Sometimes things happen which stretch us all to the limit and really test our faith in God. One of our parishioners has submitted this story which really made me quite emotional when I read it. I challenge you to read the story and then reflect on events in your own life where you can see the hand of God.
When our daughter, Ruth, announced at the beginning of lockdown that she was pregnant, Alan and I were delighted and not a little amazed. She was “elderly” in medical terms – would be 45 by the time the baby was born. We were looking forward to being very involved, adding to our frequent trips to Sheffield where most of our family now lived.
Throughout lockdown, it became evident to me that Alan’s health was failing fast. He had already survived almost seven years with leukaemia, but a number of connected health problems had left him weakened and diminished. Lockdown was therefore difficult, but at least we had the baby to look forward to – and regular zoom meetings with our four children and our other three grandchildren.
In August, Ruth began to panic that her bedroom ceiling, which had had a drooping bit of plasterboard taped up for a while was getting worse, and it was just over where she would be putting the baby’s cot. She contacted several plasterers, none of whom would commit to a date to come and sort it. Eventually she found one who could do it at the end of September (leaving just six weeks before the baby was due). He refused to board over the old ceiling, but had no time to pull it down. Essentially, this would have to be a DIY job, with a two day window just before the new ceiling went up. I had helped with two similar projects before, so was confident it could be done, but my sons and son in law were hesitant. It was obvious that Alan was not in any fit state to help, so in the end I masterminded it myself, and plans were put into place.
Before this happened, however, Alan became very ill and was taken into hospital. After four days of not being able to visit him, and mostly unsuccessful attempts to speak to him on the phone, the doctor rang to give me the news that he was not going to recover, and that it would be a matter of days. Five days after he had been admitted, Alan was able to talk to me and his children quite coherently, and prayed with us, as well as receiving an anointing. He died in the night, quietly and peacefully, leaving us in shock, but thankful that his suffering had been short-lived and his end peaceful.
The funeral was to take place exactly a week after he died, and was not difficult to organise. The weekend in between, however, was the date when the plasterer was coming – and the ceiling was not yet down! So two days after Alan’s death, in a scenario which could only be described as surreal, my son Brendan, my son in law Rhodri and myself , dressed in serious PPE embarked on a two day project to pull down a ceiling in a house which had been collecting soot for almost a hundred years.
It was unbelievably unpleasant and physically demanding work, and we felt like giving up, but the baby was depending on us to provide a safe environment. The three of us worked hard and it was a good bonding opportunity. It felt both wrong and right to be doing this immediately after a bereavement (people I told looked at me as if I was either unfeeling or deranged!)– but we knew that if Alan had been around, he would have got stuck in with us. For me, labore est orare – to work is to pray, and it felt like a sacred duty to complete this task during the week of “no-mans land” which preceded the funeral.
Finally, the work was completed twelve hours before the plasterers were due to arrive the next morning, and they did their part beautifully. We could get on with the funeral. We hadn’t finished with the setbacks, however, as our oldest son received a positive Covid result the day before and he and his wife and daughter were unable to attend. But we overcame this with the aid of the live streaming, and an additional “zoom” camera which my youngest son wore. Father Michael helped to ensure that the vigil and the funeral were uplifting and meaningful, and the restrictions imposed by lockdown were not in the end a problem.
These few weeks should on the face of it, have been a time of discouragement and sadness. Somehow, though, thanks to the many prayers of our family and friends, and the help of the Holy Spirit, it has been a most uplifting and almost triumphant time, We looked soot, Covid and even death in the face and were not defeated. And finally, I was able to look at the perfect little face of our granddaughter, peacefully sleeping in a room with a pristine ceiling . God is good.
Now listen to the daily readings, click to download,,,,,,