Monthly Archives: December 2015

For the New Year

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As 2015 slips inexorably towards the uncharted territory of a new year, it is difficult not to be caught up in the endless reviews of this year, resolutions for the next twelve months and all the hype that accompanies what is really just another day. But … there is something about moving into a new year that can renew your sense of optimism and hope, although this will undoubtedly be dimmed if you have recently lost a loved one.

If that is the case, then you will find that passing from an old year into a new year is incredibly difficult as you are moving into a new time and space that lacks the presence of the person or people you have lost.

It is a time which underlines loss and that can be particularly tough.

I wrote this poem as we approached 2006, the first New Year after losing James, when the raw loss was felt so acutely, and his presence in my thoughts at that time brought me great comfort.

Wishing everyone a healthy and peaceful 2016.

 

Step bravely forward into the New Year

Shrug off grief’s grey mantle of fear

Know that I shadow your every tread

Helping you to face whatever lies ahead

 

Hovering at the periphery of your sight

I am just out of view, a star in the dark night

Feel my breath in the sigh of the breeze

Learn that I am your mind’s true ease

 

Let sunlight brush the clouds from your vision

Place my thoughts into your daily decisions

Open the box of all our sweet memories

Listen to others when they share my stories

 

As you forge a path through complex days

Believe that I grow, in a safe, free place

My life is no more on this earth plane

Yet my soul lives on, to ease your pain.

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A festive Message

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Maybe it was The First Baby Shower Ever …

 At this time of year, when we have just passed the solar nadir that is the winter solstice and our days will gradually be stretching out again, many people across the globe are preparing to celebrate the ultimate coming of light into the world, through the story of the nativity and the birth of the Saviour on Christmas Day.

Whatever your beliefs it is a pleasure to embrace the symbolism of new life that is just around the corner.

Just imagine the darkness as Mary and Joseph toiled through inhospitable land to be turned away when they sought a place to stay. Their purpose was single minded; not for them the distractions of electronics, shopping, internet and social media: they were travelling to Bethlehem to return to Joseph’s birthplace and to await the birth of their son.

We can only imagine the panic that must have set in when Mary was in the throes of labour and there was no comfortable place for the couple to rest. The contrast is immense between the arrival of Jesus in a lowly stable and the greatness that was to follow; something that makes the whole story unique.

The light, soul and spirit of the nativity as it is told every Christmas conspire together to bring us joy and optimism in the renewal and continuation of life.

And then … following the bright star of light that signalled this amazing event … three wise men turned up bringing their significant gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Quite some baby shower in recognition of the arrival of the baby who would become so important to the world! Mary did indeed pass from darkness into light with the arrival of her son.

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I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.                             Learning to Walk in the Dark: Barbara Brown Taylor

I confess. I have not yet read the book. It is on my reading list. But I recently heard it being reviewed on the radio and the premise of actually needing darkness intrigued me immediately. Only by living through the extremes of darkness and light can we assimilate and respond to the whole spectrum of meaning in our lives.

A wound is followed by a blessing.

We bleed but we heal over.

We are crushed and we are downtrodden, but we are not beaten.

Moving from the impenetrable darkness of early grief into the light of living in new normality is a pivotal part of my grieving process for the loss of my own son James, with which I have lived for the past ten years.

Life contains gifts that we never anticipate, and it is on these that I plan to focus at Christmas rather than the loss of those with whom I would ideally be sharing the celebrations.

The turn of the year’s circle brings us round to Christmas again. It is our eleventh festive season without James and here we are, still standing, still living, still counting blessings for the life we now have. Our children and in turn their children provide the continuum for the future and bring us much joy.

Thank you to everyone who has read my words this year; they reflect my own opinions and musings. Thank you too for all the wonderful support and encouragement I continue to receive.

I wish you a blessedly peaceful time over the festivities.

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Worldwide Candle Lighting Sunday 13 December 7pm

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A poem for the TCF Candle-Lighting

The candle is lit; see the light

Soft at first, then glowing bright

Like a beacon in the night

Bringing you to our mind’s sight.

Clever match with tiny spark

Dispels the fears held in the dark

On memory’s journey we can embark

Recalling how you left your mark.

The flame burns strong and tall and true

Spirited; reminding us of you

How wonderfully through our lives you blew

Our pride and hope and love you drew.

And if in sadness, our tears should flow

There is comfort in the candle’s glow

Solace and healing may be slow

But gradual joy we come to know.

We breathe in light in this special space

And feel soothed as darkness is displaced

Your love held close, never to replace

It stays as dear as your smiling face.

The candle is lit; see the light shine

The flame is upright and clear and fine

A symbol of peace; across the world we align

United in loss, be it yours or mine.

Adc/December2015

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Can you feel The Agape?

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Can you feel the Agape?

No I don’t mean can you feel the breeze whistling past your tonsils as you stand with your mouth wide open. Agape, (pronounced Ah-gah-pay) is a word I have only just discovered. Now I have read a little about it and I have also heard a rather lovely song about it (Agape, by Bears Den). It seems appropriate to consider the concept of Agape at this reflective time of year.

Stop rushing around, put down that tinsel and wrapping paper, and consider whether you can walk with the concept of Agape, or not.

One definition of Agape, which comes from Greek, is unconditional love that is always giving and impossible to take. It devotes total commitment to seeking your highest best no matter how anyone may respond. This form of love is totally selfless and does not change whether the love given is returned, or not.

That is a tall order for mere humans! – we naturally tend to measure our giving and receiving love, and ego may tell us that we are the best judges as whether we should give our love or not. But a key principle of Agape love is that is not about mutual point scoring, it is freely given without anticipation of return. Agape can be viewed as the highest form of love, and it encompasses the best of brotherly love and charity. It is further described as the love of God for man and of man for God, to illustrate something of its selfless and giving nature.

In his book Resilient, Sheridan Voysey sums up his view of Agape when he writes: Good relationships are intrinsically mutual, and business should be fair—reciprocity has its place. But in my darkest, weakest, most fruitless moments I need Agape. And with God’s strength, I want to give it. Beyond business deals and mutual friendship, I want to give without requiring anything in return.

Dogs are a good example of Agape love. Whether they are ignored or pampered, they wag their tails and greet us with affection. The beginning of each day is an especially happy time for dogs, they bring no baggage with them from the day before and this is an example that we would do well to follow. They give unconditionally, and do not differentiate between getting a scolding or a stroke in return. They are entirely unaffected by our response to their Agape; they just keep on giving regardless.

We feel Agape love for our children from the moment they are born and as a mother who has lost her son I still feel Agape love for James; that will remain unchanged and undiminished for the rest of my life.

And maybe it is that Agape love that keeps his memories so strong in my heart; he is with me for every beat.

I like too the saying, Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift, for we have no idea what each day will bring. That seems to me to sit well with the principles of Agape love that has a purity of spirit about it which neither carries nor demands, it just is.

It is Agape love that draws us to acts of charity and in particular at this time of year we are more sensitive to the needs of others and may be practising a degree of Agape without even realising it.

Here are some definitions of Agape – I am sure you can find more?

Agape love is strong, powerful and forgiving.

Agape is the love that is shared in robust relationships that have gone past the heady days of trying to impress.

Agape loves in such a way that it makes us feel cherished and beautiful.

Agape is based upon giving through sharing and understanding that when you share, you are not losing anything, but you are gaining.

Agape love transcends the concept of needing to be forgiven

To even scratch at the surface of the concept of Agape love I begin to see that it is necessary to set aside the rules that we accept as the norm in our philosophical loving relationships: by this I mean that we generally measure love in give and take terms. Thus we limit ourselves in our capacity for Agape love as these terms do not apply in a love which is both sharing and unconditional.

It should be easy to define something that is totally without demands or requirements, but it is not!

Theologian William Barclay, noted: Agape has to do with the mind: it is not simply an emotion which rises unbidden in our hearts; it is a principle by which we deliberately live

So there we have it. Agape is a highly selfless form of love, it is a principle, it is an overwhelming, elusive something that we should aspire to if we can grasp its concepts. Perhaps this is something to grapple with as we approach the festivities.

Give yourself some thinking time and open your heart to feel the Agape!

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