Forgive me Father, it’s been six months since my last blog…!

There is something confessional in sitting and writing a blog, and for me something personal and liberating in doing so, even though I never expect anyone to be interested in my musings, thoughts or soul searching.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of Linda’s death. Wow, a whole year has gone by and at such a pace. Huge amounts have happened that were just not even imagined a year ago – Street Pastors in Preston’s red light district; people responding to Christ at TO3J in the Charter Theatre; incredibly exciting things as this message of real hope begins to be communicated and offered to people.

But it’s a very strange feeling sitting here and looking back over the last few years, and recently I have been doing a LOT of personal reflection. 12-months on, I have discovered a number of things about myself, my life, my feelings, my priorities, my choices. Such as?

IMG_0671Well if you’re interested, for example, I don’t do dates! There is a huge part of me that just wants dates to go past without anyone saying anything. Be that tomorrow, or what would have been our 16th wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago. I don’t do dates – I’d rather just ignore them and get on with living. That doesn’t mean I don’t care, but sometimes it’s easier to stick your head in the sand, let the past rest in the past ‘cos there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Yet at the same time I can’t escape dates. Linda’s brother contacted me last week and is donating some money to our old church as a memorial to Linda – great. But that’s not me; my memorial to Linda is to live again, and let her life count for something through what I do, say and share with others. If others can find peace with God through me talking about, and leaning upon, our experiences then I’m being true to Linda and her legacy.

I shared my story at a local Parish church’s men’s group a few weeks ago. The first time I had publicly told my story and invited people to respond to God. Most of the people who were there were already Christians, but at the end of it I found myself being approached by a number of them, relating to different parts of my story. One man had lost his wife to cancer shortly before their Golden Wedding Anniversary and wanted to talk about the loneliness. Another wanted to talk about his wife, who having lost several close people to cancer had turned her back on God.

And then yesterday I visited someone I’ve been walking with for the last 3-years. On Friday he goes for a second MRI scan on what looks horribly like it could be a cancer – and he has no-one. In my mind I sat in that consultant’s room again like I did 6 years ago, and felt again the feelings of helplessness, of fear, of the walls closing in and the terror of the unknown. “I’ll walk that journey with you” I promised him – if there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that we’re not meant do it alone. I then prayed God would heal him – ‘cos I still believe in a miracle working God.

But there’s also another good reason for not doing dates – we as a family are all moving on with our life, as Linda asked us to. Dragging up the dates again and making a big thing of the anniversary of Lindbut a’s death is not going to help the kids, who are extremely happy. There are times they talk about mummy, and are very respectful, but they are also embracing life, growing up and changing rapidly.

Life moves on. Very fast. But I have also had to accept that what we have been through over the last 6-years is something that will always be with us. It’s part of who I am now. It shapes me, and influences how I approach people; it makes me realise how short life is and makes me want to live life again – yes at a hundred miles an hour, but I don’t want to waste a minute!

OK, I still cry – I just don’t let anyone see. Reliving the feelings will always hurt – when you love someone and lose them, well, it just hurts. Healing is not the absence of pain – it’s being prepared to look into those dark areas of life and know God has given you a second chance.

And that’s something else that I have learnt. Just how amazing God’s grace is, that gives us what we don’t deserve. To start to live again and experience God using what you have been through to help others is great; but to experience Father’s embrace to me personally as his child as he pours amazing things into my lap, my cup running over, it’s just beyond words.

I’ve also found that the logicality of Christian faith, based upon good trustworthy evidence means that we don’t have to base what we believe on feelings. It’s really true, and if that’s the case then God can be trusted even when things don’t go as we want.

And I guess that’s the legacy I want to share with others 12-months on – the God of second chances who gives us what we don’t deserve, who is real and can be trusted no matter how we feel.