Comfort in grief.

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(Excerpt of a letter from Ben Franklin to the widow of his brother John Feb. 1756)

“That bodies should be lent to us is a kind and benevolent act of God. When they become unfit for these purposes and afford us pain instead of pleasure – instead of an aid, become an encumbrance and answer none of the intentions for which they were given – it is equally kind and benevolent that a way is provided by which we may get rid of them.

Death is that way … Why should you and I be grieved at this, since we are soon to follow, and know where to find him.”

Needlessly hard?

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I recently spent hours in A and E with my granddaughter, her third bout of severe chest pains in two weeks. Even the consultant couldn’t find the cause, though they were able, from numerous tests, to rule out many things. Only strong analgesics are able to stop the pain, leaving her unable to have a clear head for her A levels (she missed one altogether the morning I was with her). Doubtless stress is adding greatly to her condition.
I felt dis-empowered. All I could give in the way of comfort were empty platitudes. You see, riding the tide of being an outstanding, straight A student, she has embraced extreme and antagonistic atheism. She now feels “religion” is for the ignorant and gives her little brother a hard time about his simple faith.
I’ve been blessed with so many infallible proofs that faith comes naturally to me, but I can still remember the dreadful pressure of purely self-reliance before I came to know God. My greatest joy at salvation was the realisation that there was a power beyond me and it was loving, benevolent. I knew my own inadequacy and that of my fellow humans. Minus God we were without hope.
She looked to the doctors to “fix” her and grew angry at them when they couldn’t help. But doctors are not God, just sincere human beings, overworked, and often sick or in pain themselves (the consultant shared how he himself suffered severe back pain and just had to “grin and bear it” so he could tend to others, encouraging her to go ahead with the A levels regardless.)
Normally I’d offer prayer, phone others to pray for her, remind that God was in control and would take care of the A levels, but I could do none of these. I prayed silently for her but it was hard to have faith for a miracle as I had the feeling that God may believe the lesson to be more important than instant healing. I know He loves her and is working in her life, that He will take care of everything long-term, but it’s hard to see her suffer like this knowing comfort and help are so close by.
My youngest daughter expressed a while back that even if God were not real she’d rather go through life believing He was because of the comfort it brings – the de-stressing element. I know what she means. Not everyone has been blessed with seeing all the miracles we have but my heart aches for the true atheist, all alone with nothing but his flawed fellow man to fall back on, shouldering the horrors of this world knowing in his heart he is powerless to stop the hate, the suffering, even in his own life. Our choices can change a great deal but they can’t bring back the dead, heal a child, deal with all the hate and greed. Man tries to be his own God, he endeavours, often sincerely, to help his fellow man, but the honest heart knows how far we fall short – life has a way of teaching us, at that point, without a force beyond ourselves, how empty and hopeless the void.

When Words Aren’t Enough.

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flash fiction from 2014

Song Bird Songs

sad woman

Drowning in words she headed toward the cafeteria.
“Kate, I heard what happened, I…” Kate waved the comment away. She couldn’t handle any more. Changing course she stormed through the fire exit.

Fingers fumbling she lit a cigarette glaring defiantly at the office windows. They meant well but…
A chill wind stirred the leaves amid the vacant cars, a comforting emptiness surrounded her. Trapped in her brain words kept pounding, trying to get out, a surging tide they engulfed her entwined together by the statement “It’s malignant.”

“It’s not fair…” she muttered to the leaves. The tiny words, finding a crack, forced outward like water breaching a dam.
“It’s not fair! I don’t want to die!” she yelled, the wind scattering words like leaves about the plot. She glimpsed anxious faces pressed at the windows. Sinking to her knees she covered her face as shameful, angry tears enveloped her.

She…

View original post 149 more words

A Strange Physician.

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(from September 2014)

Song Bird Songs

oak tree

Leaves rustled in the early morning breeze, the trees seemed to quiver at her approach as if in sympathy. She had to go, come to her special place, the place she felt the comfort of eons.
Sitting beneath the old oak that had sheltered her as a child she let go, face in hands, sobs rending the silent stillness. When she could no longer hold on to her smile, when she felt the pressure build to an unbearable pitch she came here.
John was slowly wasting away and there was nothing they could do to stop it. His giant frame that had once carried her across the threshold was now worn and shriveled like a deceased nut in its skeletal shell, skin stretched over bone in lurid relief, a travesty of her man.

She had to smile for him, had to go on loving till her heart tore in tiny…

View original post 198 more words

Grains of Sand. (flash fiction)

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rocky

Slamming on the brakes Dee pulled into the curb. Scrambling down the rocky incline she breathed hard, her starved lungs seizing ravenously on the fresh salty air. Wrestling off her stilettoes toes wriggled luxuriously in soft cool sand. Before her stood the ocean, as vast and all-encompassing as it had ever been. Eyes long encased by concrete décor feasted on space, on blue and emerald… At last here she was alone with the ocean. It hadn’t changed.

Sitting on a rock she thrilled to the cold shock of the waves around her ankles, giggling like a school girl. She cared nothing for the salt spray staining her Dior skirt – she was free! It was all behind her now, the career, the smashed relationship, even the arrogant brats she’d mothered for so long, even them for this moment. Perhaps later she’d bring them here, perhaps they’d understand … perhaps… They’d never been hers, not really, no more than Phil had been hers, she’d been merely one in a progression of stepmothers, to be used and discarded. Gazing down at the diamond studied wedding band on her finger she wrenched it off watching with grim satisfaction as it plummeted beneath the tide.

She could have sold it reason argued. No. She wanted nothing from him, nothing. It was over. She was free! Removing the scarlet headscarf she tossed her remaining curls in the brisk ocean air. They were thin now; the radiation had decimated her beauty but not her spirit. Whatever time she had left she’d spend it here beside the ocean reliving her childhood dreams. A single tear escaped. No she would not weep, not any more. She’d instead relish every moment. She’d hire a companion, there was money of her own enough for that … perhaps an old friend… they’d walk the beach together and dream and reminisce till the last grains of sand trickled from the glass…

One More Chill Pill. (Affection)

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hug

“Love, love, love!” As the song goes, well it would be nice if we could all be in love (and that can sure lift depression pretty fast!) but since that is rarely in our control it’s humble cousin affection is a lot more easily available.

Here in the land of the “stiff upper lip” etc. we tend to be less affectionate than our southern European cousins. Perhaps that’s why we are such avid animal lovers. If no one human is on hand when you need that affection boost pets are always happy to stand in and stroking and petting a dog or cat is hugely therapeutic!

Again science has produced studies on the mood enhancing benefits of hugs and affection. I had my own unique experience many years ago while working as a teacher and counselor in a summer camp for teenagers. I was under intense pressure at the time due to a personnel shortage, when a sweet lady, new to the post, came to ask if I could switch roles and stand in for a difficult class as someone had come down sick. She was startled to see my facade (which I could already barely hold together) crack. (As I recall I mumbled something about “feeling more like jumping off the balcony”. lol!)

She looked totally confused (being a complete newbie to counseling etc.) In desperation she just grabbed me into an enormous bear hug and just held me mumbling some platitude that it would “be alright”. The platitude did nothing but somehow that long, long, hug (must have been about 10 minutes) did the trick. When the coordinator got time to ask with a concerned face what was wrong I was able to answer with a sunny smile that it was all fine now (He gave me a much needed day off anyway.)

I learned from that incident and found when “talking someone through something” it helped enormously to lightly touch their arm or shoulder. Since then I’ve tried hard to overcome my post war British upbringing and be more affectionate. I’m happy my children and grand children all grew up that way. I’m concerned that there are so many laws and regulations about teachers and policemen etc. not touching people. I know it’s supposedly to avoid sexual harassment, but we all know what crosses the line and sometimes kids or folks going through trauma could benefit greatly from a simple arm around the shoulder to show we care. I think we should  all dish out lots and lots of affection it might help mental health!

More chill pills”. (exercise and nature)

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forest walking

This particular chill pill (exercise) is widely used, even as an alternative to anti-depressants. Its physical effects are scientifically measurable. Not being a science wiz I won’t go into that here, rather stick with how I apply it.

It depends somewhat on what I’m trying to deal with. I find yoga stretches (I don’t do the spiritual stuff but the stretches and breathing are great!) help me slow down, alleviate stress and relax (great chill pills!)

If on the other hand I’m angry or upset and about to “blow a gasket” the exercise has to be vigorous. In my case usually a very fast paced walk (never get in my way when I’m doing this lol!) The coursing energy seems to take the anger or whatever out along with it. Gradually it seeps away and as exhaustion kicks in I slow down and (if I planned it right to end up in nature) I become aware of the beauty around me. I’m then calm enough to pray and God never fails to show me how to deal with the problem (the last bit is optional for non-Christians).

The fast walk works much better than bopping someone on the nose lol!  When younger my kids and friends would always cover for me when I’d say through gritted teeth, “I need to go for a walk! Now!” They knew! Thankfully it’s been years since I’ve had to do that, guess we mellow with age. Of course you don’t have to walk, it can be anything vigorous, one of my daughters actually bought a small punch bag and boxing gloves and one of my son in laws (who did karate etc.) told me he used to go down in the basement and brake two by fours with his hands when he was mad at his dad lol!

So on to the other chill pill – nature. Probably most of us have experienced its calming effects (if you haven’t get off that seat and find the nearest lake or forest right now!) Before I became a Christian (having less chill pills at hand) I would go find the nearest tree (or forest if available). There’s just something about trees I can’t explain, but they give off vibes, calm, patient, understanding vibes. Water is also a great relaxant. It has been proved scientifically that ocean waves have a calming effect (something to do with positive and negative eons – wish they’d had science at my school it’s fascinating! No science for girls in my day, sigh!)

You do need to slow down to take in the nature well though. A jog with head phones may help but you really need to actually stop, look, listen, smell and take it all in to get the full benefit. Man was not created to live in cities. Nature is our natural environment and when we return to that our bodies give an inward sigh and start repair work (which is why when we visit the sea or countryside we often get “sleeping sickness”, our bodies are able to relax and make up for lost time.)

I find the combination of nature and exercise works great together especially at those times you think you’re gonna “blow a gasket”. One more chill pill to go. Can you guess what it is?