I don’t know whether it is age related, hormone related or what, but I seem to be so touched at present by the little things.  It is like the layers of my heart are beginning to finally peel away and I can only see people as Jesus sees them.

Whilst I was in Spain our “Help to feed the homeless” initiative has been slightly neglected in that I was the one running the admin side of it, and so in my absence, no one ensured that food was delivered to our house and in that way the stocks at the Salvation Army were kept replenished.  Back at Christmas when we went to Spain on holiday and to visit my family, I left one of my neighbours in charge.  This lady only lives a few doors away from me, but before I dropped the flyer about the initiative through her door, I had never seen her nor spoken to her.  Over 500 flyers were printed and delivered to people round the village and since then I have been blessed to meet people who share a common heart for those in need and those who go without the things that we take for granted every single day.

Anyway, as I knew we were away for about three weeks back at Christmas I decided to ask this lady whether she would be prepared to take charge of the receipt and delivery of the donations of food for the homeless, and she kindly agreed.  Though I did not know her that well, I knew she had a big heart for those in need as out of over 65 families donating, she was the one who would donate with the most frequency and never needed to be sent a reminder.  She never missed one donation despite the fact that she already donated through her own church.  Anyway, that was back at Christmas, but this time our trip to Spain came out of the blue and it was not out of choice that we decided to go, but out of the desperate need to go and see my mum who was in a comma at the time.  It was so sudden and urgent I never even thought of asking someone else to take over the collection and delivery of food and so, for the four weeks I was away donations diminished somewhat and people in general became more relaxed about how much and when to give.

In the midst of my pain and the turmoil of the first few days in Spain when I still did not know whether my mum would live or die , my husband sent me news from England that this lady neighbour who had helped us out with the initiative back at Christmas, had just woken up one morning to find her 20-year-old son dead in bed.  It was sudden, unexpected, and to this day the doctors do not know what caused it.  It is an occurrence which is rare and it is known as SDS (Sudden Death Syndrome).  I cannot even begin to imagine what this lady must have felt like to lose a son in those circumstances.  I know she is a Christian, but I also know what a blow like that can do to someone’s faith, to your trust in God and your hopes and dreams.

Though we barely knew each other before we met through the initiative, my heart was broken for this mother’s loss and I could not get her pain out of my head and even less out of my heart.  Perhaps my empathy was accentuated by the intensity of the experience I myself was in the middle of at the time, but the thing is that even now I still feel such pain for this person’s loss.  As I take my daughter to the bus stop every morning, I walk past this woman’s house and often see her taking her husband to the train station, and every single time I feel a lump in my throat forming and an anguish which takes minutes to clear up.  I guess God is drawing me to Himself and taking me to a place where I can begin to pray in spirit and in truth for the burdens of others.

On my return from Spain I sent this lady a card to let her know we were praying for her as a family and that we were just down the road if she ever needed someone to talk to or she needed to come round.  Days later she phoned me up and told me she was still missing her son so much, she could barely get by.  She told me that she was keen to re-start donating some food for the homeless and dropping it at our house but that she was still finding it hard to do her own shopping.  I was amazed and deeply humbled at that moment, firstly that she would have the strength to even pick up the phone to call me and thank me for my card, and secondly that she would, in the midst of her heartache which must have been sharp as a knife, think of those in need, the hungry and the lonely.  She assured me that come May she would begin to donate food again.  I told her there was no rush and we left it at that.

Today, this lady came to my door, only a few weeks after the death of her 20-year-old son.   She brought a bag full of goodies for the homeless and as I took it off her hands, I felt deeply humbled and unworthy to even stand there chatting to her.  You see, for the last few weeks all I have talked about and thought about has been how God has saved my mum’s life.  I have been talking about His grace and mercy, and in the midst of all that joy and relief, I am faced with this woman who has just lost a son in his sleep.  She carries a bag of items which will ease the pain of others who are now suffering, and I am standing there thinking: How is it that my heart is overflowing with the joy of my mother’ s healing and this woman is standing in front of me with a heart-broken by having had someone so dear taken away from her so suddenly?  It is one of those moments like when there is an accident and someone gets hurt or even dies but you are ok, and on the one hand you rejoice you are alive but at the same time you feel you have no right to feel such joy when others have perished or are suffering so visibly.  There is a feeling of senselessness about it all, but at the same time these experiences are so intense, you know there has to be a purpose for it all.  There has to be more than this.

But the humbling experience did not end there.  She told me the whole family had to go to hospital tomorrow to be screened for any heart disease or hereditary illnesses.  Weeks later, the coroners were still running tests on her dear son’s body and could not yet come to the cause of his death.  As she is telling me this, my mind is just spinning with the madness of it all, and suddenly I hear her say: “And how is your mum?” I was just astonished at her strength, compassion and selflessness to even think of my mum at such a time of deep grief.  We talked for a few more minutes at the door as it was clear she just wanted to drop the food off and get back home, and as I closed the door, my eyes just filled with tears.  How can it be that someone so young can be taken like that from a mother and at the same time someone like my mum can be spared within hours of the other person’s loss? 

I keep coming across stories of death and loss at the moment.  Loss of young fathers and loss of newborn babies.  Loss and pain of all kinds.  I don’t feel  worthy to have had my prayers answered  when someone whose faith is much more fervent than mine has had such painful loss.  I have done nothing to deserve this just as my neighbour has done nothing to deserve her loss.  It is all down to God’s will and His purposes.  He knows the beginning from the end and we don’t, and these examples of such opposed experiences: life and death, healing and loss, pain and joy, are developing in me a new kind of faith, a new kind of acceptance that all I can do is wait on the Lord.  There is nothing else I can do, other than to love people in the best possible way.  I have to stop striving and begin to just soak in His Holiness and Glory.  Life truly is but a breath.

Dear Jane:

Bless you for coming to my door today! You gave me a picture of strength, perseverance and dignity today, and above all your compassion and selflessness humbled me to the core.  May the Lord of all creation use your pain and loss to touch supernaturally the lives of those who need to draw near Him at this time.  You have certainly touched my life today!  God bless you and keep you. This one is for me as much as it is for you,

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