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Day of the Dead grief loss

Day of the dead

Conwy Beach in October 2021 with the sun trying to break through the clouds and rise. Photographed by Diane Woodrow
Conwy Beach – October 2021 – 7.35am – taken by myself

I had been planning this blog post in my head for a few days as I am learning how I need a special day when I can honour and remember those who have gone before me. Then Sunday on Facebook was a post from a friend that appeared to be saying that a mutual friend, someone who had supported myself and my husband through a time of grief, had died. Then Monday there was an email from another friend to confirm that this lovely man had had two or three heart attacks on Saturday and had not recovered. It is a reminder that death comes suddenly to anyone and seems poignant that Nigel is the first person I will mention in this post and the most recent to leave this world. He was an amazingly pastoral person. I can still picture him keeping a straight, kind face even as our puppy drank his cup of tea whilst he was praying for us, or crawled on the back of the couch behind him and rolled downwards into his neck. Those are my big memories of Nigel. And even as I pray for his family – wife, children and grandchildren – I can still smile at that memory from nine and a half years ago.

My first death that really affected me was also my first suicide. He was my boss and we went to the funeral as an office group. No one knew why he had taken his own life so we sat with pints on the table and talked of the good things about him, of which there were many. Pat taught me that people are more complicated than the novels I was reading.

My youngest death was a lad whose parents had asked my boyfriend and I, both of us in our 20s, to be the “responsible adults” at Simon’s 18th birthday party. We were very honoured. The next time we saw his parents was 10 days later at Simon’s funeral. At 18 and one day Simon had gone off on his brand new motorbike with a friend and been impaled on a lamp post. He left me with a memory of seizing every moment because of never knowing what is round the corner.

Around this similar time my grandmother died. But I had lost her around twenty years ago when she had endured a major stroke and never really spoken again. With her I learned that grief is complicated and can arise many years after the loss.

My sister’s death was more complicated but that was the relationship her and I had; complicated. But for fifty years of my life she stopped me from being an only child. I miss having a sister though I am not sure I miss her per se. Again a lesson in how complicated relationships are.

I miss my friend, Felicity. Tthe more I delve into my own writing around Welsh Medieval history the more I wish she was still here to read what I was writing. It was with her that I explore historical novels and authors that we both adored.

Our friend, Jon, took his own life just after my sister died. Even though I still have time being cross with him for his decisions I can still laugh at silly dinner party conversations we would share which would drive the rest of those at the table into frustration. One that comes to mind today is of us in fits of giggle talking of how those who built Stonehenge managed to get the stones from Wales by strapping sheep together into fluffy rafts and placing the stones on them to drift across the Bristol Channel.

I cannot end this list of names without mentioning my father-in-law. Another one who chose to take his own life but even still I will remember him as the man who welcomed me into his family, when I started dating his son, knowing that because of my age and that I already had two teenagers I would not be blessing his son with children that would carry on the family name, and of how he publicly called my two teens his grandchildren.

I am not going to list all those that I have lost because there are many and I do not want to forget any. Friends, family, colleagues, and more besides who left this world in many different ways – suicides, heart attack, cancer, accident, old age, and other ways. These today are just a snapshot of my life as well as theirs.

Each person that I have know, those mentioned by name and those not, have affected my life in many different ways, and still do even today. I’ve learned so much from those I’ve known, about life, about myself and more. Even though I grieve for the fact that they have died before me I am grateful that they were in my life for however long or short the relationship, however deep or trivial.

So I will continue to allow people close to me even if it means there could be pain in ending because life and people are too rich to not walk with for however long. This is my post to honour them

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friends friendship Godspace The little yellow book

Jesus our Friend

Diane Woodrow's dog, Renly, sitting on a rock looking up lovingly
“Can I be your friend?”

These thoughts on Jesus our friend were prompted by Lilly Lewin’s Post from 5th May entitled “Cups of Connection and Joy“, from starting talking about connection the post flows into the John 15:14&15 were Jesus tells his followers they are friends not servants.

How often do we see those in church behaving like servants, running round doing stuff, keeping the whole show on the road, even busy doing the praying stuff – which looks so righteous – but in fact they are spending time in praying, whether at alone, online, in prayer rooms, not to hang out with a friend but to serve.

When I tried to share this I was reminded that the Bible talks of asking for things, of petitioning prayers, etc as if that meant that we had to do rather than hang out with our friend. It got me thinking about my friends and how I behave with them and what I expect from a friendship. I though about the words in The Little Yellow Boat book where she says “She realised she did not want to be rescued and taken home. She wanted help to continue her quest.” She then realises those boats she had dismissed, which become her friends, all have different things to offer and different ways to help her so she goes to them for different things.

My friends are all very different and I go to them for different things and expect different things from them. I have friends who I would go to for help to do things, friends that I would go to if I was trying to workout what to do next, friends that I would walk with, others I have never walked with but drank a lot of coffee with, others no coffee but lots of meals and wine. Some of my friends are Christians like me, and some even think about God in similar ways to me. Some are of other faiths and some none. Some challenge me and turn my thinking upside down. Some are a calming influence. When I met with them I am different depending who I’m with.

I found it interesting that there are many many Bible studies and Christian groups that look at God the Father but very few what look at Jesus as our Friend. I wonder if that is because there is distance between us being able to father/parent someone else and us being someone’s friend? With talking of Father God we can stand back a bit, forgive parents and welcome in God, or if parents repent for our misplaced parenting, but perhaps we keep our distance from looking at Jesus as friend because it would challenge us more. I also think being a friend is much harder to define than being a parent. As I’ve listed above I expect different things from different friends and give differently to my different friends.

Yet every day we can get up and be a friend, in whatever guise that is, but how often do we choose to do that?