Memories, painful, therapeutic or both?

War memorial on Cumbrae

Memory is such a powerful but mysterious part of our minds and our souls. We all remember in different ways, sometimes we are good at remembering numbers, or names, or faces. Sometimes our memories are coloured by subsequent happenings, and so are hard to work out. Memories can be strong or fuzzy, or different for different types of experiences. So much is inexplicable.

This season of Remembrance is vitally important. The principle of remembering those who gave their lives in the service of their country, along with those who returned, and thinking of their families is part of being a compassionate society. When people have sacrificed so much for the sake of others, they should be honoured and remembered.

The nature of the remembering is more tricky. Everyone has their own individual experiences and perceptions, so the overall experience can be varied. It can be hard to have balance- one veteran remembers with great thanksgiving the life of a fallen comrade, whilst another is lost in the traumatic memory of a grenade exploding. Remembering is poignant.

Sometimes we want to try and forget, to repress difficult memories, but then the danger is that they bubble back to the surface after doing much damage. So we need to remember, even tough recollections, so we can process them, and become more healthy. There are many therapeutic ways of doing this, if you find the right person to be supportive. All too many veterans come back with ptsd, and need specialised support and don’t always have access to this, causing damage to self and to others.

I think of Jesus at the last supper, saying about eating the bread, and drinking the wine ‘ do this in memory of me’. He wanted his friends to know that he was willing to lay down his life out of love, snd to keep this love central in the life of the community, by continuing to celebrate this sacrament. Remembering had a sad dimension, but also had an aspect of hope.

This Remembrance Sunday, I pray that no one is struggling with dark and traumatic memories of conflict and war alone. I pray that everyone would have a safe person to be supportive, and when relevant, to signpost them to effective help. In a day of powerful emotions, may there even yet, be a sense of love, and the possibility of hope.

Creator God, You created human beings to be so amazing, and to be so beautiful, yet we can also be so conflicted and damaged. Lord Jesus, thankyou that You suffered on the cross, and that You understand our struggles and traumatic and painful memories. May the light and love of Christ dissipate the power of experiences of darkness and violence. Bring healing to all who suffer the vicissitudes of war, so that each one can find peace and meaning. May your holy spirit heal our memories, so we are free to breathe and live once more, in Jesus name, Amen.

Seizures and grace

Person in distress.

My late husband Colin had epilepsy. It sounds like such a little word, but it had such major consequences. He was  unfortunate, in that his epilespy was intractable, and so he would have 4-6 tonic clinic seizures a month, always when he was asleep.

A seizure would start with a loud guttural shout, the change of colour of skin and shaking of limbs, and then his body becoming more limp, and  the gradual restoration of a more rhythmic natural breathing occurred. It could appear pretty scary. Colin was again unfortunate, in that he had long post-ictal periods, so his brain function would not be fully restored for days.

My heart goes out to all who live with this disability. I know that many people have epilepsy that is well controlled by medication, and they have a good quality of life. However for those whose epilepsy is more difficult to manage, my prayers are especially with you, your family and friends.

I guess this is where the grace comes in. It seems like grace, when people around you are understanding. Grace when people call an ambulance when some one has a seizure on the street. Grace when people choose not to walk by on the other side of the road.

We were fortunate too, to have good support from various organisations, including Epilepsy Connections. This organisation provided great practical support, as well as a brilliant befriender. From another similar organisation, we found another support worker, who understood the nuances of how seizures can affect you, and was a brilliant help to Colin, even in demanding and unusual situations. So much grace.

Sadly I know from much personal experience how difficult it can be to support some one living with epilepsy. However it it certainly never dull, and teaches you much about love!  I hope that as a society, we might be better informed about seizures, and more open to learning, and being supportive, and I am grateful for all who work in this difficult area of medicine and social care.

In the bible, Jesus often met people having seizures, and was able to heal them, as in Matthew 4: 24. My prayer is that there would be many opportunities for healing for people with this condition.

Gracious God, You want all people to be well, to be loved, to be at peace. Yet in our world we see such suffering and illness, including epilepsy, cancer and other diseases and conditions. Lord Jesus bring healing, through Your love and power, through medicine, and through wise individuals, willing to go the extra mile. Holy spirit, when people are ill and distressed, by your grace, may there always be some one there to care, to helpfully intervene and to bless,  for in that way Your kingdom comes, Amen.