however slight – that something medical might be possible. New research is always coming up with new ideas and treatments, sometimes even actual cures. I should know; I was a professional in the field of  medical research for 12 years. This is not wishful thinking; this is what medical science does. We are always coming up with new things.

When medical science gives us no hope, still there is the hope that God might well perform a miracle. My readers know that I believe in this sort of thing; I have been supernaturally healed of things in the past, and I have been involved in others’ healings too. I have seen and experienced these things at first hand. That guarantee that death is not the end, that I mentioned above? The same Power that raised Jesus from the dead is alive and living right now in my heart and in yours (Rom 8:11). For God, all things are possible, even healing incurable conditions. Remember that for something to be a miracle, you have to have something that’s impossible for us to do ourselves. And that is in itself a real hope.

But sometimes the answers to your prayer are not the answers you hoped for. In this case, Fiona died. But still I have that hope – that I will see her again – because of the supernatural assurance I have in my heart of the Love that will not let me go; nor will He let go of Fiona. Again, this is not wishful thinking. This hope is founded on my own real experience of a real Jesus, in real life.

Finally, I want to share also this stunning testimony, which again reinforces my claim to my supernatural hope. I have a friend in America called Steve. Steve has been praying for Fiona and our family since hearing of her diagnosis in early 2014. Here’s what he wrote to me in response to my email informing him of Fiona’s passing on that day fifteen months ago:

“God woke me up this morning at 5:35am my time (about 11:30am your time), which is unusual. I felt He wanted me to pray, so I got ready and went for a walk. I felt an unusual burden to pray for Fiona this morning from 6:15 until 7:15 this morning. I felt led to pray for God to anoint her with His grace, and to help her finish her race well, to wrap her in His presence, and to strengthen her spirit – and yours.

 “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. He is so wonderfully present, so kind, so engaged.

“I grieve with you, my brother. I am grateful for the times and the words and the faith that has passed between us over these last years.

 “I celebrate with Fiona, my sister, who receives her reward today.”

Steve didn’t know it at the time, but 7:15am his time was 1:15pm our time; the precise moment when Fiona died. Even at times like that, God’s hand is so obviously present.

Even though we can’t see it at the time, God’s hand is indeed on everything that we do. He takes a minutely detailed, utterly fascinated and absolutely loving interest in every detail of our lives, not in a creepy way, but in a getting-involved sort of way. I want to encourage you today in that I want you to know that nothing that you are going through, nothing you are doing, have done or is happening to you, nothing can separate you from the Love of God in Christ.

This has been my experience:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” – Romans 8:37-39

 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” – Ps 46:1 (KJV)

If you are going through a fight like this right now, be encouraged. God is so much closer than you think. He cares, and He holds you in His arms. And nothing and no-one can change that.


Header picture shows a radiant Fiona at Godshill, Isle of Wight, in July 2015.


*I know that my family, Fiona’s family, and our friends and colleagues all suffered too, each in their own way. And it is not my intention here to downplay that suffering in any way. But I am writing this only from my point of view, which is the only point of view that I can report on accurately. We each take these things, and process them, in our own way. I do not feel it is either my prerogative or my duty to make assumptions on what others were and are feeling. That is their story.


**That death is no longer the end has profound ramifications. Absolutely profound. Rather than spoon-feed you, I’ll just let you think about it for yourself. Ask yourself this question: “What attitudes would change in my life if death is no longer the end?” If you think about this in any great depth, the results will change your life. It did for me.

40

Thirty-Four Years

This entry is part 22 of 27 in the series Fiona

Today would have been Fiona’s and my 34th wedding anniversary. Half a lifetime ago, I married the most beautiful girl in the world, and for me it had been love at first sight. I can’t adequately express how blessed I am to have been married to this magnificent lady for nearly 33 years, before I lost her to cancer in October 2016.

We had a particular song, which was a lovely little number called ‘Where you go, I will go’, which we thought of as ‘our song’, and I featured it on my blog this time last year to celebrate what would have been our 33rd wedding anniversary. I want to feature it again today, because I still believe it. And it’s still Our Song.

Where you go, I will go.

Where she’s gone, I will go, eventually.

And there we will meet again.

Where you go, I will go
Where you lodge, I will lodge
Do not ask me to turn away, for I will follow you
We’ll serve the Lord together, and praise Him day to day
For He brought us together, to love Him and serve Him always

 


Header photo shows Ellie, Fiona and I with our gorgeous German Shepherd, Zeus, at Meadow Lakes Holiday Park, St. Austell, Cornwall, August 2013, where we were staying in our caravan. This was where we were holidaying when we first noticed the symptoms of the cancer.

Zeusy was a huge dog, but he wasn’t as big as the camera angle makes him look in this picture!

 

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