Shadow Of Victory

Monday, 11 May 2009

Monday 11th May.. Last Look

I wanted to leave you all with a photograph of my brother Robert...but had to wait till Chris got home from Milan...I am sooooooo not a techie.!!!

Anyway...I hope this last glimpse of Robert will leave you with joy in your spirit.It was taken professionally by the drama club as part of their publicity for a play called The which Robert had a good part. This picture was displayed in the foyer of the theatre in Edinburgh and was also used in the newspaper as his obituary photo as it was the most recent and decent we had of him.

Robert was far more than this photo and far more than my blog entries...he was amazing and I loved him.....and miss him still.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Saturday 9th May Final Reflections

I started this week sharing about my brother Robert...who he was...and how he affected my life and as I have continued to reflect on him and memories have risen I have so enjoyed this time of writing. It may sound weird but no-one in my present day life knew him..Robert died before I met Chris and none of the friends I have past or present ...ever met him either so he has rarely come up in conversation and lets face it "suicide" isn't the best after dinner topic. He sadly became known as "my brother who committed suicide" and he was way more than that .

Sharing him with you has been hugely rewarding for me and brought back a store of happy times that I had forgotten existed and has brought me to a place of peace and even joy. I still stand by the statement "writing is my best chance of happiness" and certainly this week has been a happy week for me.

In the midst of this strange sense of peace there has also been a surge of memories that haven't been so good.Roberts death wasn't the only suicide in my family...I have an uncle who committed suicide and my half brother also committed suicide and for many years I felt tainted by these events. I would dream of death...I would plan funerals...if any of my children were late home or I didn't know where they were I would picture death scenarios. I lived with the constant fear that I would lose Chris to some horrific accident and I never worried about losing him to another woman it was a motorway pile up or a hit and run.I would hear a phone or the doorbell ring late at night and be convinced a police man would be at the door bearing bad news.

I cant close this chapter of the blog without being 100% honest .!! Referring to the scripture from Deuteronomy ch 30....there have been times in my life where I have been faced with the choices as set out here...Life and Death...before I became a christian I thought about suicide many times ....long before my brothers suicide impacted me ....and although I didn't know God nor the scriptures somehow or other I kept choosing "life "
I would like to say (because it sounds a lot better )..that I have never thought about suicide since becoming a christian but it wouldn't be true. As I began to seek God for my healing and restoration there were times when memories surfaced that were so incredibly painful that I honestly thought death would be easier...and I had to constantly make the choice...LIFE ..LIFE...LIFE...I would drive along the road and be thinking "that tree...I could drive into it..." or I would look at tablets and think..."how many??". I would take stock then and think about how this would affect Chris and my children,,and I could NEVER leave that legacy in their spirits... and so deep in my spirit I would draw on the knowledge that Jesus could ...and would ....and did rescue me

PSALM 18 V 4-6
The cords of death entangled me;the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice;my cry came before him into his ears.

Please read the rest of this psalm to know how God will rescue those who are entangled up in "death" and He will rescue each of us. I am deeply and passionately grateful to God who provided me with a safe place and in the same way that I have been honest about my past thoughts about suicide I can truly say it has been a very ...very..very long time since I had these thoughts . ..God can and does deliver His children from such dark torments

And finally...the ever unanswered question of WHY....Robert had left no final last word ...we were all left with this searing loss and no resolution closure. For many years I carried the unresolved pain of his death.. the constant replay of incidents trying to find a clue...a word spoken in anger ..a trigger that would have caused it...the terrible thought that perhaps it was MY fault. I know we all suffered badly due to the breakdown of our family...I know Robert was an extremely vulnerable and sensitive young boy..I know he chose to work and pursue a career with the the poor and socially deprived...I know he carried unexpressed pain that he shared with no-one and covered it up with humour and good works. Mixed in with all of this is also the underlying mystery of "is he in hell?? was he saved?? ...did God have mercy on him at the final breath?" I could speculate and debate endlessly but it wouldn't answer the questions nor would it bring me any closer to understanding and so all I am left with is God and his word.

1 Corinthians ch 13 v 12
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully ,even as I am known fully

Perhaps one day....when Jesus is fully known and fully revealed to all mankind I may know the answers but until that day I have the amazing assurance that God is sovereign...and that's enough for me.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Thursday 7th May. After Effects

I seem to be on a bit of a roll...with Chris away and time hanging on my hands after work I am disoriented and this seems as good a task as any...altho cleaning the living room may be a sensible one to tackle after I blog.

After the intense grief of the first few months after Roberts death I can look back now and see many aspects of that time went into forging my future character. Those of you who know me well may agree with some of the following traits which I assimilated as I matured.I spoke with a friend today and shared that I am many ways...very like my brother Robert and perhaps he had left a small legacy within me during the three very short years that we had shared closely.

Robert had a real heart to serve the underprivileged..the poor...the sad and lonely...he was immense fun and had a great sense of humour....he liked to ensure everyone was happy and included.....he seemed quite loud and popular but most of the time he was lacking in confidence and used his humour to create acceptance. Robert was loyal and loved ferociously and altho he had a lot of acquaintances he had few close friends and those he did have he loved unconditionally. Robert lived for his dad and his brother and I like to think ...for well and his favourite activity was making us laugh or sitting watching telly together especially if it was Monty Python or Rowan and Martins Laugh-in. Robert hid his pain ...his hurt..his feelings of rejection ..his need to be mothered...hid it so well from everyone in the latter part of his life. He didn't seek any help nor did he talk to anyone about his trauma and my one regret in this story was that he reached a stage in his life when he believed no-one would care if he lived or died . How wrong he was.The after effects that reverberate in the lives of family and friends when someone commits suicide are incredibly destructive quite simply because no-one can answer the question WHY??

Perhaps you may recognise some similarity in my life to that of my brother Robert...I like to think that some of the positive aspects of my personality and areas I am involved in were influenced..perhaps his life and that my deep love of "Family" came as a result of what I experienced during that time .

Sadly I can also see some destructive elements that were by-products of the after effects of Roberts death....and these served to mould in me some tough strongholds which have taken many years to break down. I know even as I write this blog that there may still be some rubble to sift through and a deeper level of healing achieved.

One of the strongest emotions that gained a foothold in my spirit at that time was that I was "excluded"...and linked with the feelings of abandonment which already were buried deep in my spirit and you get an adult that all too easily felt hurt and rejected in the smallest of things. In a few short years my mum had left me sister had left me brother had left me ...and now another brother had left me in an all too cruel way..and then my dad and other brother had pulled up the drawbridge of the family and metaphorically left me ...outside in the cold. Even today almost 40 years on I will pull up my own drawbridge and voluntarily "exclude " myself from a painful or troubling situation..altho I am learning to share more easily that I am not coping and need help.

I recently shared I had completed the Strength Finders profile and my main strength was concluded as CONNECTEDNESS...and I hadn't felt prompted by the explanation of this one at all...but in last few days as I have used this blog to reflect...I realise that I am driven by the characteristics of this Strength...let me paraphrase some of them here.

*things happen for a are sure of it..we are all connected ..part of something gain confidence from knowing we are not isolated from one another.
*bridge builder for different people groups..caring ...considerate..
*give others comfort...certain there is a purpose behind our lives.
*faith is strong and sustains in the face of life's mysteries.
*likely to have social issues you will defend strongly
*naturally thinks about how people can get connected and can be a team builder
*can develop mission and likes to feel a part of something bigger than themselves

Again those who know me well will know how I like to organise and encourage and take charge.!!!....In the light of my determination to be as honest and transparent as possible...let me share with you one of my ongoing struggles... it is one I am working on with all diligence and asking God for grace to overcome and it may seem a smallish thing to confess but it can cause me enormous stress ....I really struggle with "not knowing "...and I can trace this right back to this period in my life...I like to know what is going on...if there is a decision to be made...I need to know what it is...I feel left out and want to know why I wasnt told ..(even if it is nothing to do with me !!)..if some friends have a gathering and I am not there I feel neglected....if I find out about something third hand I wonder why I wasn't told first...I like to feel in control and struggle big time with not having full knowledge to do a task...especially if I don't do it well and I am criticised for it. you know....and don't all rush off ensuring that I am always told or always is an area where I am winning and only rarely have a struggle with .Tomorrow I will finish this chapter with a final reflection on Roberts death and look at the how I came to a place of acceptance and why the question WHY no longer haunts me

Deuteronomy Ch 30 v 19-20
This day I have called heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you LIFE and DEATH, blessings and curses. Now choose that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God ,listen to his voice and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your LIFE and He will give you many years in the land He swore to your fathers Abraham,Isaac and Jacob.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Wednesday 6th May ; Way back Then

February 23rd 7pm 1971.

Life as I knew it came to an abrupt end..I came home from school at 3.30 pm as usual and at 7pm ...way past the time my dad and brother usually arrived home from work I was watching TV and the door opened and in walked my dad. He was followed by a policeman who helped him to sit down and then very calmly told me that Robert was dead. I looked at my dad who was white and in shock and waited for him to explain what the policeman had meant...what had happened..was it an accident..had his motorbike gone off the road ..was he in hospital....I remember an eerie silence as the policeman went to make a cup of tea ..thinking surely it was all a joke or a dream. Shortly after the door opened again and my other brother came in the door...he had ridden Roberts motorbike back from Dundee and was windswept and dirty.

The policeman gave us all some hot tea and then left...after telling my dad to come into the station in the morning.I sat the silence and watched my dad weep...and when I say weep I don't mean the kind of crying that men sometimes do with a sniffle and a hanky quickly wiped over their faces....I mean deep gut wrenching ...soul destroying ....anguished moans from somewhere in the very depth of his being. You read in novels about this but I had never ever seen dad was in some kind of emotional pain that was torture to watch. He was holding my brothers hand and the two of them were clinging to each other as if to anchor themselves before this hurricane of emotion which was sweeping them beyond endurance.

I was "outside " all this ...almost ignored....I still had no idea of what had happened and neither of them seemed able or interested in telling me.I left the room dry eyed and sat on the bed and waited ..not sure what I was waiting for but I knew I couldn't be in the same room as they were...I didn't belong there. Later that night my dad got very drunk and continued to cry and refused to eat or go to bed...until around midnight he fell asleep . We put him to bed and my brother and I sat looking at each other for over an hour before he could even begin to tell me what had happened.

Robert had gassed himself...he had fed the meter in his wee attic student flat and turned it on and lay down in front of it. His girlfriend F was home in Edinburgh for the weekend and it was obvious he had planned it so he wouldn't be discovered and in fact it turned out he had been dead for almost 3 days before his body was discovered. F had gone to the flat and when she couldn't get an answer had gone to the landlord who broke the door down.....and then rang the police and they had contacted Edinburgh to get a local policeman to find my dad. F knew where he worked and they had picked him and my brother up mid morning. They had taken them by car to Dundee by noon where they were asked to identify the body and of course fill in all sorts of forms.

No-one had thought to inform me or get me from school and this became the pattern over the following days....Dad made me go to school the following day whilst they went to police station..arranging for Roberts body to be moved to the mortuary in Dundee...I wasn't asked if I wanted to see him or say goodbye...I continued to go to school whilst they organised the funeral and then I was told I couldn't go to the funeral...I had to go to Galashiels and "sit " with Granny as she was too poorly to be left. (As an aside I "saw" Robert for years after the street.on the shops...because I hadn't actually seen him..his body .. deep down I somehow or other didn't really believe he was dead.) The funeral came and went and large numbers of relatives and friends visited us and I heard later and saw a small paragraph in the Dundee paper that over 300 students had packed the chapel with many of them contributing to the service. In the short 6 months he had been attending the university he had impacted so many of the other students there.He was my brother and no-one allowed me to say goodbye or mourn him ...and I miss him even now. My mum didn't come to the funeral nor were my half brother or sister able to come over from was as if my half of the family weren't a part of Roberts life.

My inner life changed during this period....I felt as if I didn't count..didn't matter...I remember sitting on the loo....saying to God.."if you really really exist please help me ". I was on the outside looking in and as time moved us beyond the initial grief and we began to function as a small family again I knew I wasn't part of it in the same way. My dad began to drink in a serious way and most nights he would go straight to the pub from work and then stagger home where he would stand in front of the fire and sing maudlin songs....Did I ever mention my dad had a cracking voice?? he could sing with the best of them and who knows in another life he could have been famous...he would stand and belt out "Oh Danny Boy " "The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot" "Climb Up On My Knee Sonny Boy" and a long held favourite "Nobodys Child". My worst ever moment in these days was waking up one night in the early hours and watching my dad sit on edge of his bed with tears dripping down his nose and I could just hear his voice saying over and over again "why him...why him...why not one of the others..why him" and as I went back to sleep I sensed this take root in my spirit ....which is altogether another area to explore in later blogs .

This is possibly one of my most painful blog entries but I fully believe that God heard my prayer at that time... altho it has taken years before I realised He had answered that prayer.....I know I couldn't possibly have survived this and other traumas without His unseen and unknown presence....keeping me alive and moving me towards Christ.It was two very short years before I was to first meet Chris and the destiny that God had for me would begin to unfold.

Jeremiah Ch 29 v 11....
"For I know the plans I have for you..plans to give you hope and a future.."

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Tuesday 5th May

I had a long walk this afternoon with Oskar in Windsor Great Park and thought quite a bit about my brother of the assignments for the next Exposition is to "write a letter" and I am coming round to the idea of writing my brother Robert a letter...but for the blog I will continue to expand on what happened.

As I shared yesterday ....Robert was very involved in social action and had a real heart for parts of society that can be overlooked. One of the biggest surprises for me was his interest in amateur dramatics.He was an avid performer and loved comedy roles and altho I saw him in a couple of serious plays he revelled in the humorous scripts and his all time favourite TV programme was Monty Pythons Flying Circus and Spike Milligan..he could imitate voices and accents and would have me rolling all over my bed at night time....He slept in a cupboard...this is true....we had one bedroom with my dad..myself and both brothers...Dad and one brother slept in double bed and I had a single bed and Roberts bed was in a walk in cupboard with a curtain drawn across it...he would lay in there making us all hoot with laughter as his voice would sneak out in a re-run of a Monty set.We would be drifting off to sleep and he would start up a Spike Milligan song and that would be us...wide awake and wetting ourselves .!! My dad who smoked unfiltered Senior Service would go purple in the face coughing and begging him to "stop it and get to sleep "

For a period of 3 years all our lives seemed calm and quiet and settled....mum was still in London and we only heard from her rarely and both my half sister and half brother were doing well in worked all the hours he could to give us a half way decent life and somehow or other I still got the school trip to Paris and the week at hockey camp altho I am convinced that there was a social fund at our school as looking back I cant see how dad could ever have afforded it. One summer dad and I even had a week at the Butlins holiday camp in Ayr....quite possibly my first ever holiday and time to be with my dad was a very special thing for me .

Through his drama connections Robert met F...she was very posh and went to a private school.....most of the drama club were certainly middle class and for Robert to have a girlfriend was a major accomplishment....he was still very overweight and was plagued with skin problems and rarely ventured out socially other than work and his voluntary commitments . Both F and Robert were accepted into Dundee University and as the time for them to go crept ever closer I felt a sense of loss creeping into my heart.Looking back I almost certainly was jealous of F and her relationship with Robert but was trying very hard to be grown up about it all.

I think I shared in previous posts that Robert had tried to kill himself several times....I knew nothing of this at the time as it was when I lived with my mum...but only heard about it all years later...from age 11-16 he tried different methods..cutting his wrists...hanging..and tablets...but each time he was found by either dad or my other brother. He wasn't taken to hospital or referred to doctors or for therapy....this was decades ago and children of broken homes weren't high on any care agenda. The social stigma of having divorced parents was of a similar nature as having illegitimate children and at one time when I was in trouble at school I was referred to as "the product of a broken home" as if that was a crime and my behaviour was only to be expected.!!

I missed Robert so much and whenever he was home from university I would cajole him into helping me revise for my O levels and F was growing on me as she took an interest in what was going on educationally with me. Life was as normal as it could be ...right up until...

7pm February 23rd 1971.

I will continue this tomorrow.....let me leave you with scripture

Proverbs Ch 3 v 5
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."

Philippians Ch 4 v 7
"And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

I may never understand the WHY of what I will write about next ...but I do know that somehow or other God has guarded my heart and mind and given me peace. My prayer as you read this that if you have circumstances in your life...past or present that you are finding hard to understand...Lean into God...He WILL give you peace