Quite a number of my friends seem to be dying - which is very inconsiderate of them, as I miss them - more than I could ever imagine.
You share so many stages of life with your peers. First, when you all leave home and go off to university. Then everyone seems to be getting married. After that the babies - one, two, three, four for the foolhardy or the lovers of little surprises.
Before you know it, they’re off to university and for you it’s a silver wedding, and their weddings and their babies, of whom you once said,
“I’ll never bore my friends with bragging photos...”
But that was in the pre-Facebook days. And after all, aren’t these the most beautiful babies anyone has ever seen?
The following year, or so it feels, everyone is retiring or having a Ruby Wedding, and a bit like that fourth baby, you have no idea how it happened. You’re spending a great deal more time at the doctors, or at funerals, and think,
“He was far too young for that!”
Which actually means,
“Thank God it’s not me. I hope I’ve got some living to do yet.”
But if you learn anything it’s that nothing about our mortality can be relied on. Having said which, I would be severely miffed if I didn’t at least get to try out having a retired man about the house.
My husband, Peter, thirty two years a vicar, retired five weeks ago, and unlike the rest of the population, the clergy have to leave their home, their church and their community behind and set off on a new journey.
So here we are - hurled into the stage of life when you realise, as you unpack, that your towels are bald, your sheets threadbare and your duvets as lumpy as semolina. So I went to buy some new linen, and said to the shop assistant,
“I’m having that forty years married crisis, when everything around me and about me needs replacing.”
“Never mind,” she said, “this new lot should see you out.” At least I’m not like my mum whose kitchen tiles are stuck on with sellotape in the hope they‘ll “see her out” - until the day the wall collapses and she’s buried under an avalanche of tiles.
As it happens, my annual read of the Bible has got me to John’s Gospel, (I’m slower at everything these days), and reminded me that Jesus is unequivocal about our ultimate destiny - even before he gets to the famous “farewell discourse” from chapter thirteen onwards when he tells his disciples that one of them will betray him, one deny him and he’s going to die.
That must have really cheered them up - and he reminds them that in his father’s house are many rooms that he will personally prepare for them, (with decent towels and duvets).
From the beginning of the Gospel the message is clear, no ifs or buts,
“He who follows me will have life and never, never die.”
Jesus won’t just give us directions to our destination, (with my sense of direction, I’d be lost at the first roundabout), he will take us safely there himself.
I’ve always kept a spiritual journal, and wondered about it sharing one day. So what with retirement, moving, the aging process, and coming to terms with a host of life’s losses (and some gains along the way), this seemed like a good time to start - before it’s too late, and in the hope that it might just see me out.