I’ll walk you to your car, lass.

Civility in the city.

Anniversaries are such strange things. You think you are prepared, but you seldom are. This month is the first anniversary of my father in law’s death, and it feels really emotional. He lived a long and full life, and he accomplished amazing things, but I still feel so very tearful at his death.

I used to visit him and his wife on a Sunday evening, and they always made us a meal, even when that should have been the last thing in the world they should have been thinking about. My mother in law would make a Sunday roast dinner for us, and took great pride in getting all the details right. How she cooked in that little scullery kitchen I will never know!

And then at the end of the evening, Tom would say to me ‘ I’ll walk you to your car, lass’. Everytime he said this, I would just be blown away. It was an old fashioned courtesy, offered as if it was so self evident that this was the only possible thing to do. They lived in the top flat, parking on the street was often difficult, and do with my parking skills, my car was often far away. But still he pull on his cap and jacket, and would accompany down the stairs. He would wave me out of my parking place, stopping the other traffic, just to make sure I got home ok.

That weekly courtesy was one of many, and just spoke of his kindness and manners. Even when he was less well, it took me all my time to stop him escorting me down the stairs, even when I protested that it was raining, and I didn’t want him to get wet.

Sometimes it is these little things that are so moving, so symbolic of his life, his thoughtfulness and humility and self effecting nature. Yet he also held strong views on politics, art and culture. He was incredibly witty, loved conversation and was stimulating company at dinner. He was an artist, with an independent vision and style. He was a brilliant husband, father in law, dad and grandpa. So sorely missed.

May we never take our loved ones for granted. May we take time to remember them, all the memories, good and bad, funny and poignant. May we have space to speak of them fondly, and to laugh and to reminisce. Every day is so precious.

In psalm 90 verse 12, the psalmist says : ‘ teach us to number our days, that we may gain a wisdom of the heart.’ Appreciating what we have, is just so vital, giving us thankful hearts, and puts all things in perspective.

Gracious God, our times are in your hands,and we are so grateful for all who have gone before us, who have shared their lives with us, who inspired us, and loved us. Lord Jesus, help us treasure all the ways You have blessed us, all the people who have shown us kindness. Holy Spirit, may the example of those who have gone before us, inspire us to live each day for good, that we may love and show compassion and thoughtfulness to others, and to seek to make this world a better place. Amen.

A legacy of wonder- the ice cubes are dancing!

We have had a beautiful weekend- my amazing son Andrew has become 21 years old. For a mum, you wonder where all the years went- they pass so quickly in a whirl.

It has been a very emotional time. We are so sad that Colin – Andrew’s dad isn’t here to celebrate with us, nor Colin’s parents. So much loss, and a big gaping hole in our lives. Having tried to write a little about Colin’s life too, my soul is full of the things that went wrong, times of illness and irritation.

However I also wrote some personal notes about Andrew’s life as he grew up, just now and again, to remember some of the details of his childhood. And at the weekend, I reread these, and it has been so healing. It reminded me of Andrew’s courage, his complete independence as a small boy, his determination, his quirky sense of humour, his insights, his patience. Andrew has an amazing turn of phrase- like when he was small, and he looked at his orange juice one hot day, and said ‘ the ice cubes are dancing’ Once you hear this, ice cubes are never the same again, they move and clink and dance to an unheard beat. It is seeing the wonder in the ordinary.

And so, even as I look back over the years, and grieve the losses and pain of my husband’s disability, so I have been reminded of the moments of mercy and wonder in every day. I am so privileged to have a son, who has always done his own thing, and who has brought us such joy. Whether it is his love of cars and their engines, or his insights into science fiction, or his infectious enjoyment of waterfights, our lives were always full.

And I think of Jesus saying of his sheep in John chapter 10 verse 10a: ‘I have come that they might have life, and gave it to the full.’ Jesus gives us the gift of life, with its sorrows and splashes of light, to experience the sadneses of life, and moments of connection and inspiration that are so ethereal it makes you cry.

And so today, I am full of a deep gratitude, for the vivid reminder that in the midst of uncertainty and illness, God blessed us as a family with a beautiful life together- however uproarious and chaotic it looked! And Colin’s legacy lives on in Andrew’s hard work, strength, loyalty, insight and humour.

May we value our children, and all our loved ones, and tell them what they mean to us, and savour every moment we have with them. May we always pray and encourage them, so that a legacy of wonder and love, can be passed down. Let us pray

Dear God, Creator of all things, You share with us all that You are, love, mercy, goodness and truth, forgiveness, wonder and joy- as Jesus demonstrates, life in all its fullness. Life can be bittersweet, but may your holy spirit keep our hearts from becoming hard, and enable us always to see the wonder around us, and to share that dance and legacy of love with others, Amen.

” a million thankyous”

On behalf of Andrew and myself, I want to thank everyone so much who attended, and showed an interest in our booklaunch ” Love Song for a wounded warrior“. We are so greatly humbled by your prayers and good wishes and comments, and are very moved by the support of so many.

The idea of this book was to honour the memory of my late husband Colin, who wanted his memories and recollections of his time in military service, especially northern Ireland, to be published. Last night at the booklaunch, I read out one of his poems, and I was so heartened by people really listening to what it was about, and relating to the horror of war. Just in that one part of the meeting alone, it fulfilled so much of what we hoped for.

We were also grateful for the words of Shirley from Epilepsy Connections, who spoke so caringly, and with such insight as to the situation of so many people with epilepsy in Scotland, and the struggles they face. And to have Allana with us was so lovely, from the Coming Home centre, who has such a passion to support veterans and their families on their return to civilian life. The work of these two charities is inspirational and they go the extra mile to help others.

We were delighted that the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Rev Dr Martin Fair could come along, and for his words of encouragement and grace. We also heard the words of Rev Jock Stein, who edited and published the book, and who was such a brilliant support in bringing the book to this point.

Andrew speaking about the way his dad’s disability affected him, gave very real insight into the difficulties that can be faced by children of veterans. After a time of questions and answers, the meeting came to a close, but it was such a wonderful time to hear people acknowledge Colin’s story, and both he and his parents would have been so pleased.

” In my end is my beginning”

The Four Quartets – TS Eliot

I was thinking of these words – how God can bring something good, even out of the most dark and difficult of circumstances, and praying that our of this book, might come fundraising, and also conversation about how to better care for people who are veterans, people with epilepsy and brain damage. The conversation seems to have started already, and I hope that out of Colin’s life and death, God can bring something with will bless and help others.

An enormous thank you all, for participating in this process with me, whether near or far. Our society is under such pressure just now, but anything that can help us to think about how we can support people with complex needs and difficult behaviours, is surely central to that question about what it means to love and care for some of the most vulnerable in our society. I will keep blogging, because somehow I always seem to have something to say! But just now, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Dear God, we give thanks for Your faithfulness in difficult days,

For the support of friends and family, for moments of connection and care,

That out of despair and pain, can come possibilities of new beginnings.

Lord Jesus, bless all those today, who are veterans or veterans’ families,

Who are carers for people with epilepsy or disabilities,

Grant them the right support, respite, wise guidance, humour and love

In the midst of the challenges of every day life,

And guide and sustain all those who seek to support them, Amen