Sheer was an event for women at St Paul's based on the theme of transparent faith and what it actually means to live life fully and openly with God. I was asked to share my story and the journey I've been on over the last few years. It was amazing to be asked. Here is what I shared at Sheer (with photos of John and I).....
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
He knew he was going to die. He knew the path God had prepared for him and what he was asking of him and he never flinched. He concentrated on finishing the race. He told the doctors, “I have no regrets. I wouldn’t have done it differently. I have lived a full life.” He felt immensely blessed, he talked to everyone about his faith in God. How he could face death without fear because he knew where he was going and that Jesus would be with him.
And I said “You’re going to get through today and finish the race.”
And he said, “I can do that.” And he did, John finished his race well.
In the early evening of Christmas Eve 2004, the room was very peaceful with a soft, golden light. There was a tangible presence of God in the room, strong and comforting. The girls and I were with John, waiting.... Beth saw John open his eyes and look up, like he was looking at someone. She said, “Mum!” We looked at John, he took two breaths and then he died. One step from here to eternity... John lived and died well. We knew God was saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Isaiah 53:3
I held onto those scriptures. They were my lifeline. They gave me strength to face each day, to take one step forward, over and over again.
I felt like I had no future. My future, my hopes and dreams had died with John. Part of me died with him. My world was completely black. I’ve always tried to look at life from the glass half-full perspective, looking for the positive, the good in every situation. Now I felt like someone had taken the glass, thrown it away and completely smashed it.
4) Read the bible. It is the living word of God. When you read it things jump out you. God speaks through scripture and uses it to touch your heart, mind and spirit. Just read with an open heart....
5) Choose to do things that you love or that feed your spirit. Being creative and making things makes me feel really good as a person and I feel close to God when I’m creating. When my world was totally black, I couldn’t think properly and was physically incapable of being creative but as it turned more greyish I started to try little things that I could cope with.
In doing all of this and living all of this, I have waited to return to the “normal” Stacy that I was before John was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I kept waiting and waiting, then slowly came to the realisation that I would never be her again. This is me, I am the “normal” Stacy. I have been changed by my experiences. I can’t go back because I’ve walked in different places. I’ve been hurt and have had to come to terms with death, loss, pain, a broken heart, loneliness…… John’s illness and death have changed me profoundly at a deep level. This is me and I’m okay with that.
It’s not over. I’m still on a journey with my grief. I carry the loss of John in my heart and spirit every day. I still have hard, lonely times. While now the grief doesn’t overwhelm me, it does define who I am as a person. It is a part of the decisions I make every day about life and how I’m going to live it.
One of the things that’s been a really important part of the healing process for me, has been coming to St Paul's and being involved in ministry again. I thought when John died that I was too broken to be used by God again. That I would just fill in my rather empty days until I died and could see John again. However many years that may take! You might not know this but it’s an absolute miracle for me to be able to stand up here and share my story with you. Knowing that not only can God use me and my story but that I can feel joy and love.... and really know and feel that God does have plans to prosper me, not to harm me and that in him I do have hope and a future.... and that’s amazing!