Trigger Warning: Bereavement, Funerals and Covid19
The beginning few weeks of 2021 have been very heavy on our hearts. And I have been extremely hesitant about writing this post. It may seem a little strange with my having recently written about the Covid19 vaccination roll out here in the UK. But life really is a challenge for us all, that’s for sure. And this post may make my support for the vaccine more clear. I have come up against opinions I really struggle with, and have had to bite my tongue and verbally walk away, so as not dishonor those I hold dear. But this is not a political post. And not a rant. Although quite honestly, it could easily be.
I will get to the sad and difficult point.
A Great Loss
My husband’s dear father, my father-in-law, passed away at the beginning of 2021. Having been suffering from Dementia, our worst fears were realised when he contracted Covid19 at the lovely Care Home which he had been resident at for only a few months. The Dementia having become too advanced to be managed at home any longer.
It is an absolute testament to my mother-in-law’s love for him, that she had coped so well for so long. And not forgetting my sister-in-law and husband, who have been pivotol in helping manage the unpredictable impact of this cruel illness as it progressed. Along with ensuring appropriate and vital additional support was put in place. That was a battle in itself for the family.
We feel robbed. As although he was 97 years of age. His cheery disposition and delight of a cup of tea, which he had swiftly become known for in the care home, we had expected to continue for some while.
The last time I was able to travel to see my father-in-law, he was still a bright, alert and sprightly 95-year-old. With my lovely mother-in-law. His wisdom, kindness and exacting mind still shining through. I am fortunate to have that memory.
Also of attending his 90th Birthday celebration, beautifully organised by my sister-in-law and her husband. It was wonderful to be there with so many family. I will never, ever regret the payback and subsequent lengthy MEcfs relapse from being there to celebrate with everyone.
I couldn’t attend his funeral, as so many couldn’t. It was too far away for my travel capacity. Few family or friends could attend, due to restrictions. But many local folk were present to clap him off from the family home. That just shows the person he was. The man who at 80 would think nothing of climbing a ladder to fix the guttering for the ‘old boy‘ up the road.
My father-in-law was a man of unshakable faith. With great wisdom, knowledge, calmness and kindness. The fact that the live stream of his funeral service went wrong would not have ruffled his feathers. A technical fault. As I sobbed and scrabbled to find the hymns on youtube and read the scriptures in my bible, bleary eyed. Thank goodness I had a copy of the Order of service.
Thank you so much to my sister-in-law for that foresight and organisation.
I could hear my father-in-law’s kind voice saying “don’t worry Penny. Don’t upset yourself.” As I sobbed. And as a relative overseas expressed their and the displeasure of all the mourners waiting in front of their respective screens at the mess up.
My eyes like pickled onions.
The recording of the service became available a day later. There would have been many people waiting to join the live stream.
The Live Stream
With the encouragement from our young folk, I plucked up courage to watch in tandem with them, as they watched in their respective locations. They are amazing! We couldn’t even meet with them to hug. My husband busied himself elsewhere in the house, and so kindly brought herbal tea when he knew the recording had finished. I couldn’t expect him to go through it all again.
The eulogies combined by the Reverend leading the service could never have been long enough to describe my father-in-law’s life and all the many lives he touched through faith. They were so many!
More pickled onion eyes.
My lovely sister-in-law thankfully sent the visual image tributes before the service recording was available. Two stand out as they are so like a dream I had a few years ago. Of emerging from a brick shed, with a dusty window on its door.
Peering out I saw a garden full of lilac blue flowers swaying in a gentle breeze, a high weathered walled garden. Giving the sense of great happy anticipation beyond, a pathway and seat infront of abundant green foliage. Suggesting a route ahead. A place to sit, to wait, to be greeted. Just like the photos taken by my sister-in-law on a trip to a local park with my parents-in-law when it was still possible.
Uncanny really. I can imagine Jesus coming to meet my father-in-law at that seat. What a greeting that will have been.
Matthew 25:21 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
My father-in-law and my mother-in-law were the first people I called when my own father made a very premature and unexpected exit 20 years ago. I couldn’t think of anyone I would rather have spoken to. Their words ‘thank you for choosing us‘ nearly broke me further. Such kindness and humbleness. The same people who helped me learn about unconditional love.
I prayed over my earthly father when he died, that he had accepted Jesus in his heart in his last moments. I was permitted to see him, difficult and surreal though it was. Expecting him to sit up, laugh and walk out.
The utter tragedy of losing a loved one in current times, is that so many people haven’t been and can’t be there to say goodbye. See and touch that person even when they’ve passed away. It’s not allowed. As was the case for our family, they may not have been permitted to visit those resident in care homes for months prior. It’s just too sad, too painful.
Not having had the opportunity to visit and talk is awful. And as many people will know, phonecalls and video calls aren’t suitable for dementia sufferers in any way.
I hope people will be offered so much grace, support and understanding. Not the stock phrase ‘they were a ripe old age, they had a good life‘ etc etc. As the loss of a loved one is painful at any age.
So we do our best to trust in our heavenly Father and His goodness, to heal our aching hearts. Not just today, or tomorrow. But going into the future. As those waves of grief try to engulf us, we hang on to the rock and press into his warmth, love and comfort. The anchor, the constant the beacon. That which I saw in my father-in-law for the part of his earthly life that I knew him, which was almost as long as I’d known my own father. And for which I am, we are, forever blessed.
I can still see him with his Bible tucked under his arm ready to head off to a prayer meeting with a smile. The arm held out to my mother-in-law as they walked together or sat arm in arm.
His constant care and concern for his family, storytelling with the children and swinging them in a blanket in the garden when they were small.
This scripture was underlined in his a Bible Commentary
Colossians 1:16-17 NLT … for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
17 He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together.Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
I have recently been given one of my father-in-laws Bibles. Which I am so grateful for. If I can aspire to be one tenth of the Christian he was I will feel accomplished.
Be at peace with our Saviour
We love you more than words can say.