As I write this today I recall just 3 years ago yesterday [on the last Thursday of the month 31 October 2019] I was about to leave my beloved wife Carole in the Palliative Care ward in a neighbouring town. She always wanted me to drive home before it got dark and I was fulfilling her wishes. But it had been a very sad day. Carole had been lying there all day and no communication had been possible with her for all the hours I spent at her bedside that day.
As I rose to leave, I thought I would whisper in her ear that I loved her very much and would be back early the next day. As I did so I went on to add words like, “Carole, if you want to go home to the Lord and to your Mum and Dad, I will be alright. Thank you for having loved me for these wonderful 53 years together. I love you! See you in the morning.”
As I walked out of the room, I turned to look at my beloved again with the hope that I would see a miracle, such as her awaking and perhaps saying, “The Lord has healed me.” [That had been my prayer that the Lord would surprise all the medical experts who had told me some days before that Carole could not live longer than a few days.] But she didn’t awaken and so I committed her body, mind and spirit to the Lord so that His will would be accomplished in her life. I drove home thanking the Lord that He had heard my prayer and would answer it in His way and in His time.
Fortunately for me two of our 3 children were at my home. Just two hours later the staff at the Palliative Care ward rang to say that they had prepared Carole for the night but when they returned a few minutes later they found that she had passed away. How does one cope when one hears the worst news that one could possibly hear? I found myself ringing, texting and emailing all my family and friends who had loved her so much and writing a tribute to her expressing all she had meant to me and to every person she had ever been in contact with.
I had always counselled those who were bereaved to ask the Lord to enable them to cope in the best way possible for them and to remember that every person is different. There is no one pattern for coping. In the days before Carole’s thanksgiving service I had asked folk here in Australia and in America to send me any memories they had of Carole so that we could read some of them out in the service. As the replies came in, I was quite moved by the depth of appreciation and love that so many people had for Carole. Their words blessed me enormously and continue to bless me as I recall some of them from time to time.
Now 3 years later, how am I coping? It took me a while to get back into the swing of things. Attending church was not easy, for Carole and I would sit together during the service, a privilege that had not been ours during the 38 years when I was leading services out front. Suddenly it was just me sitting alone. I had read about many bereaved folk saying that they felt the presence of their departed loved ones in the home each day. But what I felt was Carole’s absence. Yet I have a firm picture in my mind of Carole being with Jesus from the moment she drew her last breath. “Absent from the body. Present with the Lord” were the words I had engraved on her plaque on her resting place at the Cemetery. That is my firm conviction, and my certain hope is that I will join her on that day when the Lord says, “Time to come home, Jim.”
Carole had always encouraged me in ministry even when she first came into the Youth Group I was leading and right throughout my ministry. So I felt led to continue writing blog articles knowing that is what she wanted me to do and believing that was what the Lord wanted me to do as well. One of the joys I have each day is switching on my computer and seeing a photo of Carole taken by a photographer just before she was driven to church for our wedding. Carole didn’t like having her photo taken at any time but this is a beautiful photo of a beautiful girl about to give herself in marriage to the most blessed man in the world -me! The photo always gives me a deep stab of sadness before I go on to praise the Lord for bringing Carole into my life and blessing our marriage for 53 wonderful years. That has led to the joy of having three children, four grandchildren and three step grandchildren. My sadness turns into praise and thanksgiving to God for the gifts of His grace in the people He brought into my life, especially my beloved Carole.
Yes, I am coping, but life is different. I feel that much of my life died when Carole passed away. I no longer have the love of my life to have and to hold and to tell her how much I love her. I have lost my very best friend ever. No longer do I hear those words, ”I love you so much!” nor feel those loving arms around me. Life is different. Yet in spite of all that I have lost, I am extremely grateful for all the blessings He has poured out on me and on our family over all those years. God is love and He pours His love into human hearts which are open to Him. Romans 5:5 “and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
How wonderful it has been to experience the love of God through Carole’s heart and through her lips as she expressed her love for me. I often prayed this prayer as I married couples, “Lord, in Your love deepen their love!” It was certainly like that for me as I experienced God’s love being poured out on me through the deep love Carole poured out on me!
To God be the glory! Great things He has done! [And is continuing to do in His great mercy and love.]
Blog No.441 posted on Friday 28 October 2022