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  • Baking Memories

    Memories of baking... and baking new memories...

    When I was a child, my Mum always spent most of Saturday afternoon baking.

    When we were very small, we loved to "help" and I can recall standing on a chair with plastic blue-and-white gingham style seat covers, at a drop leaf table stirring whatever it was with gusto, whilst my siblings did the same.  Licking spoons (I never quite understood why I was meant to like raw cake mixture!) and squabbling over got to do what were all part of a deliciously untidy pattern of life.

    By the time we were teens, helping wasn't fun any more, but, along with whichever friends happened to be round, we soon polished off each week's offerings.  Butterfly cakes, fairy cakes, fruit buns, plain buns... these were staples, along side 'slicing' cakes such as coffee walnut, coconut, rich fruit, cherry (with properly distributed fruit) and Victoria sponge. Plain or cheese scones, the former often with homemade jam, the latter an excuse for butter rather than marge!

    So, knowing I have folk round for 'tea and cake' later today, I decided to bake in her honour.  Butterfly cakes are probably the only 'authentic' throw back but the others have the 'essence' of what she used to make.

    Our school friends always said my Mum made the best cakes - alas, for us who had them every week, it was the tantalising bought cakes at their homes we craved!  So, I also bought the one thing that my Mum craved whenever she thought of Scotland (which were available in Northampton, just beyond her budget at the time) - Tunnock Caramel Wafers.

    It's been fun to bake (even if my kitchen now looks like my mum's did forty years ago!) and good to recall happy, uncomplicated family times.

  • Tell me what I already know, because I need to be told!

    The saying, 'it's OK not to be OK' is much-used and very valuable in recognising the detrimental effect that suppressing or repressing emotions and realities can have.

    Sometimes, though, what is needed is the converse: 'it's OK to be OK' even when the more common response/reaction is to be 'not OK'.

    The little book, Loss of a Parent: Adult Grief when Parents Die, by Theresa Jackson, is not hugely profound, and it's certainly not innovative, rather it is permission giving... It recognises and affirms exactly what I say to others about the validity of any form of grief that is authentic.  So, at one level I didn't need to spend the hour or so it took to read it. But the fact that it does just that is important, because it tells me what I need to hear: it validates my unique experience, and says 'it is OK to be OK' if that is what is OK for me.

    I have another, fatter, 'deeper, book to read, It's OK That You're Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn't Understand  by Megan Devine, so it will be interesting to see if that helps me in being OK with being OK (or any other state) in a culture where it feels that it's not OK to be OK!!

    I am valuing the quieter days, now that all the organising is done, the chance to balance a bit of normality with some time to reflect, and to absorb the reality and finality of the death of my mother.


  • Mysterious Ways...

    This morning was my first scheduled Care Home Chaplaincy (1/80 time) session.  I was tempted to postpone it - what if it triggered an unhelpful grief reaction. I thought about what my Mum would have said - which was to pull myself together and get on with it - so I went.

    And I am very glad I did, because I had a lovely, fun morning, meeting people of all 'stripes', some of whom wanted prayers and others who didn't, some who chatted and others who said, 'not today'.

    My two hours flew past.  I booked in my sessions for the rest of the year and left with a spring in my step and a smile on my face.

    I don't like the expression 'grief work', but if part of what it looks like for me is 'caring for others who could so easily have been my mum' then I am more than happy to roll with it!

  • Assembling in Peterborough

    Rather belatedly, some thoughts on the BUGB-BMS Assembly in Peterborough

    For me, this year, Assembly was a welcome distraction from the 'not-quite Holy Saturday' experience of travelling down following my mother's sudden death and not being able to register that until the coroner had agreed a PM wasn't needed.  Seeing many friends from across the UK (mostly England and Wales, a few from Scotland) was good, and is always part of what it's all about.

    I absolutely loved the music used in worship - songs in many languages and of many styles. No 'worship band' but keyboard, drums (very skilfully employed for once) and singers of several ethnicities from one church.  Beautiful, meaningful, authentic.

    In order to give us the opportunity to attend two serminars - with an excellent choice - the plenary had been pared back more than ever, and the addresses so short that they were unable to develop the ideas.  One phrase I loved, and which stuck is that "we are NOT called to be be bouncers for the Kingdom"... not for us to decide who is in/out, nor to protect the institution from those we deem not quite 'nice'.  Challenging stuff.

    Of course I had some niggles, and via the wonder of Twitter, expressed them.  Of course some things have to be re-learned with every new set of people 'up front'.  Of course it wasn't perfect.

    The photo above shows myself and a friend marking the centenary of ordained Baptist women in ministry in England and Wales, by wearing tee-shirts we bought from the USA Network of Baptist Women in Ministry.  According to R, I am her 'pioneering friend', so when, during the closing worship, there was an invitation for those who believed themselves to be in pioneering ministries to put their hands up whilst someone from the front prayed, I did... even though it's not my thing or my style.

    As Baptists we don't get everything anywhere near right, and sometimes we get things very, very, wrong but I firmly believe that God loves us, calls and equips us for works of service in many ways and many places.

    After Assembly, a small group of us went for a meal.  We rocked with laughter. We shared sorrows.  We were communion in pasta and fizzy water. Then we scattered, some to hotels, some home, some to stay with friends... and it was good.

  • Grief - and Angels - Come in Many Guises

    I am feeling very loved and supported by all the expressions of sympathy, condolence and encouragement that are reaching me by card, email, text, phone etc. I am indeed, very blessed.

    Grief is a strange thing, and as I always say to people for whom I conduct funerals, having affirmed and normalised their feelings, there is only one correct way to grieve - the way that is correct for you. 

    I'm not a crying person (except over cats). I suspect I may be mildly 'on the spectrum' as my emotional responses are certainly far away from the 'median, mean or mode'. And those things are OK, even though it can lead to my grief responses being misread or misunderstood, and even though the misunderstanding sometimes hurts as deeply as, if not more than, the grief itself.

    This morning as the challenges of funeral organising reached their peak, I became very, very aware that not only are my ways of grieving utterly different from my siblings,  trying to hold the resultant tensions can prove too much even for me! The important thing is that we got there, and everyone's key needs will be met.

    I have done almost all the practical stuff for now, and as I sat in my favourite Social Enterprise, suddenly came an overwhelming weariness that wasn't just tiredness from the travel or from holding it together, just a deep-rooted soul-weariness that, I think is how my grief is expressing itself.  And I am more than content to sit with that heaviness, in my own space, with my kitties for company, knowing that I am surrounded by a cloud of angels who come in many guises.

    I think 'angel' is an over-worked term, but in it's proper meaning as messengers of good news, of hope, whose timing is impeccable, then many of my human friends and acquaintances have been, and are being, angelic.  The lovely cards with carefully chosen words; the emails with beautiful, thoughtful poems; these perhaps are not so unexpected, yet their significance is huge.  There are also the unexpected ones, such as the lovely people at the end of the phone for the NatWest helpline and the branch manger in Glasgow... just the simple phrase 'I'm sorry for your loss' carries so much healing power (especially when the registrar recording the death didn't even introduce herself).

    The 'last act of love' I can give my Mum is the funeral she requested, and, whilst that is a challenge in many ways, I will do my utmost to ensure it happens.