It’ll soon be Joan’s birthday. Joan, my first wife and the mother of our 6 children. They still remember her and photos and memories will pop up on Facebook pages in the next couple of weeks. And a tear or two will be shed. Fond memories.
When a close friend loses someone dear to them, and there’s been a lot of that this last couple of years, it can be hard to know how to be with that person; what to say, when to say it; what to write when you send them a card. When I lost Joan, of course I should have seen it coming, but somehow death always comes as a shock. And I was in shock, quite lost after many years of caring for her. She was my life.
What happened soon after was this: a dear friend who lived in East London came down to Rustington for a few days every month to the HQ of the charity he ran. He rang out of the blue and told me he’d invited himself to stay with me this time, so would I get a room ready. He duly arrived; I had no idea what to expect, but he was a talker. He was, still is, a gifted preacher and could hold a congregation spellbound. He loved to talk, to communicate his passion for life and the work he did for God. I’d never seen him as a listener.
This time though, he had nothing to say. We would set out for walks and he would keep his mouth firmly closed. I on the other hand only wanted to talk. I talked and talked; how he kept his sanity and his mouth shut I’ll never know. I told him story after story, mostly told in tears. He came back for more, several times. Then he told me he had to go to the States on a ministry trip and needed a bag carrier. With nothing else to do, I went with him, the worst bag carrier that ever there was. I managed to lose my passport before we even left the airport. I cried my way through the trip, but came back rested and ready to begin to pick up the pieces of my life.I’ve never forgotten the impact Norman made on my life with his silences and his patience, and not trying to sort me out or give me answers. Thankyou Norman.
Next time you meet up with a grieving friend or relative, don’t worry what to say or not to say. Be a listener; that’s what’s required. On a more general note, I suspect many of us need to talk less and listen more.
A prayer: Lord, I’m sorry for the many many times I failed to listen. I’m sorry for the times I’ve been so anxious to get my point across that I failed to listen. I’m sorry for the times I failed to listen to the words that aren’t being said, the silent cries of a breaking heart. Lord, grant me wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent. And Lord, help me to be silent before you now and again, and leave my shopping list important though it is to another day. Amen.