Last Wednesday was my first husband’s birthday. He died when he was forty-one so he didn’t get to have as many as he should. Sometimes life just doesn’t stick to the schedule. He was a lovely, prayerful family man, a young priest, a listener, a pastor, always ready to go the extra mile. The old-fashioned sort who ate thirty-four mince pies in a day on his parish Christmas rounds.
But he died.
I remember the night he died very well. Every so often events play in your head like a cine reel – over and over in glorious technicolour so they are imprinted there forever. Not that I want to forget, mind. I don’t. He was part of me and when he went, it was like being cut in half.
That terrible night, the phone jarred me awake at ten to midnight. My husband was very sick said the hospital. I should come at once. Those phone calls make the world tilt on its axis and leave you hanging by your fingertips to the edges for sheer life. For years afterwards, I would be woken by the shrill and insistent ring of the phone by my bed only to realise it was still ringing in my head.
I had a trusty neighbour who was alert to such emergencies and, breaking all limits he whipped me down to the hospital through dark hollow streets on this freezing cold February night. When we arrived, Pete was prepped for surgery but they had waited so I could see him before he went down. I knew it was bad.
I held his hand as we ran down to the operating theatre. Outside we stopped and I said goodbye to him and, "See you later."
I saw him later, but he didn’t wake up and I could only be there as he slipped away.
The next day, the nurse who had been with him as he went under the anaesthetic rang me up. She was in floods of tears as opposed to my dry-eyed numbness. She said she had a message for me from my husband.
It was, "I am trusting. Tell my wife to trust as well."
Tell my wife to trust as well.
Now I didn’t feel very trusting. I didn’t have the sort of faith where I talked about trust or articulated my connection to God in any way at all. And it was many years before I even realised that much of my inability to communicate to God was because my image of God was not God at all. And it wasn’t until I began to wake up to the fact that the God I was fed as a child was a charlatan, a trickster who had stolen my global need for sanctuary, and played on my terrors and insecurities until I was ready to believe anything about myself, that a new-found hope began to emerge.
And that was the beginning of change.
Now, I realise that I never stopped trusting all through those years when God and me weren’t talking. Or rather, I wasn’t talking to God, but she doesn’t have a clock or a calendar and just sat back and waited until I was ready to start a conversation. Okay, my trust was layered with doubt and outrage and all the other horrible feelings that accompanied me whenever I went into church and felt outside the city walls. But deep down where the sun doesn’t shine, I never totally threw God out. Good job she isn’t as petty and small-minded as some make her out to be.
Then I began to own my trust.
And now, I question and explore and discover new and exciting ways to relate to a very different expansive and, as I keep saying, loving God. I am taking my trust outside and acknowledging that it’s there as I hold it up to the sunlight and see what a precious gift it is.
This is all part of mining for gold. My trust didn’t suddenly arrive with my new ways of seeing. It was there all along. It was just very well hidden under layers and layers of other junk which had nothing to do with God.
So, Pete, yes - I am trusting too.
"See you later"