As the dust settles

"... why do you stand here looking into the sky?" Acts 1.11


As a minister, habitually I warn people about the shock of grief, even when the death of a loved one is expected. So, how is it that two days after the death of my own father I am disinclined to feel sad? Truth be told, we started grieving for Dad ten years ago, when his brain began to atrophy through Alzheimer's Disease. It was hardest at the start, while he understood what was happening: "Don't treat me as an idiot," he pleaded. As if!


In fact, as his mental health declined and began to affect his physical prowess, our affection and respect for him grew. I saw it in his friends and acquaintances, as well as in his grandchildren: rather then feeling sorry for him, we admired him all the more, for the way he conducted himself through his decline, proving that those qualities we so cherished were not mere affectations, they were instinctive to him. Even his carers treated him with a touching mixture of affection and deference - or maybe that was my mother's influence: they could tell they were under the scrutiny of one not inclined to suffer fools!


My devotional reading today was all about "that look" one gives those beloved people, things, places when the time for parting comes: "Longing looks are accompanied with longing hearts... Too late do we learn that the days of the present are the good old days. Our longing for something deeper and fuller sometimes makes us blind to the richness of present realities." Is my inability to feel sorrow down to my reluctance to let go, or because I let go a long time ago? Or maybe it has to do with that dream, where I saw my father as he now is: resplendent in his resurrection body?


Perhaps I should take a stroll. Autumn is my favourite time of year: all those berries and the turning colours! Yet it is also fleeting, which calls for savouring while it lasts... Even as I contemplate the prospect, I am conscious that I would not be walking alone. Bereavement is a cycle and one we share with others: friends, family, those we might not realise are sharing our grief. How are they feeling? Are they coping? May our hearts reach out to one another across the void - and find that "underneath are those everlasting arms" which alone can provide the comfort we crave.


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