Jenny’s letter 14th January

Dear Friends,

I want to begin the new year by writing on a very personal note. As most of you are aware, our Dad, Jack died on 30th December. On behalf of Andrew and my whole family, I would like to thank you all for your kindness and care, for lovely cards and the many prayers.

Dad had been very poorly in the last weeks of his life and the past year had been hard too. We none of us like the feeling of our body ageing. As dad was gifted with such a good level of fitness up until his mid 80s, it was a huge shock to him that he needed a lot of healthcare. He hated taking tablets, having to eventually be in a wheelchair and the ultimate horror (from his perspective) – needing a catheter. As I write, I am challenged to wonder whether he would even want me to mention it after his death. However, I do mention it because this could be one of you. It might be me in the future.

I wonder what it is that gives us such embarrassment over toilet matters. I wonder why illness, both physical and mental, is still associated with weakness – as if by some act of will or determination we can avoid it. When I remonstrated with the doctor last year, about how many of my older congregation were fitter than me, he warned me not to look at others. Every year of health is a gift and not a certainty. Every medication to help us live longer and live better can be an opportunity.

Dad told us he was not afraid of death. I was glad to hear that. We, who live and die in faith, have nothing to fear. Death has no sting and ‘We thank God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ [I Cor.15.55-57] I still get scared sometimes though. Not perhaps of being dead and being at one with God but rather the process of dying and the fear that I will miss out on what is happening here. I think that is normal and that God understands my human vulnerability.

Ironically, people can be more fearful of death which, scripture tells Christians we need not fear, than we fear the consequences of sin. Living a life apart from God, living a life where we ignore what scripture teaches us about how to live as a disciple of Christ, can have far more fearful consequences for us now and in eternity. The trouble is, that believing that truth is an act of faith. It is made difficult, too, because we do not always see the effects of sin in the same way that we feel the pain of separation and death. Scripture reminds us over and over that the penalties are there. Paul teaches ‘For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ [Romans 6.23]

Some of you may wish that I had not written about this subject. The western world struggles to see death as a part of life in the way that many other cultures do. I realise it might trigger your own sense of bereavement, still very fresh and deeply felt by some of you. For some, reading this article may make you face your own fears. I want to say emphatically, that I do not write to cause distress nor do I belittle the impact of death. I also acknowledge that we all respond differently to grief. For me, personally, many of the tears that I might have shed at the death of dad have been wept throughout this year and in the final hours of his life.

I do write, however, because as Christians we have hope. I will be leading most of dad’s funeral and one or two of you have said you are concerned about that. Thank you for expressing your thoughts and for showing care. I will not lead that service in denial of the reality but because it is all that I can offer my dad at this point and because I can claim for him the promise that ‘all who have died in the love of Christ will share in his resurrection.’

As we begin to see the snowdrops push their delicate heads from the darkness of the wintry earth, we are given a tangible sign that out of that which seems dead there springs new life. Of course, it is also a reminder that we need to look carefully for those signs of hope in the churchyard and garden. But, when we seek out the new shoots expectantly, we will find they are there.

In these difficult days of January may this be a metaphor for the way you see life. Look for the little signs of hope. The ‘glimmers of joy’ in the every day. They are there. Wishing you every blessing.

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