So… I did have to preach a different sermon from the one I had originally planned. Lesley died in the early morning of Tuesday 17th and so when I started to write the sermon she was already gone. I chose to preach on Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11), one of the grimmest passages in the Bible. It came into my mind because it is about premature death, and also about a death that is anticipated so that the person has time to prepare. I think the sermon went well – at least I didn’t break down in the middle of it. I have known Lesley for almost 20 years and she has been one of the most significant people in the church for me, and for many others. Now her son Adam is left without any immediate family, as his father and sister both died within the last 10 years. He is only 26 – not an age at which you expect to be orphaned.
Since then, The Grouch has been extremely busy helping Adam plan the funeral, which will happen this Friday. It has been very stressful for him, and I have tried to support him as best I can. Meanwhile I have been called on to write a tribute which I will deliver at the funeral, to proofread the order of service, to find a photo for the cover, to give my opinion on our paid elder’s planned sermon, and in the midst of this to start writing Bible notes on Mark 1-4. Oh, and I have also been to a parents’ special needs day (very useful), a mini Shipmeet (delightful) , and an arts evening (see below) where I was selling the speaker’s books. I have also volunteered three times at my new voluntary job (one afternoon a week) doing admin at a local carers’ centre. Not much to do then… I’ve hardly had time to grieve, but I think the funeral will give me that.
The arts evening turned out to be a reunion with many people from my past, including a man ten years younger than me, on whom I had a crush approximately thirty years ago. He is still gorgeous, but also still queer as a nine bob note, so no more hope there than there ever was. Silly me.
…and I expect you know the rest. Death has been much to the fore in the last couple of weeks. First, I finally managed to meet up with my brother’s school friend, whom I had re-discovered in an extraordinary way through a conference brochure our tenant gave me. The connection with death is that my brother committed suicide in 1975. My mother had often wondered what became of his school friends, and it is really quite miraculous that we found this guy, and not only that but since I knew him as my brother’s friend, he has become a Christian and is involved in counselling with a Christian outfit. So a couple of weeks ago I met up with him and his wife and took them to see my mother, which was a strange but in some ways healing event (he confessed he felt he had not supported my brother adequately at the time, so maybe it was healing for him too). It is all so long ago and we were all so young at the time – he is now 63 and it is poignant to think Stephen could have been 63 now and had a wife, children and maybe a grandchild as his friend does. I found the whole occasion quite stressful but am glad we have made this contact.
Secondly, and much more immediate, is the fact that my friend Lesley has suddenly got much worse and is clearly in her last few days if not hours. About 10 of us from church went to see her in the hospice yesterday, had a little service of prayer for her and sang at her bedside, but she was either asleep or unconscious the whole time. In the last eight years we have lost her husband at 50, and her daughter at 20, both from the same genetic condition which can cause cancer. I am quite sure it was her daughter’s death which brought her own breast cancer back. Now her son, who is only 26, is going to be alone in the world apart from extended family who are all some distance away, and our church which he has grown up in but not joined. To make things worse, she did not manage to complete her will and was not able to sign a completed version the other day.
This is all intensely painful – she has been part of our faith community for over 40 years and of the congregation for its whole life. I can’t begin to imagine what it is like for her son.
Life is really on hold at the moment, while we wait to spring into action for her funeral, but in the meantime I have to write a sermon for next Sunday and don’t know if I will have to change it at the last minute. And I also have a series of Bible notes to write by the end of the month. So hard to try to put aside the grief and get on with things.
Today after nearly a fortnight’s break, I managed to get down to my book again (this was at the cost of not going to the afternoon showing of a film I wanted to see at our local arthouse, but hey, I have to work sometime….). Chapter 6 of draft 1 is now finished! Woo hoo!
I have a confession to make. This blog is loosely supposed to be about the experience of depression, yet when I am depressed I just haven’t got the energy to write, and when I am not, I am too busy catching up on all the things I failed to do when depressed, and I don’t want to think about the preceding depression let alone blog about it.
Which is a roundabout way of saying I have been bumping along the bottom for the last – oh, at least several weeks – and haven’t blogged about it. Suffice it to say that the mostly grey skies precisely reflect my average mood.
And I am about to sign a contract for a new book, which should be a cause for rejoicing, but all I can think about is that I have to somehow write the damn thing before next January.
Being at church often helps, and yesterday’s service had a number of things in it that spoke to me, but I am still struggling hard to make myself do all the things that need doing today. The fact that I have now re-read the official report into SEN at Genius Brat’s school, and that it addresses everything but the core issue of extreme understaffing, is not encouraging (of course I know that the reason for this is that the head got in a load of agency Teaching Assistants during the reviewers’ visit and sacked them all as soon as the inspectors had gone). And we have a meeting tonight at which I have to take minutes, and it is bound to be complex and my arm aches even thinking about it. I just hope the group can cut to the chase and create a strong response to the report.
So finally, after three days of no school last week (with GB thereby missing a German test yet again), we get a message saying there is school today. Only to find him just before school time saying he has a bad stomach ache, and can’t go. I tried asking if anything about school is worrying him, but he couldn’t identify anything. So one more day getting behind with coursework etc.
Oh well, I managed in spite of this to get back into some kind of work routine. It feels like Christmas has only just finished, and even now I can’t tell if it’s safe to go back into the office (ie across the landing into the spare bedroom…!). Still, I did finally take down the Christmas tree yesterday, with much sadness (I hate that task) and to the accompaniment of a CD of the Vienna Philharmonic doing the New Year concert (the Vienna Boys’s Choir singing German Christmas carols is my accompaniment for decorating the tree before Christmas).
Feeling a bit shaky after a day’s work, and not looking forward to doing minutes at the Inclusion Group tonight, but at least I’ve got some important admin done.
Have just discovered on sorting through my emails that I had completely forgotten being asked to do a cover quote for a forthcoming book on being an LGB Christian. Fortunately the deadline is still a couple of weeks away, so there’s still time for me to read the book. Judging from chapter one, it is going to be really good. Don’t know the publication date yet, so can’t give any further details.
I have no idea why they asked me. Unless they have found out about my lifetime habit of falling in love with gay men. Perhaps they just thought I would be someone who wouldn’t have a knee jerk conservative reaction.
Now that I’ve recovered from the summer and its various aftermaths (is an aftermath something you do to relax after a maths lesson?), I am beginning to get enthusiastic about w*rk again. Trouble is, I have three to four books which I’d like to be writing all at once! I’m sure this will wear off…
Meanwhile I have typed up two of the three poems I drafted at the weekend. I think one is almost ready to send to a competition. 🙂