New Normal

Re-posting this post from an age ago, because one of my favourite people in the world lost her darling dad this morning, and it’s made me feel all this again. Some of it is unashamedly cliched, but as I say further down – there’s a reason clichés become clichés.

A few weeks ago, a good friend and close neighbour of mine lost her mum very suddenly. She collapsed at home, and had died before they even reached the hospital.

We all knew Nanny. Every morning Nanny and Poppy would stand by the window waiting for us to walk by on our way to school so we could wave at them. Nanny used to give my advice on what bulbs to plant where, and how to protect my vegetable patch from bugs.

As long as I have known this friend of mine, she has had an air of strength about her that I’ve always been slightly envious of. She says things how they are, and is the kind of ‘what you see is what you get’ person that I always warm to. And there is certainly no shortage of times she has supported me – if friendship were based on a strict give and take system I’d owe her big time.

Now she is having to keep going for her family – both her dad, who lives only a few doors away, and her children, who saw their Nanny every single day. She’s holding it together for the eight year old who is so angry at the unfairness of life and death, and the four year old who knows something is wrong and that Nanny isn’t there, but can’t quite figure out what’s real. She’s keeping strong for the man who has never lived alone, who’s been married to a woman who has looked after him for forty years. She’s putting a brave face on it for the school run, where people ask how she is, and she tells them how everyone else is doing because she hasn’t had a second to think about herself. She’s treading water.

Seeing people broken is never easy, but seeing this woman, who I always saw as so strong, on the verge of falling apart, reminds me of the way life can shock us. I hate cliche, but it reminds me of my own mortality, and that of my family – including the children, which is the hardest part. It has made me appreciate my family more, knowing that the time they aren’t there any more can come swiftly and unexpectedly. There is a reason clichés become clichés.

She and her family are headed into a new phase now. A few weeks on, after the funeral and all the planning that goes into such an event, life is starting to get back to the normal run of things. Back to school, back to work, back to washing uniform and cooking meals and reading bedtime stories. All normal, except for the massive Nanny shaped hole that no-one is ever going to be able to fill. From the difficulty of those first couple of weeks, waking up each morning knowing that every second is going to be hard, the family are moving into a new phase. The ‘hard’ carries on changing, and life is taking on a new kind of normal.

Most of the time I just wish I knew what to do. I want to make it better. But as much as there is a ‘time for every season under the sun; a time to heal and a time to mourn,’ there is also a time to talk and a time to stay quiet. All I know is this: when I don’t know what to say, that’s what I say. And when I am standing, just being there, saying nothing can be as valuable as saying something. Weeping with those who weep and mourning with those who mourn isn’t easy – I have left her house and wept on the pavement more than once. But the privilege of being able to do that, of being invited into someone’s life and grief, is astounding. I treasure this friendship and all it has brought me – delicately holding the pain as assuredly as we laugh and have fun as the good times roll. I guess that’s what friendship is all about.

If you are the praying type, please pray for both these families –  the one in the depth of shock, and the one who is settled but still sad. Jesus knows.


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