Category: Supportive Community

Please plan your crisis 24 hours in advance…?!

WARNING – discussion of suicide, suicidal thoughts, emergency services

Am I expecting too much? I don’t think I am. Yet again I and my friend are being bounced around from service to service when he/we are most in need and so many opportunities for giving help missed. But I’ve certainly been made to feel I am asking too much and am a nasty person and more importantly, yet again my friend is left in avoidable danger.

In my local area, there is a specialist phone line for people in a mental health crisis, accessible via 111. This is a pilot, I believe, which may be rolled out in the rest of the country. According to information published about this crisis line, it is for patients, family, carers, friends and professionals, you can get an assessment of your needs, help, advice and visits, it is available 24/7, every day of the year. It is supposed to help you get more specialist help more quickly than if you have to go to A&E.

I phoned this line today because my friend is suicidal and today is a very “risky” day for him. He has specific plans and whilst there does seem to be a part of him that wants to keep going and not end it today, and I think it’s possible he will get through, I’m very worried about him. He was promised to get help from the crisis home treatment team, but he had one phonecall in which they told him to phone services if he felt worse. They have not assessed him or visited. The community service he was seeing haven’t put anything in place.

I wanted to get advice what to do and how to help my friend. I wanted to raise the alarm that he hadn’t had the agreed support and I was apparently the only person who is going to be with him today. I needed to ask some advice for me on how to cope because I’m getting very near another complete breakdown myself. I don’t know how to avoid me losing it and flipping out again when I want to be helping him.

So I phoned this line. First I was told nobody was available but brief details were taken and I was told I’d be phoned back in a few minutes. 1 hour 20 minutes later, having heard nothing, I phoned again. There was no record of my previous call. “You didn’t speak to me before, how would I know the details?” asked the operator. I went through everything again (painstakingly  spelling every name and number about 6 times…) I was told that I had not been told I would be called back today. Er, yes I was, I was told I would be called back in a few minutes. “Oh no, we have 24 hours to respond.”

But we’re talking about someone potentially about to end their life here. Don’t you think that might necessitate an urgent, even immediate, response?! Isn’t this a crisis line?!

They made no assessment of the situation, would not listen when I tried to tell them the home treatment team input had not been delivered as agreed, gave no advice except for if he attempts to end his life, call an ambulance. What about any support that might stop him getting to that point? What about any professionals putting help in place? At the very least, any advice to me? At the moment I seem to be the only person doing anything today to keep him safe. I have no training, I do not know how to help him, I am ill myself and close to breaking point. I am terrified what is going to happen and whether he’ll still be here in the morning.

I tried to impress the urgency of the situation and that a call at some point within the next 24 hours was not soon enough seeing as he planned to end his life today. The so called crisis line told me that I simply had to calm down, that I had to realise they have plenty of other referrals to deal with, that they are very busy and it is not very nice for me to suggest they aren’t doing anything (not sure how I did that?), and when I insisted on speaking to a manager she continously talked over me and threatened to end the call. I was told that they had told me about plenty of other ways to get support. They had not suggested one single thing.

I would expect more from a crisis line. I would expect immediate response when someone is suicidal. How can it possibly be okay for them to say, sorry we’re too busy? I would expect the promises in their literature about getting assessed, supported and visited by mental health professionals to be fulfilled. There is no mention in the literature that they may do nothing for 24 hours. I would expect professionals to be ensuring my friend’s safety today, not me. I want to be there for him, I want to listen, be a friend, offer comfort and encouragement. I am happy to stay with him when that helps, as I will today. But I should not be the only one doing something to stop him ending his life. Is it really too much to ask? I don’t think so. He has asked for help and so often been turned away. This has been a pattern for him just as it was for me in my care. If harm comes to him today in my opinion it will have been completely preventable. That is not to blame services for the state he is in, but they have failed to provide support they agreed to, could have and should have.

I don’t know why I keep on having some hope in services that they’ll do what they promise. I’ve had enough demonstrations to the contrary. I’ve given up on help for me but I don’t give up so easily for a friend. I suppose it’s natural to have some trust in those we believe are there to help and protect us and that instinct doesn’t disappear quickly even when it’s proven wrong. If I could expect the total absence of support it wouldn’t be so distressing. I’m not looking for sympathy though it probably comes over that way. Just very angry, bitter, lost and scared.

Ginny xxx

Miaow!

My houseguest would like to say hi:

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So, here I was reading up and planning to have guinea pigs, when this adorable guy arrived. He’s been a regular fixture for many weeks now since he first “dropped in” at the end of last year but I don’t think I’ve introduced him on my blog before.

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He has previously belonged to at least 2 other households in my block. He’s getting on in years for a cat – we think he’s about 10 years old – but he can still cause enough mischief, between naps that is! I started out agreeing to look after him and feed him over a weekend in the winter, when his owners had serious problems and couldn’t look after him. Circumstances were such that they didn’t collect him after the weekend. They didn’t come back for a fortnight and by this time he was growing used to my flat and, I think, to more regular food and playtimes than he’d been getting.

We have come to an arrangement where I am the main person to feed him and look after him but he goes between my flat and is previous / other home. The couple that had him before are still in difficulties and can’t care for him. So it helps us all, I hope.

I love him. He’s surprisingly affectionate. He loves cuddles. He loves playing with his toy mouse. He usually likes being combed. He even “holds hands” tapping me gently with his paw then letting me take it in my hand.

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He is enchanting to watch when he’s napping, curled up so comfortably and trustingly on the seat beside me, or even in my arms, purring softly, then snoring not so softly, body rising and falling with his breath, smiling (yes really), little pink paw pads uncurling as he stretches out from time to time.

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He is bringing me lots of happiness and I love that I can care for him and make him feel safe.

Ginny Xxx

 

Unenchanted April

I have wanted to post but not been able to find what to write. I’m sorry it has been nearly a month. Even this post I started nearly a week ago. I don’t know quite what’s making it so hard to express how I really am.

My friend’s health continued to deteriorate. I was fighting desperately to get him help as the danger he was in increased. Everyone in a position to keep him safe seemed oblivious to tune dangers and I could see how close he was to the edge but with no professional’s help I could not do anything more than what I can as a friend and that is not enough. It’s terrifying to be the only one knowing and believing the risk and I know that sounds like I am very arrogant thinking I know better than the doctors, but time and time again now I’ve known what’s happening or going to happen, the doctors have done nothing, refused even to listen to my concerns, and the thing I’ve known will happen, happens. The toll is greater each time. He has liver damage, blood clots, he’s starving himself, he is barely even drinking anything, there’s much more I wish I could write but it’s too personal to him for me to feel I can share here.

I don’t know how to carry this knowing.

I cannot save him alone. What someone else can give you, or trying to carry on for someone else, will not ultimately be enough to keep you safe or even alive. (I know this from my own darkest times, when I’ve been irretrievably low, hurting myself and planning to end my life, and someone close to me – who didn’t know the half of it – screamed at me, look what everyone is doing for you – why isn’t this enough for you? The answer is a post for another time but I know if he continues it must not be for me, not just for me in any case, so I alone cannot save him.

I can pray. I can try to give comfort. I can try to give compassion. I can try to show I love him and that he’s a good person not as he sees a problem, a burden, someone who frightens people, is bad, is not wanted, is no good. I can try to help him find some ways to build a safe, stable home and life. We can find short times of hope, happiness and laughter together. He has an immense capacity to love others, care for them and about them, to rejoice when they are happy, to fight to help them when they are hurting and share their pain. But none of that can he do towards himself.

He may die. He may end his life. I don’t know how to hold this knowledge and all the feelings that come with it.

****

I have been in crisis myself in the last few weeks and was in hospital for a couple of days. Then I had help from the crisis team at home for a week. When crises come I still flip out and instinctive reactions and thoughts take over along with the hallucinations just as much as they ever did before I had therapy. My “little child” gets out and she really isn’t very nice sometimes. It’s scary. I feel like a failure.

***

I’m realising that my mobility has got a lot worse in the last year. I’m particularly weak physically at the moment. I was diagnosed with POTS a little while ago (a heart, blood pressure and autonomic nervous system disorder). I’ve a lot to learn on how to manage the symptoms. Being very faint, muscle spasms, digestive problems and poor circulation have been hard to deal with this month. I’m now very fortunate to be in touch with a pain clinic at the hospital and there are some good possibilities from what they can offer, so I must be hopeful.

I really will try to post more regularly again and share happier news next time.

God bless you.

Ginny xxx

 

Hospital

My friend has been admitted now (see my last post).

He was in much more danger than I realised. I’m not putting specifics to keep confidentiality and to avoid any unhelpful triggers for readers.  He only told me after we had parted earlier. He didn’t want me to know and be scared. Then he went to A&E but didn’t go in. He was scared. He felt huge guilt too I think. He was confused and distressed and we lost contact and he was walking or lost in the hospital grounds I think. I got there as quickly as I could in a taxi phoning security to search for him. Thanks be to God for Security whose officers tracked his car. Thanks be to God that he did make it into A&E. I still don’t know exactly how.

Again I didn’t want to leave but he really preferred I did as his anxiety about hurting me (which he has never done) was so high. I spoke with the nurses and we all agreed is best for me to come back in the morning. He’s being cared for…he’ll be on a drip…he’s not alone…

I’m scared. He was so weak and drowsy and in and out of consciousness / awareness.

I’m hurting. Shaky. Scared. Exhausted. I don’t know what to do with all I’m feeling for him and the overload in my mind and chest. Hurts to breathe.

I know I have to accept right now I can’t do anything. The doctors caring for him can do something. God can do… more than something. Still I feel so horrible for everything I can’t do and all the good I see in him where he only sees what he calls poison.

I place him in your hands dear Lord Jesus. Hold him please tonight. Whatever happens now.

Ginny xxx

Descent into emergency

Kyrie eleison. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Help us in our need dear Jesus, please, Lord hear our prayer.

6.45pm

I feel so scared and powerless right now.

My dear friend is in complete crisis. I’m so scared he isn’t going to make it. I don’t want to tell all his business here. That wouldn’t be right. But he’s been through some horrific things and his mind and body is in utter pain. He could die, through what’s happening to him physically and the risk he’s at mentally.

I won’t leave him on his own right now. He’s massively distressed. He’s too scared to go to A&E tonight. I’m trying to insistently but lovingly persuade him to speak to the out of hours services to see if he can get to another place of safety, or to speak with his GP. Please God he is going to see the GP in a short while in an evening clinic they have. Please God we get there. He is letting me stay with him now. He so did not want me to at first but I could see the danger. Please God, please may he still accept my company and please may he get somewhere safe tonight. (There are very concrete reasons I can see he’s at risk but they are not my business to write here.) I’m in his car waiting for him whilst he’s speaking to someone who he felt he had to go see about an issue that came up earlier; I don’t think this is going to help any right now for him but he really felt the need to do it and I didn’t want to force him not to. Please God please may he come back soon.

I’m barely hanging on myself. I’ve been losing the grip the past week especially. Dissociating, losing time, self harming, huge panic attacks and flashbacks including physical sensations.

A neighbour has started being aggressive and verbally abusive. He’s been pressing me for money for months. He’s been doing the same to other vulnerable people on the estate. He’s been citing endless disastrous circumstances but it’s now coming to light that something else is going on. I’ve sensed things wrong for a while but now it’s becoming clear what he’s telling me does not add up and isn’t the whole story to say the least. It’s getting out of control. I believed and wanted to help him to get help, supported him with getting referred for a support worker and foodbanks. Now it seems nothing is true. I’m afraid for a vulnerable person he lives with. I’m going to have to contact the police I think.

8.40pm

We have spoken to the doctor and are waiting to hear if my friend can get into a safe place with support. There is no space at the moment. Even if he does it is only open til 1am. We’ve gone back and forth with the doctor and out of hours services. All doing all they can but of course there are these limits… and in the end I don’t know who can keep him safe when he’s as far down as he is now, hating himself and hurting himself so much and so afraid of everyone. I’m ripping apart inside. I’ve been where he is, or similar. I know perhaps I cannot do enough. I care for him deeply as a friend. I wish I could rescue him but know despite all the love I can give perhaps I cannot.

9.15pm

I didn’t want to leave him. He has gone to the hospital. The doctor was worried for me and said I should not go with him. He insisted I not go with him. He promised not to hurt himself and that he’s going there. I couldn’t do anything else especially since it’s his car and I can’t drive. We are keeping in touch by text. I believe his promise but I know from being there myself that when you are going to end it, that blackness and blank terror and loss and self revulsion and pain overrides everything, no matter how firm and true and faithful your promises. The doctor told me to go home because she was worried for me but I so did not want to leave him. I cannot save him in the end but I can be there.

9.25pm

He is at A&E now. The situation is far worse even than I knew but thanks be to God he is there. Thanks be to God he’s going to be taken care of…dear Lord I pray he’s met with compassion there as well as getting the physical medical treatment he needs. Please Lord, please can they still help him. Please enfold Him in your love, whatever comes now, if it’s the end or not, please show us Your saving help. In the darkness of pain and not knowing, danger, even death, You are our certain hope and Saviour.

Mother Mary, St Joseph, please offer to your Son in the way most pleasing to Him, everything I offer, everything I do, everything I pray….

Ginny xxx

 

 

Mental wellbeing scales…. What do you think?

This is the SWEMWBS. Er, bless you?! No, it stands for the “Short Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale” Maybe the longest possible name for the shortest questionnaire!

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I was given a copy of this to fill out on two occasions recently: when registering with a mental health charity locally in the hope of accessing a community-based personality disorders support group, and at the first session with my Recovery Coach. I’ve lost count of the number of questionnaires of this ilk that I’ve done since my mental health conditions wete first diagnosed, for example one or two page scales at the GP Surgery to rate anxiety and depression, to 10 page booklets at the personality disorders service, repeated to examine changes through my treatment. The SWEMWBS is by far the shortest of all these, which could be a strength. I still found it tricky partly as to my mind it seems to have gone to the other, overly simple, extreme. However that does all depend on what you want to measure and why. I may have found it tricky because it didn’t match what I wanted to express. What I want to express might not be what services, support agencies and so on, wish to measure. Arguably, services do need to make sure there is the opportunity for us as patients / clients / service users to express what we feel is most important and often this can’t be slotted into a tick box or numerical scale. I’ve been fortunate that people working with me have given time and importance to that which doesn’t fit into these kind of measures.

As part of their work, a member of my family is exploring initiatives to support and promote mental wellbeing. They are looking at using scales like the SWEMWBS to measure how people feel across participating in activities, and whether the way they feel changes. The activities could be social groups, exploring nature together, art and art appreciation, developing and sharing particular skills – generally community based projects. Reporting how you feel on long complex scales proved off putting and daunting, understandably. In my opinion, there is a certain conflict between the fact that the most respectful and detailed way to find out how someone is feeling may be simply having a discussion with no constraints on how they express themselves; whilst at the same time, to analyse whether a particular activity or therapy has helped, there does need to be some form of quantifiable (so usually numerical) analysis of changes in how someone feels.

My family member asked me for thoughts and feedback on the above and to share my experience on how I find using scales like the SWEMWBS. How meaningful is it? How does it compare to unrestricted feedback where we can express freely verbally or in writing how we feel?

I’d be interested to know readers’ thoughts if you have any you would like to share, whether or not you’ve completed these kind of scales yourself.

I could pass these thoughts on anonymously if you wished, or not if you do not wish.

Thank you!!

Ginny xxx

The Short Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale is copyright NHS Health Scotland, The University of Edinburgh, The University of Warwick (2008).

What is it okay to protect for ourselves?

I still can’t figure out why I’m crumbling so much trying to support my friend. Partly it’s because the trauma he’s suffered and needs to talk about is so close to my own experiences and I don’t know how to cope with my own emotions about my trauma, and bad as I feel about this, I can’t always cope with someone else’s experiences, the even stronger emotions this gives rise to in me and the overwhelming emotions they are also feeling. It’s as if I absorb the pain and feel it 3 times over – my own pain and distress, my pain for them, and their pain and distress.

But this isn’t the only reason. When there’s no link whatsoever to my experiences I’m still feeling panic, dread, boiling frustration (inappropriately), unease, fear… and terrifyingly, too many emotions that are too close to those I felt when I was caring for my mother (who was also my main abuser). My conscious feelings towards my friend are nothing like what my feelings towards my mother were so why are these experiences occuring? Very raw feelings, as well as flashbacks, hallucinations and panic attacks are increasing. For some reason the situations with his health deteriorating out of control, hopes for things being understood resolved and treated then being delayed time after time, his near desperation, his rapidly overtaking weakness and physical degeneration, even his need for me, is triggering the feelings I had when I was with her. This scares me. It’s nonsensical. He’s nothing like her. The situation is not the same. Yet I can suddenly feel just as desperate to escape. I don’t know why because he is generous, good, caring, honest, he wants to help me, he does not judge me, he worries for my wellbeing and he supports me greatly in the faith we share.

Why does his need for me scare me so much too? He tells me I’m the only person he trusts to tell certain things or to give comfort. I am thankful and sort of honoured that he trusts me but I don’t want to be the only person. That isn’t safe for him. I am only one person. Yes, I care, I pray, I do not judge (well, wish not to, with God’s help), I can empathise deeply; but I’m only a normal person. I can’t keep him safe, heal him, I am not the total good he thinks I am. God gives hope. God gives safety under His care. I am only one person. I am thankful he trusts me but I don’t want him to trust and confide in me and not the doctors or other professionals who can help. If I’m honest, I cannot be the only person because it isn’t safe for me either, as well as for him. I cannot be the only person who knows when he is in danger. I cannot carry that or keep him safe. I cannot be the only person he can turn to because despite my best desires I cannot infallibly be there and there will come a time I don’t do the right thing or the thing he most needs or that I hurt him unintentionally and I don’t want him to be in danger then.

Which brings me to: what time or mental or emotional resources can we protect for ourselves? He needs me desperately and constantly. As well as practical help, there is rarely more than a couple of hours that I’m not listening, emotionally supporting or encouraging him or at least trying to. I might be coping more stably, or having lower levels of the currently overwhelming emotions, if I had more breaks, time separate from him, time to meet my own daily tasks and duties, time to keep my commitments to others, time to pray, time just to rest. But what would he do then?

When is it okay to protect time and mental resources for myself? The Lord is with us always. He always listens, always answers and always holds us in His Heart. Jesus gives His life for us. We are called to emulate this, to join in the sacrifice He made and pour ourselves out in love. If I’m to follow Him, to offer my life too, then I need to be there for people in need, always not only when it’s easy or convenient. I have felt the hurt myself of people I’d counted good friends cutting off or cutting back contact when I got more ill and being alone when I most needed contact with friends and to know I wasn’t going to be left for my weakness.

So I just cannot limit my availability to someone in desperate need. But I’m crashing up against my own physical and emotional limitations. What is the loving response? Admittedly my friend is not my only calling and responsibility. I have a calling to my family, my volunteer work, to run my home responsibly, to manage bills and finances and so on. In a way I have a responsibility to my own health and wellbeing too, though that’s hard to admit. Though that’s a fight in my head to. I should deny myself to reach out to bring God’s love to others. Then again the Lord created me, wants me, loves me – perhaps not only so that I can be denied and weakened? At the moment every responsibility except to my friend is falling to the side. I have no reserves left for anything else. That really does not feel right. I feel more guilt for it, especially not having the energy for family, for contemplative prayer or for treating my home that I’m blessed to have with due care so everything is in disorder.

This is all very uncomfortable and I’m so tired. I need to seek guidance.

Ginny xxx

Failing as a friend

I’m failing so much as a friend. My friend R is going through a terrible situation, or many terrible situations. Daily there seems to be the next piece of devastating news.

He needs me. He trusts me.

I so want to be there. Be generous. Love. Hope. Be patient. Do every practical thing I can and be there and listen. Be warm and somehow say something, pray something, still be there when he’s losing strength.

I’m scared. Scared I’m watching him die.

Why am I failing in compassion? Right when it’s most needed? Why am I feeling dread and frustration and exhaustion? Struggling with freezing when I want to respond compassionately? Like my brain is just shutting down in overload. I need to be there but I’m overwhelmed with pain for him, but also overwhelmed completely by his need.

I’m scared I’m the only one he trusts, only one he speaks to about certain things. It’s dangerous.

I can’t be this.

Why am I getting unable to respond or even angry? Explosive inside? I’m failing at the most important things in friendship, love and compassion.

My chest hurts. Something is rushing in my ears and I’m dizzy. I thought I was going to faint earlier….

Ginny xxx

 

 

 

Two hospital visits and “The Gas Man Cometh”!

The past week has been a mix of unexpected, scary, painful, exciting, relief and changes.

I had been feeling worse than usual physically but had put it down to all the flu bugs around, cold weather and the fact I had been very stressed in the preceding month. However, it wasn’t flu. Just over a week ago I had some horrible symptoms I won’t detail here. On calling 111 for advice they sent an ambulance straight away. At the hospital I was found to have [ahem alert don’t read whilst eating your dinner!] bowel obstruction. Thankfully they had caught it in time before things became more serious (if left, it can cause a rupture in the intestines). I had IVs and they erm, did what they had to to clear it, X-rays, then I had to have more IVs for fluids. I ended up being readmitted the next day because I was having symptoms again so it was a scary couple of days. They would have kept me in but there was a bed shortage. I’m home now with several medications and guidelines to follow about diet and drinking enough.

I am so thankful this was spotted in time and treated. The doctors, nurses and HCAs were all kind and caring and made some scary, nasty things as okay as possible, and reassured me. They were busy but still took time.

I have some changes to make now. I have had to stop several of my medications because their side effects could now cause problems with my bowels. I need to discuss this with the GP to find alternative medicines and ways to manage because I needed their beneficial effects (eg for pain relief). Fortunately I’m due to see a specialist pain clinic in a month’s time. Also, I’ve been told to cut out wheat from my diet to see if this makes a difference. Even though I don’t have celiacs, some people can have other problems with wheat. Bowel problems do occur as a complication in other conditions I have (fibromyalgia, POTS and hypermobility syndrome) and people can find going wheat free to be helpful. I’ve started this and so far thankfully I am not missing wheat too much at all, though I’m still only able to eat a little so that may be why.

I’m hopeful that with these changes I can keep things better, though we don’t really know exactly why the obstruction happened. In the meantime I’m fighting not to get too down through some of the difficult effects I’m still going through. I am very achy, pain is worse as I’ve had to stop some of the medications, and I’m still stupidly weak physically (the fibromyalgia is badly exacerbated which again is to be expected as after any illness). I have had bladder incontinence for years because of the fibromyalgia and nervous system problems; since the bowel obstruction this is much worse and now distressing bowel urgency and leaking if I can’t go right away, are added to that. I’m praying this is temporary or at least that the GP can refer me back for some help when I see her next wek. I used to be too disgusted and ashamed to admit to that side of things but now after everything that’s happened in the last few years it doesn’t seem such a horrendous thing to admit it, though I still get upset and feel horrible when I have worse incidents.

The other problem that has loomed large is I had no heating or hot water for 23 days! The most incredible saga unfolded between my landlord, the boiler maintenance people and the boiler manufacturer and fault after fault was found with my boiler and the flue.

This song seemed apt!*

Thanks be to God, as of this evening everything is fixed! I had a most enjoyable and appreciated shower. Boiling kettles to wash up, clean and have a wash was not the most fun, though it’s what my grandparents did daily as a matter of course. It has been very cold some of the days I was without heating and a friend very kindly lent me a portable electric radiator. On the plus side, I’m likely to be entitled to compensation for the multiple mistakes made and inconvenience caused. I have to apply for that from my housing association.

In more exciting news, today I attended the first session at the Recovery College, which I’ll post more on shortly. It was an introduction to how one can become involved in mental health research, bringing a service user or “lived experience” perspective. It was more inspiring than I’d expected and left me feeling I have something of value I could bring to shape research materials, methods and how research findings are communicated.

Another brilliant event this week is that my friend who has been homeless for a long time, has at long last got a place in a hostel. It’s a good hostel in a safe area. By no means is this an end to his difficulties but it is a blessed answer to prayers and struggles to navigate the way through the council, the housing list, support agencies, forms, waiting lists, assessments, phonecalls….it goes on. What he’s going through is terrible and scary however I pray this is the beginning of safety and a little stability. Thanks be to God, from the depths of my heart, thanks be to God.

Ginny xxx

*”The Gas Man Cometh” by Flanders & Swann. Thanks to Hawkmoon for the video.

Saying a last goodbye to my dear friend

Saying a last goodbye to my dear friend

The dear friend I wrote of in my last post, Father S, passed away last Saturday, a day after I had last visited him. Today was his funeral. It was a very hard but beautiful goodbye.

Father S was a Priest at my friend’s church. He was long retired however continued to serve and minister to his congregation – and to so many more, such as me. I came to know him through another good friend (the same who initially brought me to the faith); I have never lived in his Parish however he took such care of me and I know he prayed for me daily.  I can only imagine how much he is missed by those who knew him longer and more than I did.

Father S was an extremely humble, quiet and private person. He drew no importance or attention to himself. He worked, prayed, cared and gave of himself generously, not seeking recognition, never appearing discouraged, astoundingly giving continually even when there came nothing tangible in return. I think, indeed the Priest who gave the homily at the funeral said, that Father S has no doubt reached and helped far more people than we yet know or than he himself even knew.

I do not think his path was ever smooth. He moved between continents. He converted between churches and subsequently felt the call to become a Priest and dared to answer. I do not think he had many people to care for him in his early life, and he has lost and left behind many family members since. He suffered greatly, physically, mentally and emotionally, throughout I believe, the majority of his life, particularly in his later years. He faced intense physical pain and weakness, major health problems, increasing fatigue, struggles to get around. He suffered not only the mental cost and hurt of those things, but also deep distress, fear and sadness. Through all this, he continued to work and to give so much in friendship.

Only very occasionally did he brush the surface of what he went through, physically and psychologically. I knew and gathered a little from prayer, conversations and letters exchanged with him, and learned more today at the funeral. Though he did not make much of his suffering, he did not sugar coat things either. He did not pretend everything was fine, or not to care, or that he did not struggle, or that he had all the answers, or that we must be strong and healthy, or that all is happiness when we walk in the way of Our Lord. He lived and gave in every moment, acknowledging what exactly it brought, never turning his gaze away from Jesus and never fleeing. He taught me to begin to hold fast to Our Lord of love – seek Him in whatever is happening right now and hold fast (rather than running in fear from an image of a God I have created from all my fears and the torment going on in my head in my illness).

When I visited him the day before he died, all the more than ever, I sensed that he was very close to God. He had become much sicker very quickly at the end. On the way to see him that last day, primarily I was desperately hoping I would be in time. I was not afraid, but I did feel some uncertainty and anxiety as well as the sadness. How would I find him and what would be the right things to do? I have sat with the dying before, having worked in a hospice and having lost other elderly friends at a nursing home I used to volunteer at. Time somehow seems to change; it is not a bad thing, but indescribable; perhaps it is a result of so much that can pose a barrier to communicating, giving and loving, being stripped away. We are left bare and vulnerable faced with the finality of the separation of death. It need not be all sad. Somehow, in precious time like that, what we cannot express as we may wish to in words, can perhaps be communicated between our souls as we are held together by the Love that encompasses all of us. In our defencelessness, the stronger hold the love of God has.

In that visit as I talked with Father S, knelt and prayed with him, I felt I knew heaven was near and Mother Mary’s arms were around us. Kneeling beside him I told him some of the truest things I have been so afraid to admit. I thanked him as I should have thanked him much, much earlier and more often. Father S is one of the people whose encouragement, prayer and friendship has held me up when I have been at the very darkest times and he has played no small part in saving my life when I was at a point that I was going to try to end it. Kneeling beside his bed I prayed as I have not been able to pray for many long months. I felt that already, in the footsteps of Our Lord Jesus, Father S was drawing me after him, just as Jesus draws us after Him. In his prayer and his life that he had offered totally to God, he was drawing me out of fear to learn to know, perhaps for the first time, a God of love.

There was no ceremony, no astounding event in the moment when Father S passed. There were no visions, no glorious rays of light, no voice from heaven, no odour of roses. There was quiet, and love, and friendship, and hearts reaching out in prayer and thanksgiving to God alone. In the same way as he lived, he died, quietly, with those who loved Him, everything offered and united to the God of love He told us so plainly about in his words and his life. He died on the feast of St John Paul II (whom he loved), just before 3.00pm, the same hour at which Our Lord Jesus died. I feel that Our Lady and St John Paul came to carry him to Jesus.

I pray that now he knows in heaven the fullness of joy with the Lord he has reached out for, for so long; that he also now sees all the good he has done, especially that which remained hidden whilst he was on earth. I know so many hearts here below are full of thanks for him.

May the choirs of angels come to greet you,

May they speed you to paradise;

May the Lord enfold you in His mercy,

May you find eternal life.

(From Song of Farewell, by Ernest Sands)

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