I will never forget this date – 26th November. It is burned into me and my soul forever.
The reason? On that Monday morning, my first wife Sheela, whom I had
married ”for better or worse” 27 years before, slipped into eternity at
8.20 am just as the sun was rising. She was 50 years and 43 days old.
It was all a bit surreal – we stood there around her bed and realised
she’d gone. The night before, we had sat and sung hymns of praise and
wanted the Lord to take her. But he didn’t – not then. Another night
of agonised suffering followed.
In the end it came suddenly. All the months of suffering were over.
The pain, the stress, the anxiety, the loss of hair and the loss of
dignity – morphine, syringe drivers, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, finally
all over. The silence was deafening but the peace was incredible.
Outside the traffic was building up – commuters stressing at another
Monday morning, another week at work, oblivious to the drama in our
house a few yards away. I put my arms round my stunned children and
gave thanks to God for their mother’s life.
I don’t know how I ever had the strength to do that. One verse of
scripture hit me forcibly Philippians 1 v 23 “with Christ which is FAR
better. ”Not just better, but FAR better. Funny – I’d never thought
of it like that before but I took great comfort from it. Sheela was in a
FAR better place than she had ever been before and I knew that even if
she could, she wouldn’t come back. Why would she? Leave a better place?
But I was angry too – angry that this had to happen at all. And there
is still a residue of anger within me about it. I didn’t know then, and I
don’t know now, who I was angry with or why I was angry. It was
irrational then; it is irrational now.
Death by cancer is horrible. There is very little good to be said
about it. It spoils, ruins, destroys and hurts – really hurts. But
death is not the end. And this life is not all there is. I knew that
before that day and had given a good part of my life to preaching and
teaching that very truth. I knew it even more as I stood there with my
broken heart, tears flowing.
Exactly one year later, on 26th November, I read in my
daily devotions “Though you have made me see troubles many and bitter,
you will restore life to me again” (Psalm 71 v20). He did – oh He really
did and I thank Him for it every day!
26 November 2012