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					 Without Jeff
 by Jenny Chadwick

 Maundy Thursday, 1960
 SHOCKED into a state of numbness I
 replaced the phone on its cradle. Why
 should my future mother-in-law need to
 ring me at work? At 9.30 a.m. too? As the
 wheels began to turn in my brain, and the
 urgency of the situation slowly dawned on
 me, I dragged my feet along the corridor in
 search of the chief librarian. Still half dazed
 I found it difficult to explain that my fiancé
 had been taken to hospital that night as an
 emergency barely able to breathe. I was
 granted compassionate leave immediately
 and headed straight home to pack and catch
 a train to London.
    Late that night, lying in a strange bed at
 my fiancé‟s home, I tossed and turned,
 unable to sleep. Could this really be the end
 of the wonderful love we had enjoyed for
 three short months? Had God brought us
 together only to separate us again by death?
 What had I done to deserve such a cruel
 blow? Why should God deprive me of the
 joy of marriage to the man I was so deeply
 in love with? I had waited so long—I was
 twenty-five now—and why shouldn‟t I
 enjoy married life like so many of my
 friends? Jeff and I were made for each
 other. „God, I can‟t stand it!’
  I prayed long into the night, begging, demanding,
pleading that Jeff might he allowed to live. I promised
God I would do anything if only He would grant my
request. The clock struck two, and still I couldn‟t
find peace. The questions hammered on my brain
and I battered heaven with my pleas. Then, out of the
blue, I remembered a verse from the Bible that early
in our courtship had struck us as being particularly
appropriate to both our lives. „All things work
together for good to them that love God.‟ Other
verses had already churned through my mind, but
this one was more persistent. I couldn‟t get rid of it,
and suddenly I began to pray in a different vein
„Lord, make me willing to let go. Let Jeff die if that
is Your will. Help me to accept Your judgement as
best. Enable me to prove this verse to be true in my
own experience.‟ Moments later the tension ceased.
I knew that if Jeff died I would still go on. It would
not be the end of the world. God still had a plan for
my life and in fulfilling it I could find peace and joy
without Jeff. I slept.
 I was too exhausted next morning fully to appreciate
the love and concern that had arranged a Communion
Service to pray especially for Jeff‟s healing,
but I was very much aware of God‟s presence, and of
a unity of purpose amongst the participants. What,
other than the Holy Spirit, had moved over twenty
people, most of whom I didn‟t know, to get up early
at less than twelve hours‟ notice to pray for my loved
one? As far as I was concerned the battle was over
and the urgency past. My prayers, too, were for Jeff,
and no longer for me and my peace of mind.

 That afternoon, as I approached the ward, I
anticipated the worst—a coma perhaps—but instead
the old familiar smile was creasing his face and he
was making the most of being the youngest in the
ward by teasing the nurses. He had turned the
corner. We would be married!
       ***** *

 Less than six months before this crisis occurred a
friend of mine had asked me to help in the running
of a Youth Group in the village where she used to live.
 Her twin sister explained. „Several of us help once
a fortnight together with some men from the
 We all go together in Chris‟s Land-Rover, and
we meet outside the Agricultural Lab at seven,‟
added the first twin. „See you then.‟
 It wasn‟t till long afterwards that I discovered why
the twins had asked me in particular.
 „You and Jeffery were so alike,‟ they explained.
„We thought you must meet each other. You were
bound to hit it off. We must admit, though, that we
never intended to match-make, and it was a bit
alarming when you announced your engagement so
soon afterwards!‟
 Certainly at the time I had no idea that I was being
asked for any other motive than to help this struggling
Youth Group find its feet. Indeed I went to the lab
muffled to the eyebrows in a huge winter coat and
scarf ready to combat the elements in the somewhat
draughty confines of the jeep, and not in any sense
prepared for the „kill‟ of a prospective husband. I was
given the seat of honour next to the driver, and the
twins explained that we‟d have to wait for Jeffery
because he was still lecturing.
 „High-powered sort of chap,‟ I thought to myself.
 „What does he lecture in?‟ I asked curiously.
 „Chemistry,‟ I was told. „Here he comes.‟
 A dumpy figure in a navy duffle coat and a ridiculous
hat emerged from the Chemistry block. Where, but
in Oxford, would one find a lecturer wearing a
South African Mounted Police hat? I goggled with
amazement, but secretly I was relieved that smartness
was obviously not the order of the day.
 „Sorry I‟m late,‟ apologized this extraordinary young
man as Chris slid the clutch into gear and we started
our fifteen mile drive. Introductions were brief, but
an hour or two later, when the meeting had broken
up into small groups, I found myself talking to Jeffery.
I had found no common ground with the local folk
and naturally gravitated to the one person with a
background somewhat similar to my own. I began to
fill in the gaps left by the scanty introductions.
Although Jeffery lectured he was still a post-graduate
student studying for his doctorate. He had become a
Christian in his first year at university, and had
subsequently spent part of each summer vacation
helping on a beach mission on the East Coast. I, too,
had spent a month of the past two summers working
on another beach mission, in Scotland. Conversation
flowed and all too soon it was time to leave.
During the next few weeks I was involved in
organizing a party for other young people, this time
in my own parish. Ostensibly they wanted a Christmas
party run on Christian lines, which would enable them
to start a regular Youth Group going. The vicar
inveigled me into running it and asked me to bring
some friends to help. My circle of Christian friends
of the opposite sex was limited, so, at the twins
suggestion, I invited Jeffery to help. To my amazement
he accepted, and, with Gill, another friend of mine,
we organized what turned out to be one big shambles.
The programme had been drawn up by a committee
of the young people with my help and the vicar‟s,
but when the evening came the youngsters refused to
co-operate. We had to cope with everything from beer
and gin in the cloakrooms to jiving in the hall. We were
greeted with point-blank refusals to join in the
jollifications that had been laid on and we very quickly
realized that we were making no headway in this
mêlée. What a relief it was when the vicar decided
to close early! Exhausted, we cleared away the debris
before I drove my helpers back to Oxford.
 As the door firmly closed on that enterprise, a new
door opened. For Gill, automatically assuming that
there was more in this friendship than met the eye,
insisted that Jeffery sat next to me in the car, and
agreed to chaperone‟ us to a Chinese meal! There
was no doubt about it, Jeffery and I were happy and
relaxed in each others company; but this was only
the third time that we had met. Intuitively Gill had
seen something to which we were still blind.
   Then came the Christmas break. Working for a
college library had its advantages: I got just over two
weeks‟ holiday. But during this time I heard nothing
from Jeffery and mentally assumed that our friendship
had been a passing one such as one frequently had at
university. I had only graduated the previous autumn,
but at the time I had faced up to the fact that God
might intend me to remain single for the rest of my
life. My mother obviously thought that I was on the
shelf for good. She and both my two sisters had been
married at twenty-three, and here was I, twenty-four,
and not even a steady boy-friend to my credit. Maybe
she would not have put it quite that way, but I did,
and for some time I had been praying „Lord, help me
to accept Your plan for my life, whether I‟m to be
single or married. Show me where You want me to
work, and help me to find joy in serving You even if it
is without a husband.‟ It had been strange to find God
guiding me into a temporary job in a college library
near home. I wanted to work in a university library,
but why in a temporary capacity? It was only a year‟s
appointment, but it was offered to me without being
advertised in the Press. I took it believing that this
was what God intended me to do. I thought perhaps
my parents were going to need me at home over the
coming year, or that God was preparing me to go
overseas as a missionary. Strangely enough I never
dreamt that it might be because God had a partner
waiting for me.
 As time passed I could see increasingly more of
God‟s plan. Here in this college was one person who
could help me to pass my final exams. Was it merely
coincidence that the deputy librarian should have
graduated with honours in the one subject in which I
needed coaching, and that she in turn wanted to pass
her driving test? I believe not. She practised driving
in my car and I practised Latin unseens under her
tuition. At last I qualified and was free of exam
pressures. I settled down to enjoy my work and quite
suddenly I felt at peace about remaining single, and
life opened up to me. It became exciting and
rewarding. The possibility of marriage stayed at the
back of my mind, but the idea ceased to take a central
position. It was then that I met Jeffery.
 After Christmas I returned to my desk eager to get
into harness again. Picking up an armful of queries I
headed for the catalogue. As I passed the issue desk,
Christine called out „Letter for you, Jenny.‟ A letter
for me! I could hardly believe my ears. I never got
correspondence at college. I stared at the envelope. I
didn‟t recognize the handwriting or the postmark.
Reigate and Redhill. Who on earth did I know there?
Curiously I slit open the envelope and turned to the
signature——Jeffery! I couldn‟t read it fast enough. He
was returning to Oxford on Monday, and would like
to see me again. Could he take me out for the evening
some time this week? My heart missed a beat. I re-read
the letter to make sure that I had read it correctly.
Then, horror of horrors, I noticed the postmark, and
realized that he had returned to Oxford the previous
Monday. How rude he must have thought me, to have
ignored his invitation completely! He must have
imagined that I wanted to end the friendship. I spent
my lunch-break composing a contrite reply and as
soon as I had finished work in the evening I sped round
to his digs. I hesitated outside the door, wondering
whether to plop the letter through the box or ring
and deliver it personally. It was unlikely that he
would be in, but if the landlady knew it was there it
would probably reach him that bit quicker. I pushed
the bell and asked the landlady to give the letter to
him. „I think he‟s in if you want to give it to him
yourself,‟ she told me. „Do you know your way up?
No? I‟ll show you. Follow me.‟
 With my heart beating a tattoo against my ribs I
pocketed my apologetic letter and followed the
motherly figure up three flights of stairs.
 „Visitor for you, Jeffery,‟ she called, knocking at a
door at the very top of the house, and then leaving us.
 It needed little or no explanation on my part before
he understood and we agreed to go out that same
 „The Baby and the Battleship—Last complete perform-
ance 6.50. How about that?‟ Jeffery ran his finger
down the column in the local paper. „it seems the
 I took his word for it. I didn‟t mind what I saw. I
knew now that I was very fond of him and just to
be in his company was all I wanted. We followed up
the film with a Chinese meal, and then, although it
was now late, I went back to his digs for coffee, and
stayed till after 2 a.m. Jeffery did not ask me to marry
him, but we did realize that we were head over heels
in love. We needed no ritual of words to prove it:
tacitly we both assumed that we would marry. It
seemed that we were made for each other, and that
in some extraordinary way we had always known each
other. That same evening we discussed marriage as a
foregone conclusion, till suddenly my emotions
bubbled up inside me and I burst into tears. Hesitantly
Jeff took me in his arms and when at last I was able
to speak I explained that I found it difficult to believe
that anyone could love me that much. I wasn‟t worth
loving. It was too good to be true. However, Jeff had
no such doubts, and when we parted we were
unofficially engaged.
 Next morning I was tempted again to doubt our
feelings and to wonder whether we had let our
emotions run away with us. Perhaps we had left God
out of our reckoning and this wasn‟t His plan for
our lives. Eagerly I turned to my Bible and began to
read where I had left off the day before. Incredulously
I read Then the Lord God said ‘It is not good that the man
should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.’ What
further confirmation of God‟s will did I need?
 I hurtled joyfully downstairs to breakfast. My
mother eyed me from the cooker. „Did you have
a nice time with John last night?‟ she asked.
 This took some of the wind out of my sails. „John?‟
I queried.
 „Yes,‟ she replied, „Daddy said you were going to
the pictures with John last night.‟ (John was the
vicar‟s son.)
 Relief poured through me. My father was slightly
deaf and had obviously misheard me on the phone
the night before. My parents knew John reasonably
well and wouldn‟t have been in the least worried if
they‟d thought that I was out late with him. I laughed.
 „We had a lovely time,‟ I replied, „but I went with
 Jeff laughed too when he heard about the mis-
understanding. He also shared my excitement over my
morning‟s reading.
 „Look,‟ he said, „what I read.‟ He flicked through
his Bible. „A good wife is far more precious than jewels.
I didn‟t cheat,‟ he went on, „I would have read that
    even if we hadn‟t met last night.‟
     Everything seemed to have gone right so far, but
    Sunday came, when Jeff was to meet my parents, and
    everything seemed to go wrong for him. First he spilt
    cream on the dining-room table. Then he had to
    explain to my father that he hadn‟t got a first class
    honours in Chemistry but a top Second—I had been
    under the impression that he had got a first and had told
    my parents accordingly. Ill at ease myself and sensing
     Jeff‟s awkwardness I suggested that we took my dog
     for a walk after we‟d washed up. We trudged down
country lanes for a couple of hours and returned with
our shoes liberally coated with mud. Jeff did his best
to wipe his feet clean before going into the drawing-
room because this room was my mother‟s pride and
joy, and there was a beautiful new off-white carpet on
the floor. (Even the dog had to have his paws wiped
before entering.) But when I came down I found Jeff
sitting in his stockinged feet looking acutely embarras-
    sed and my mother sweeping up the mud that he‟d
    unintentionally deposited on the carpet! How thankful
    we were to escape to the evening service that night!
     Later that week my parents left for a holiday in
    Switzerland. Before they went I tackled my mother,
    over the washing-up: „Jeffery‟s asked me to spend
    next week-end at his home in Merstham. May I go?‟
     My mother carefully laid another plate on the
     „Do you want to go?‟ she asked.
     „What a stupid question!‟ I thought impatiently,
    but aloud I replied that I did.
     „Then of course you may go.‟ She turned back to
    the sink.
     Friday evening was a long time coming and when it
    did arrive it was bitterly cold and snowing. Jeff and
    I dressed as if we were preparing for an Arctic
    expedition. My little green „beetle‟ had no heating
and it was going to take about three hours to drive
to Merstham. We hadn‟t driven far when I began to
despair of ever reaching our destination. The roads
were simply dreadful.
 „I‟ll drive,‟ offered Jeff. Gladly I relinquished the
wheel, and as he slowly pulled away I realized how
vastly superior his driving was to mine.
 „I learnt in Canada,‟ he explained, „while I was
doing my National Service in the R.A.F. We were
training under a N.A.T.O. scheme with the Canadian
Air Force, and funds weren‟t too low, so three of us
clubbed together to buy an old 1936 Pontiac. We got
around quite a bit, and these roads are nothing
compared to some of the Canadian roads in winter.‟
 As we neared Merstham he turned up a minor road.
 „You‟d better change here,‟ he said as he backed
the car into a gateway. He switched off the engine and
turned his back while I swiftly changed out of my
trousers into a suit. I had learnt that my future mother-
in-law didn‟t approve of girls in trousers, and, as I
was out to impress, I dressed accordingly. I needn‟t
have worried. The warmth of the old Tudor cottage
did not only come from the log-fire blazing in the
hearth. I instinctively took to this warm, loving
person whom I was to know as „Wootle‟.
 „Why Wootle?‟ I asked.
 „Well, you see, we used to have a pig on the farm
in Devon called Mother Weak, and somehow the
name got transferred to Mum,‟ explained Jeff, „and
then somehow it got changed to Wootle.‟
 The logic was quite impossible, but I accepted the
derivation for what it was worth and agreed to call
her Wootle too. She plied us with hot coffee and an
enormous pan of scrambled eggs.
 „Do you know what she asked me in the kitchen
just now?‟ asked Jeff as he returned from fetching
two mugs of steaming coffee.
 „Is this the one?‟
 I stared. „How on earth did she know?‟
 „She‟s like that. You‟ll see.‟
 I did see, and I loved her for it. It was she who
suggested that we should have our engagement ring
made by a family friend, and who arranged for
him to come that very week-end. In no way did I find
her interfering. She was delighted that her elder son
had found a girl to love and marry, and she only
wanted the best of everything for both of us. When
we left on the Sunday afternoon I knew that I had
made a friend for life.
 We left early so that we could visit my sister who
lived nearby. We stayed there just long enough for a
cup of tea, but as Jeff walked out to the car with her
husband, I took the opportunity of telling her that
we were unofficially engaged.
 „Yes, I know. Mummy told me,‟ was the unexpected
 „But we haven‟t told her yet,‟ I expostulated.
 „I know, but she knew all right. She said if you
wanted to make it official while they were still away,
you could phone them up. Daddy will pay!‟
 Jeff and I decided that such an important phone
call demanded V.I.P. treatment. We entered the
foyer of one of Oxford‟s smartest hotels, and were
directed to the telephones upstairs. We booted the
call and prepared to wait. We could concentrate on
nothing. At last the phone rang.
 „Hello, Daddy. Jeff‟s here and would like a word
with you.‟ I passed the receiver across.
 „Hello, Sir,‟ Jeff‟s voice was stilted and formal, his
slightly Oxford accent accentuated by his nervousness.
„Jenny and wondered if you would agree to our
getting engaged?
 There was a long pause. Jeff cupped his hand over
the mouthpiece. „He‟s quite incoherent,‟ he grinned.
„I think I‟d better pass you back.‟
  I took back the phone to hear my mother take over
from my father, and at last we had some sense. Of
course they were thrilled and were only too delighted
that we should announce our engagement during their
absence. Peep, peep, peep—the pips interrupted.
„Lots of love to you both. Good-bye.‟
  The ordeal was over and Jeff had exchanged barely
half a dozen words with my father.
 „Thank goodness that‟s over,‟ he exclaimed. „I was
dreading asking your father. I didn‟t know what to
say. He‟s so Victorian! Talk about the easy way of
asking someone‟s hand in marriage! Let the girl do
all the talking!
                    * ** ***

  The next few weeks passed swiftly by. We spent
every spare minute together, sharing everything we
could. My first visit to Jeff‟s lab was late at night
after we had been out all evening.
 „I only want to take something out of the vacuum
dessicator,‟ I was informed as he unlocked the lab
 „What‟s a vacuum dessicator?‟ I asked.
 „It‟s a machine that dries things out.‟
 „Like a spin-drier?‟
 „No.‟ Jeff tried to explain as we climbed a long
flight of stairs. „It has two compartments. In the
bottom one you have a drying agent that absorbs the
water from the substance to be dried, which is
supported in the top one. In order to accelerate the
procedure you create a vacuum to remove the air.‟
  We turned a corner and Jeff flicked a switch. The
fluorescent tubes began to glow. I stared around me
bewildered, and, at the same time, greatly impressed
by the vast array of glass tubes and instruments stacked
round the room.
 „You‟d better stand clear while I open up,‟ warned
Jeff. „It just might be dangerous.‟ By this time he was
wearing goggles and looking more like a coal miner
than a chemist. I took his advice and stood well back.
 Bang! Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle. There was glass
 „Blow‟, was the restrained comment from behind
the goggles. „Now I‟ll have to start again. You‟ll find
a broom over there. You sweep the floor and I‟ll cope
with the rest.‟
 We cleared away the debris and Jeff reset the
apparatus. The smell was appalling and I left the lab
that night with the impression that chemistry was
only bangs and stinks, and that all chemists must
be small boys at heart, but although our visits to the
lab became more frequent I never again witnessed such
a dramatic explosion.
 I spent many hours perched on a lab stool taking down
figures that meant nothing to me but everything
to Jeff, but where it would be ninety-nine per cent
Jeff and one per cent me in the lab, it became fifty-
fifty when it came to discussing our future. We
planned to he married in July, but before then two
big problems had to be solved—where Jeff would
work when he‟d got his doctorate, and where we
should live. Letter after letter went to different
Canadian universities and three posts were offered to
him. Finally he accepted one in Toronto only to
discover a few weeks later that the Atomic Energy
Research Establishment at Harwell were willing to
sponsor him to do further post-graduate research at
Oxford. We both felt that it was right to accept the
Oxford post although it meant disappointing the
university of Toronto. If only we could have seen
into the future we should have realized that in Canada
we could never have afforded the drugs and hospital
treatment that were later to be essential.
 „With a job settled we had to find somewhere to live.
We looked at flat after flat until at last we found the
ideal one, nine miles out of Oxford in a cul-de-sac
hamlet. The only thing wrong with it was that it had
been let twenty-four hours earlier to a single girl!
But the landlord and his wife were charming people
and they offered to rent us other rooms at half the
price of the flat! There was garage space in the barn
and an enormous garden which we were free to make
use of. Moreover we would be only two miles from
the village where our friends the twins lived.

  All this planning and preparation went on during
the weeks following Jeff‟s discharge from hospital. It
seemed difficult then to realize that he had been so
critically ill that, when he was admitted that Maundy
Thursday, the physician in charge had told us not to
plan anything definite. He had refused even to give an
approximate date for his discharge. He didn‟t really
know what was the matter with him, and the cortisone
treatment was only „a shot in the dark‟. We might
never be married, and at the least we were given to
understand that he would be in for six months,
probably more.
 Typically, once Jeff had turned the corner we
planned and prayed for the future. In three weeks my
mother called me to the phone to hear Jeff tell me
that he had been discharged provided that he could
come to my home to convalesce. (My father was a
retired doctor and my mother a nurse, so medical
care would he available on the spot.) Deep down we
were convinced that God meant him to get better
and we continued to plan with all the optimism of
youth and hundreds of pills to help us. Only later
did I learn that my mother, with great perception,
had said to a friend „Only one thing worries me
about their marriage—that it won‟t be a long one.‟
        CHAPTER 2
As the first rays of sunlight crept through my bedroom
window I woke with a jolt. Today was my day. All the
presents and the „thank you‟s‟, the planning and the
rehearsals were over. Today Jeff and I were to be
married. Jeff was still on drugs and got tired very
easily, but despite the predictions of the medical men
we were to be married to schedule. With a bound I
was out of bed, and then I realized that I was meant
to be having breakfast in bed, and it was only six
o‟clock. I hated breakfast in bed. It was all those
toast crumbs afterwards—they got into everything.
Anyway I never felt really comfortable eating in bed.
Still, I wouldn‟t have to sleep in this bed tonight,
and it would be a help to the family. They would
find it easier with one less body downstairs. There
were ten of them ~without me, and two more were
staying at the village pub. What a palaver! No wonder
Jeff had wanted a quiet wedding!
 I climbed back into bed wondering if the morning
would ever pass, and praying and hoping that the
service would go better than the rehearsal. Mentally
I relived the scene of the previous day. It had been a
lovely July evening and we had sauntered down to the
church quite prepared to enjoy the preview of the
ceremony. Jeff and I had discussed and arranged the
order of the service weeks before and everyone was
happy about it. It should have been plain sailing, but
immediately we started, we ran into hitches. My
father wanted us to do exactly what the vicar said,
and this turned out to be not what we had originally
planned. Inwardly rebelling, I reluctantly gave way
on two issues, but when a printer‟s error on the
service sheet made them decide to leave out a hymn
altogether I snapped.
 „I thought this was going to be my wedding day. If
you‟re going to muck the service about, I‟m not
going to be married here tomorrow.‟ I stormed into
the vestry with the tears pouring down my face and
Jeff uncertain how to comfort me. He held me close
while the tears racked my body. There was a deathly
hush in the church. Then my brother-in-law, who
was actually going to marry us, came out.
 „You take her home,‟ he told Jeff. „I‟ll sort this
out. It‟ll be all right in the end. Don‟t worry.
 We left George to conciliate two upset elderly
gentlemen, while hand in hand we walked slowly home
through the village. Gradually I simmered down, and
by the time we reached home my emotions were
under control. Jeff wasn‟t musical and he didn‟t mind
how we were married as long as we got it over quickly.
He would have been quite happy to alter the service
if it would have meant peace among the participants,
but he realized how much these details meant to me
and so he too was upset.
My family knew me well enough to realize that I
would not be likely to compromise over this issue,
so it was a great relief to everyone when George
returned home to tell us that he had managed to
iron things out, and the service would go as we
had planned, except for one small addition which
he felt sure I could accept. He was right, and by the
time supper was on the table the tension had been
released. It was a hilarious meal, and we were teased
 Saturday afternoon came at last and the sun shone
uncertainly as our taxis left the house. In order to
get to the church we had to cross the main road,
travel about a mile up the village street and then cross
a level-crossing. As my father and I drew up at the
cross-roads two young guests missed the turning to
the church and sailed on up the hill, so, to my father‟s
horror, I leant out of the window in all my wedding
finery and gesticulated wildly. With shrieks of
merriment the couple recognized me and pulled to a
 Having restored me to a more sober frame of mind
my father relaxed a little, only to tense again as we
stopped unexpectedly at the level-crossing. Despite
all our careful planning and timing British Rail had
done it again! The Bristol express was late and the
gates were shut. Unconcerned I studied the other cars
to see who else was going to be late. Minutes later my
father thankfully relinquished his responsibilities to
Jeff, who was so nervous that the sweat was running
down his face.
 The tiny village church was packed with friends and
relations, and every nook and cranny spilled over with
white blossom. With all the love and beauty that
surrounded us, Jeff and I were very conscious that we
were the centre of attraction, until we came to the
address. Then our thoughts were taken beyond our-
selves to another wedding long ago in Cana, and it
was suggested that we should all invite Jesus to our
festivities (i.e., our wedding), and that we should
invite Him into our homes and lives as well. We had
determined in the earliest days of our courtship that
Jesus should be the centre of our life together, but
as the need was revealed to us once again we renewed
our vows that He should have the first place in our
home no matter what the ups and downs might be.
 When we got back to the house for the reception
Jeff and I exchanged our wedding gifts—a pocket
Bible for me with my new initials on it, and for Jeff
a signet ring with the family crest and motto on it:
„Nil desperandum‟ („Never give up‟) it should have
read, but the jeweller obviously didn‟t know Latin,
for, to our amusement, it read „Nil desperandum‟.
Inside both gifts were our names, the date of our
wedding and the verse All things work together for good
to them that love God. Almost daily through our court-
ship this verse had grown to mean more to both of us,
and, though as yet we didn‟t realize it, we were to
cling to it even more desperately in the days that lay
ahead. It was because of this promise that we were
enabled to keep the family motto, and in the blackest
of hours we drew comfort from it.
 The time came for us to leave the guests and we
tore out of the house at break-neck speed trying to
avoid the confetti that rained down on us. Our best
man was waiting with the engine of his ancient
Daimler gently ticking over, and we shot away with
the briefest of farewells.
 „Thank goodness that‟s over.‟ Jeff heaved a sigh of
relief. „I can‟t imagine why anyone ever gets married
more than once. I wouldn‟t go through that perform-
ance again if you paid me to.‟
 „Where‟s that brother-in-law of yours gone?‟ asked
our driver, staring suspiciously into the driving
 „If you mean Rex, I bet he‟s going to follow us,‟ I
grinned. „I hope you hid the car successfully this
 „I think we did‟, I was told. „It‟s in the garage yard
at the cross-roads at the top of the hill.‟
 They may have thought that they hadn‟t been seen,
but they must have had their minds on other things,
for, as we pulled out of the garage yard in our own
car, there was a thunderous clanking of tin cans. We
stopped and our best man cut most of them free before
we caught sight of a familiar green Morris.
 „Quick. Leave the others,‟ said Jeff. „Let‟s try and
throw them off.‟
 He flogged the poor old Anglia, but within half a
mile we were enduring not only the last remaining tin
can but also the overpowering smell of roasting
kippers. We admitted defeat and pulled in to remove
the offending articles. Up went the bonnet and up
drew the Morris behind. Jeff hadn‟t thought to pack
wire-cutters for a honeymoon, so slowly and pains-
stakingly we untwisted the wires that lashed two
kippers very securely to the engine. Meanwhile my
uncle and brother-in-law alternately roared with
mirth and took photographs. At last we freed the
charred remains and then, and only then, were we
allowed to leave unmolested.

 We started married life together as many other
couples do, quietly getting used to a routine in
harness. People talk of the need to build up or work
at a marriage, but we were unaware of having to do
this at any stage. After only a few days it seemed as if
we had always lived together—there was no conscious
adjusting to do. We couldn‟t imagine what life had
been like before we lived together. During our court-
ship we had often genuinely been mistaken for brother
and sister; there was indeed a certain amount of
physical resemblance between us, and we had auto-
matically tended to think along the same lines right
from when we first met.
 We revelled in our new country home, and
because I was still in a full-time job (this time with
the County Library) we did everything together. Even
housework was shared out, and many was the day
when Jeff helped mc to peg out the washing. Because
we were living nine miles out of Oxford in a village
with no public transport we had to travel together,
leaving the house at 8.30 a.m. and returning some time
after six in the evening. Research is not usually a
nine to five job, but Jeff did his best to make it easy
for me. I was supposed to do nine to five, but in
practice it didn‟t matter as long as I put in the right
number of hours. If Jeff was late in the evening, I
would carry on working till he arrived and the
additional hours would counterbalance the times we
were late in the morning. Twice we arrived very late
indeed for work, owing to two of Jeff‟s more
unfortunate feats of car-backing. The first time he
managed to back on to the post that marked the cess
pool. We laughed and laughed, but eventually we had
to jack up the car in order to push her safely out of
the danger zone. Only two days later a wail of distress
brought me running to find that he‟d successfully
backed into the balustrade of the outside staircase
leading to the stable loft. I couldn‟t believe my eyes
when I saw how inextricably the front bumper and
fender were entangled with the wood. Once more we
jacked the car up and managed to rock her free
without damage to either the car or the woodwork.
 My turn was to come. I fell asleep at the wheel and
was rescued from a sticky end by a loud roar from
Jeff just before we hit the hedge. It was strange that
the one thing we never really got used to was the way
in which the other partner drove. I drove too near
the curb for Jeff‟s liking and Jeff drove too near the
oncoming traffic for my comfort.
 Living where we did we were reliant on the car
for most things so we very quickly had to learn to
live with each other‟s driving habits. We travelled a
lot at week-ends because we became deeply involved
in the parish. When we first moved we found that
there was no children‟s work, so we approached the
vicar to ask if we might start a Sunday School.
Although we had both worked on beach missions, we
had no training for Sunday School work, and we felt
it was a bit of a nerve asking if we might plunge in
at the deep end; but Jeff did most of the talking and
we came away with an absolutely free hand. Our
immediate reaction was to head for the twins‟ home
which lay between the vicarage and the church. They
had already agreed to help us in this venture, and it
was they who had insisted that Jeff, as the only man,
should approach the vicar—they both tended to be
indecisive and needed someone to lead the way for
them. But what they lacked in decisiveness they made
up for in enthusiasm, and once we had got the vicar s
consent we mapped out the two villages between us
and prepared to visit every home with children. The
following week we set out. As new-comers to a
fairly closed community we anticipated a certain
amount of opposition, but when we returned that
evening we were full of thankfulness for the way in
which God had helped us. Not one door had been
shut in our faces and we had been received with
courtesy everywhere. Promises to attend had been
extracted from several families and we knew that God
had given the green light to go ahead.
 It was a pack-out that first Sunday. Twenty-four
children sat hypnotized as Jeff carefully poured water
into an apparently empty glass. Incredulous, they
watched it turn red and heard how Jesus had per-
formed a similar miracle at Cana many, many years
earlier. No wonder we never saw the local publican‟s
daughter again at Sunday School! „Her father must
think that I‟m going to do him out of a job !„laughed
Jeff. This was neither the first nor the last time that
Jeff was to use his chemical knowledge to help others
in the Christian faith. There was the Christmas party
for the Sunday School when he drove home from the
lab with thirty balloons filled with hydrogen floating
across the roof of the car.
 „The policeman at the roundabout gave me some
pretty queer looks,‟ he commented as we man-
oeuvred them into the hall and into a cupboard out
of sight. What shrieks of delight there were when
they were released at the end of the party! Jeff had
to use a broom to retrieve them from the ceiling to
give them to the children, but it was worth all the
effort for the pleasure that it gave them. We loved
working with the children despite the toll that it took
of Jeff‟s health, for he was still on heavy drugs and
tired very quickly.
 However, neither Jeff‟s poor health nor the pressure
of our activities could in any way detract from our
joy when it was confirmed that a baby of our own
was on the way. But we realized that we couldn‟t go
on living in two rooms for ever. We said nothing to
our landlord, but a couple of evenings later, when
he asked us to bring home a local paper for him, Jeff
remarked as we drove home, „There‟s something
that sounds like us in this paper.‟ I flicked open the
advertisement page and read it out. It was a university
lecturer‟s house and we agreed that we should ring
the agent as soon as we got in to see if we could view
it, or the chances were that it would have gone by
the time we got there the next day. It was just after
six when we arrived home, but Jeff managed to catch
the agent before he shut. Jeff took down the name
and address, which was in a nearby village, and after
a hasty meal we drove the four miles there to see the
house. As we drove we prayed that we might know
whether this was where God wanted us to live.
 Two sugar-pink cherry trees were in full bloom in
the front garden, and silently we agreed that it looked
like our sort of house. Jeff knocked and a tall young
man opened the door and stood hesitating, obviously
racking his brains to remember something. Then
„Jeff!‟ he exclaimed, „Come in‟ and he stood aside
to let us pass. This man, who was the owner, had
been at university with Jeff, but because he had been
studying in a different faculty he had never known
him very well. He was now moving to Manchester.
He had only advertised the house for sale the previous
day, but had already had one offer. „But if you still
want it when you‟ve seen it and discussed it,‟ he said,
„you can have it.‟
 Jeff and I hardly dared look at each other. Here was
the answer to our prayer. We both liked the house,
but there was one snag. Could we possibly raise a
deposit, let alone secure a mortgage? We only had
our wedding present money and that was little more
than two hundred pounds. We left on the under-
standing that we would confirm our decision in the
 „Where‟ll we find the money?‟ I asked Jeff, once
back in the privacy of the car.
 „I don‟t know,‟ he replied. „I‟m sure God means
us to have that house, so He‟ll have to provide the
money. Let‟s ring Wootle and tell her about it.‟
 We didn‟t want to tell our landlord our plans yet,
so we stopped at the first telephone kiosk to phone
Jeff‟s mother.
 „She‟s thrilled,‟ whispered Jeff, cupping his hand
over the receiver. „How much?‟ His voice suddenly
increased in volume, an(l excitement was written all
over his face. I could hardly wait for the three minutes
to be up.
 „Four hundred pounds of mine,‟ he explained as he
rang off, „in Savings Certificates. It‟s what I earned
while I was teaching before I came up to Oxford.
Mum‟s got it at home.‟
 We couldn‟t have been more pleased if we‟d been
told that we had the whole price of the house. We
were sure now that God meant us to buy it and in
June we moved in.
 We were glad to be those few miles nearer Oxford.
For the past few weeks Jeff had been suffering inter-
mittently from a stone in his kidney, and it was a
relief to be nearer medical help. One Sunday evening
soon after we‟d moved in, he could hardly move
because the pain was so acute. The doctor asked me if
he could come to the surgery, and Jeff insisted that he
could. I drove those two miles with the utmost care
and he never complained, but the pain must have been
excruciating because the moment the doctor started
to examine him, he was literally sick with pain. We
hardly needed to be told that he would have to go
to hospital immediately.
 Rather than wait for an ambulance we set off again
for Oxford and the hospital. I took him straight to
the Casualty Department, but we had to wait three
hours before anyone saw him. The nurse on duty took
all the details and then left us. It was a ghastly three
hours. I was three months pregnant and tired anyway;
there was nowhere to sit except the end of the very
hard couch on which Jeff was still writhing in pain,
and there was nothing to do but to try and keep his
mind occupied. At last eleven o‟clock struck, and he
was seen and officially admitted. He was in hospital
for ten days and it was the loneliest ten days of my
life so far.
 „God, why should I be left alone when we should be
enjoying our new home together? I want to share it
with Jeff. I want to talk about our new baby with him.
I‟m tired of being on my own. There‟s not enough to
do with only me at home, even though l am still at work.
God, keep me busy. Help me not to miss him so.‟
 It was difficult for me to accept this loneliness and
emptiness as part of God‟s plan for me, and it wasn‟t
any easier to watch my husband in pain. I had no
inkling that this might be a foretaste of what life had
in store for me later. However, I did gradually learn
to find joy in activity, and it wasn‟t long before I
heard the well-loved voice ask „How would you like
me home again?‟

 „I‟M a fraud! I‟m sure I‟m a fraud,‟ I chanted all
the way to the hospital.
 „Nonsense,‟ replied Jeff rather tersely—prospective
fatherhood weighed rather heavily on him just then—
„No one‟s a fraud at regular fifteen-minute intervals!‟
 „But it‟s not due till the New Year, and that‟s a
fortnight away,‟ I wailed. „I must be a fraud.‟
 Jeff was right, of course. I wasn‟t a fraud, even
though we had to travel another six miles and wait
another twenty-four hours to prove it conclusively.
 Much later, shortly before midnight struck, fog and
a long drawn-out labour made the doctor decide to
transfer me to a bigger hospital before it was too late.
What an ambulance he chose !—completely devoid of
springs! I‟ll never forget it. The nurse asked me if she
could do anything, and abruptly I turned away: „Go
away,‟ I said rudely. It didn‟t dawn on me till long
afterwards that she couldn‟t possibly have gone away
with the ambulance belting through the misty darkness
at about fifty miles an hour. Somewhere behind us Jeff
was trying to keep up, sick with worry lest it should
be something serious that was holding up proceedings.
He needn‟t have worried. The lack of springs soon
shook our reluctant daughter out of her lethargy, and
at half past one next morning Ruth at last made her
appearance. I was disappointed at first because I had
badly wanted a boy, but Jeff, despite his rude remarks
about a „hairy little monkey‟ was quite obviously
delighted. This tiny, five pound fourteen ounce baby
was soon going to be able to twist her father round her
little finger, and he adored her from the very start.
 Shortly before Ruth‟s first birthday it was again
Jeff‟s turn to be carted off to hospital. He had been
attending for regular check-ups and had undergone
several rigorous tests since we had been married, but
now the hospital was calling him for definite surgery.
An enlarged gland in his groin was to be removed. We
took it in our stride. After all, I had had a gland
removed from my neck as a young teenager and I was
still around to tell the tale. All that worried us now
was whether he would be out in time for Christmas.
Although we had moved again and London was now
only twelve miles away, I was pregnant again and
visiting him was going to be almost impossible with
Ruth to cope with as well, and we couldn‟t entertain
the thought of Christmas being spent apart for the
second year in succession. Two days to Christmas,
and, joy of joys, I was allowed to fetch him home
again. I couldn‟t get to the hospital fast enough.
 „They still don‟t know what it is,‟ Jeff explained.
„It‟s probably all linked up with my research, so they‟re
not likely to find out either.‟ He went on, „he was a
good surgeon, though, that ex-colleague of your
father‟s. We discussed your family all through the
 We laughed, and resumed life as normally as was
possible after such an operation. We had no idea that
cancer was behind all the prevaricating, though the
doctors must have been sure by this time. Thank
Heavens, they didn‟t tell us! We were ridiculously
happy just to be reunited and we lived each day for
itself. This was just as well because this year of all
years brought some of the heaviest burdens we had to
bear together. My mother died in February, and I
went to help look after my father over the initial
period of shock. Then in July Jeff had to have deep
X-ray treatment on the glands on both sides of his neck
simultaneously, after which he was confined to bed
at home, barely able to eat or speak. It was while he
was in this weak state that his brother called one
Sunday to say that Wootle had been taken to hospital
after a severe stroke. It was unlikely that she would
survive. This news galvanized Jeff into action. Weak
though he was, his mother was not going to die
without a visit from him, and so began the hospital
visiting that was to become a part of our family life.
His mother, who initially was little more than a
cabbage, very slowly and almost imperceptibly began
to recover. Her will to live was indomitable. Only a
few days later Jeff‟s father, recently retired from
Ghana, was taken to hospital with some tropical
infection, and within a week he was dead.
 My father-in-law was ushered out rather abruptly,
but our second daughter—now a couple of months
old—had been heralded in, in a leisurely, organized
 Elisabeth showed herself to be a true Chadwick with
her easy-going nature. She was as happy and contented
as the day was long, and by force of circumstance she
had to become adaptable, for once a week we all went
hospital visiting. Most of the time I had to keep the
children in the hospital grounds while Jeff did the
bulk of the visiting, but now and then a kind sister
would let us in, myself, our brown-eyed ball of
energy and our blue-eyed bundle of love. Hospital
visiting doesn‟t appear to have had any adverse effects
on the children, for they have always accepted sick or
deformed people for what they are, without any sign
of embarrassment or fear, and over the years they have
brought much joy not only to us and their grand-
mother, but to many others also, because of this
natural acceptance of the situation. Hospital visiting
was, and is, an integral part of their lives.
 Just being together as a family brought us pleasure,
so we never thought of visiting without each other
unless it was obviously impossible. Jeff and I were
so much part of each other that our leisure time was
nearly always spent together, and when we had to be
apart we got a tremendous kick out of seeing each
other again. Even after a day‟s work in town I would
often take the children to meet Jeff‟s train, and we
would walk home together. I never lost the thrill of
watching for that train, and whether he had been
away for a day or a week, my heart would inevitably
give an extra bound when he returned. Nothing then
or since has given me such a thrill.
 We couldn‟t envisage life without each other, and,
when someone said in our hearing „The first seven
years of marriage are the worst. They are such hell
most of the time‟, there was no need for us to say
anything. Each knew how the other felt. To us mar-
riage was but a glimpse of what heaven would be like.
True, we had our difficulties, but the number of times
we had rows could be counted on one hand, and the
basic relationship was never threatened. No matter
how much Jeff teased me about the gorgeous girls in
mini-skirts on the underground, or the secretaries he
took out to lunch, I trusted him and he trusted me.
C. S. Lewis wrote of his marriage that it was too
perfect to last, so I am tempted to say of our marriage
 „This had reached its proper perfection. This had
become what it had in it to be. Therefore of course it
could not be prolonged.‟ As if God said, „Good; you
have mastered that exercise and I am very pleased
with it. And now you are ready to go on to the next.
When you have learnt to do quadratics and enjoy
doing them you will not be set them much longer.
The teacher moves you on.‟ This is how I feel about
our marriage. You may say „Distance lends enchant-
ment‟, or „Time has erased the unhappy memories and
left only the happy ones‟. I think not. Even now I get
twinges of remorse over things I did or said that hurt
Jeff unnecessarily, times when I hated his illness, and
grew angry and resentful because I had to forgo things
I wanted on his account. There was the time during
his last illness when I had to refuse a joint invitation
to a party. We rarely went out to parties and we‟d
both been particularly looking forward to this one.
Jeff insisted that I could go alone, but I wouldn‟t. I
was afraid of being the odd one out, and anyway a
party wasn‟t really a party without my other half.
Only a week later I had hoped to spend the day with
a friend who was over from South Africa for the first
time in years. I had organized the day well in advance
and the children were to go to friends after school,
but the minute I woke that morning I knew that Jeff
wasn‟t well enough to leave. I kicked and rebelled
long after the decision was made, although I knew that
the decision was the right one.
 „Why do you have to be ill the only time I can see
Helen? I haven‟t seen her for years and it‟s unlikely
that I‟ll ever see her again because she returns to South
Africa next week.‟ Fatigue and resentment broke my
sell-control and I wept. There was little Jeff could do:
he was too weak. And, to this day, I regret having
caused him such distress. Time has eased this burden
to a certain extent because I have learnt that most
widows experience these feelings of remorse and self-
recrimination. Thank God, He can forgive these things
just as He can forgive any other sin if we are truly
sorry. He doesn‟t necessarily kill the emotion involved,
but He does help us to rise above it.
 Those last few weeks were exhausting and demand-
ing. Although one can never fully enter the sufferings
of another, we were, in a sense, battling along
together. I longed to give Jeff some of the physical
strength that was so abundantly mine. If only I could
have saved him from those splitting headaches that
made him shirk strong light and loud noises! Still we
were in ignorance as to what caused them, and when
he was clear of them we still enjoyed planning our
future together. He had just received a large grant for
research from the Royal Society, and had been
advised by his professor to apply for a Readership,
from which the only step up was to professorial
status. Seven years previously we had planned our
future with contempt for the medical forecasts and
now we were doing exactly the same thing again. But
for two whole weeks I painfully watched him grow
weaker, till at last he was again admitted to hospital.
I had lost count of how many times he had been in
and out of hospital since we had been married and so,
in a way, it was a relief to have the responsibility of
nursing him taken off my hands. No longer would I be
woken three or four times in a night to find the bed
drenched in sweat; no longer would I have to crawl
out and make the bed with clean sheets while Jeff
shivered by the fireside; no longer would I have to
rub him dry and help him into fresh pyjamas ; no
longer would I have to rack my brains for something
to tempt his fast-diminishing appetite. At last I could
sleep undisturbed and I could give the children the
attention that they needed, even if I would have to
get them to bed early so that I could visit Jeff. All
these thoughts and many more went through my mind
as I shut the door on the ambulance men. Then I
remembered something: the doctor had asked mc to
go to surgery that evening. Why me? I couldn‟t
    An hour or two later the truth was out. Cancer,
cancer, cancer. The word drummed on my brain as
I walked slowly home from the surgery. Did Jeff
really not know that it was cancer causing all this
trouble? Why, he had a pile of chemistry books by
his bed, and there on the top lay the application form
for the new post! Could this man honestly believe
that death was lurking round the corner?
 Somehow as I entered the hospital gates I still hoped
for the miracle that would prove the doctors wrong
and Jeff right. It had happened once~ could it not
happen again? I hesitated at the door of an unfamiliar
ward and then took the plunge. It seemed that the
miracle had happened! Jeff was sitting up in bed
ribbing his senior lecturer and looking more like
himself than he had for days. As I kissed him he
pointed to the tubby little woman bustling round the
bed opposite.
 „See that little old bean over there,‟ he chuckled.
„She reminds me of you. You‟ll be like that when
we‟re old and I‟m in here again.‟
 A cold shiver went down my spine. How could he
say things like that when he‟d probably never reach
old age?
 Ten days passed while he gradually deteriorated.
That initial improvement had only been a flash in the
pan. The second Sunday came and suddenly in the
evening an overwhelming desire to pray seized me.
I had been with Jeff all afternoon and the children
were now in bed asleep. I was trying to settle with a
book when this unfamiliar urge forced me to my
knees. Emotions tore through my body, but no words,
no tears came. Then, without warning, a sense of
God‟s presence flooded through me. Never before or
since have I felt such comfort or such security. I knew
that I was close to God even though I didn‟t know
what to pray for. I only knew that I couldn‟t stand
the physical and mental anguish of watching my loved
one suffer much more. I couldn‟t cry out to God
because I was tongue-tied, but God knew what I was
trying to say and He answered. (Sometimes since then
I have felt that this is what true communion with God
should be and I have longed to recapture that wonder-
ful sense of God‟s enveloping presence.)
 I was roused from my knees by the insistent ring of
the phone. I sensed before I lifted the receiver that it
would be the ward sister.
 „Your husband is sinking fist. He‟s barely con-
 The harsh facts pierced my fatigue.
 „I‟ll be there as soon as possible,‟ I promised, but
I can‟t make it in less than half an hour.‟
 The car was still out and a neighbour came immedi-
ately to baby-sit, so I was heading up the A23 within
five minutes. As I approached the Elephant and Castle
the pressure suddenly seemed to ease. I was no longer
tempted to break the speed limit. I knew in my heart
of hearts that there would be nothing to he done even
when I did arrive. This did not, however, stop me
from parking blatantly in the car-park reserved for
hospital staff and taking the shortest route to the ward.
 Jeff now had a room to himself at the end of the
ward, and no one stopped me as I walked through.
Yet I knew as I turned the handle that he was already
dead. The nurse laying him out was caught unawares,
and in silence I stood for a moment, numbed and
dazed. The battle was over. Jeff was at peace. That
pallid corpse was no longer my husband. True, it was
a relief to see his brow freed from those dreadful lines
of pain that had furrowed their way across it over the
last few weeks. True, it still looked like my beloved
with his deliciously crooked smile, but I knew that this
cold inanimate body was no more Jeff than the suit of
clothes hanging in the wardrobe. He had exchanged it
for a new one that would suffer no pain or tears,
no fatigue or frustration, and for his sake I was glad.
For my part I felt nothing.
 Hesitant to break the silence I half whispered „Did
he say anything after I left this afternoon?‟
 Grateful for the release of tension the nurse
answered „No, but he left you this.‟
 Eagerly I took the scruffy piece of computer paper
from her outstretched hand. It read:
 Jenny—if I should die
1) Tell Royal Society I won‟t need their £1000,
2) Get on to Ian Smalley—thro‟ college—to cancel my book,
3) Au revoir.
 How like Jeff—practical and considerate to the end!
 As I folded the note and followed the nurse down
the ward to Sister‟s office, I vaguely realized that this
was not in fact the end but rather the beginning, the
beginning of a new life for both of us; but I was too
numb for this realization to mean much.
 There in the office a Christian friend was waiting.
How glad I was that he had refused to be put off
visiting because Jeff was tired. Now he was there to
help me in those first dazed moments. I was not
entirely alone in that now forbidding hospital!
 Drained of emotion and plied with coffee, I drove
home quite oblivious to Peter‟s Ford tailing me. His
heart must have missed several beats, for my driving
would never have passed for a driver‟s licence that
night. But however woolly my driving may have
been, my thinking was strangely clear. As soon as I
got home and my baby-sitter had gone I started to
ring round the family In the midst of this a friend
arrived with a sleeping pill. „Have you got a cup of
tea on the go?‟ she asked. Without hesitation I stopped
and brewed one. As we drank, all her problems came
pouring out. I had no time to think. My brain, glad
to concentrate on anything but Jeff, grasped at this
straw, and happily I went on brewing cups of tea till
long after midnight, when my brother-in-law arrived.
 He arranged to meet me later that morning at the
hospital and left again. I fell into bed drugged and
completely worn out, but sleep didn‟t come till
nearly five o‟clock. I still couldn‟t really believe that
all this had happened to mc. It had assumed a dream-
like quality and I seemed to be standing apart from
it. I could not sleep, I could not weep, I could not
pray, I could not settle, and yet deep down within
me there was peace in knowing that this was all part
of God‟s plan for Jeff‟s life and mine. I still knew that
„all things work together for good to them that love
God‟. We hadn‟t had that verse engraved on Jeff‟s
signet ring for nothing.

The bedroom door swung slowly open and a small
round face peered cautiously round it. Having ascer-
tained that I was really awake, Ruth‟s little face broke
into a smile.
 „Come to Mummy.‟ I patted the edge of the bed,
and she pattered over. She was only just five, and how
on earth was I going to break the news of Jeff‟s death
to her? Thank goodness, Elisabeth was still asleep. It
would be easier telling them one at a time. I sat up
and put my arm round Ruth‟s warm body. The sooner
it was over the better. Abruptly I said, „Daddy went to
live with Jesus last night.‟ She drew away from me and
looked hard to make quite sure that I meant what I
said. Gradually the penny dropped. Slowly she asked,
„Won‟t we ever see him again?‟ „Not till we get to
heaven,‟ I replied.
 Ruth‟s voice trembled. „Then I want to go to be
with Jesus too‟. She regained her control—‟Now.
 Carefully I explained that it wasn‟t up to us to
choose when we died, and that it was much better
that Daddy should no longer be in pain.
 „He‟s happy now,‟ I pointed out, hut Ruth was not
to be deterred. „I want to be with Jesus too,‟ she
repeated; I didn‟t know how to tackle this so I sent
her to wash.
       While she was gone, Elisabeth came in, tousled and
sleepy-eyed. Automatically I repeated the same words.
„Daddy went to live with Jesus last night.‟ Oh,‟ she
said and promptly changed the conversation.
 If I hadn‟t been so tired I would have been angry.
Didn‟t she feel anything? Didn‟t she realize what I
meant? How could she be so hard-hearted? Puzzled,
I racked my brains for an explanation and at last came
to the conclusion that she was just too young to
appreciate the significance of this bombshell.
 As the days and weeks passed and as the months
have gone by I‟ve realized that this must have been an
accurate diagnosis. At three and a half her life was
still bound up almost exclusively with mine. She was
very much more like Jeff than Ruth was, and I found
her much easier to handle. Moreover she had just
started in the Kindergarten Department of Ruth‟s
school, so her mind had plenty to occupy it. She
wasn‟t hard-hearted. She just hadn‟t had time really
to get to know her father, nor had she the ability to
express her feelings in words. Whatever she did feel
would have to he revealed through her actions, and
because she was basically an extrovert she threw
herself into life without bothering to think very
deeply about it or its problems. Ruth, on the other
hand, adopted a much more philosophical attitude,
and being that much older, had grasped a little of
what doing without Daddy might involve; that first
morning her reaction brought us very close together,
because there was no doubt in my mind too that
heaven would be infinitely sweeter if Jeff were there
to welcome me. It was, therefore, with a heavy heart
that I saw my elder daughter off to school, praying
hard that in the fun of work and play she might be
able to forget a little. Elisabeth had one more day‟s
quarantine for mumps, but she had regained her usual
vitality and happily went to a neighbour for the
morning. As I turned to clear the breakfast debris I
lifted my eyes to the verse above the kitchen sink—
„As thy days so shall thy strength be‟. It had been the
text of a New Year‟s sermon two years earlier and a
copy of it also hung above Jeff‟s desk at the university,
where it had continually reminded him of a strength
beyond his own. As I looked I tried to pray that I too
might have this strength beyond myself.
 As I joined our minister later that morning, I was
unaware that he knew anything about the place of that
verse in our lives. He asked if we should pray together
and I quickly assented. Imagine my surprise as, with
my face buried in my hands, I heard him use those
same words as he asked God to give me strength for
the day ahead. For the first time I felt the tears
pricking at the back of my eyes, but with typical
English reserve I fought them back. I never wept in
front of anyone but Jeff, and I was not going to reveal
my emotions now. It was a relief when we went on
the way and I did not have to drive. I was tired and
the strength of the man at the wheel gave me great
comfort. Both my parents were now dead, and my
mother-in-law was too handicapped to help in any
way, so I was tremendously grateful for this older,
wiser man‟s help. (Only later did I learn that he had
given up his day off in order to help me). My tensions
were eased by being able to talk freely, and when we
got to the hospital it was wonderful to feel that he
knew all about post-mortems, death certificates, death
grants, undertakers, funerals, etc. I had to make the
decisions, but I could count on his wisdom to guide
 When I arrived home one of my sisters was busy
cooking lunch with Elisabeth „helping‟. Together we
discussed some of the more immediate decisions con-
cerning the family, but intermittently we were
interrupted by the doorbell. Anne tried to protect
me from unwanted visitors, but I preferred to see our
friends myself. I was shattered to find how many paid
tribute by bringing me flowers. Jeff had always insisted
that it was a waste of money buying flowers for the
dead and had impressed on me that he wouldn‟t want
any. I had agreed at the time and I had specified that
there should be no flowers at the funeral, but I
couldn‟t stop these tokens of love coming to me, and
I don‟t think I would have wanted to if I could have
done. There was something poignant and beautiful
about these reminders of love and new life.
 As the days passed the door-bell and the phone
continued to vie with each other for attention. They
proved once and for all that, even if my loved one
had gone out of my life, love had not, but I was still
too numbed to show real appreciation of people‟s
help. It was as if part of me had gone—not part of
my body, but part of the essential „me‟. I was walking
round half doped. I had no more strong sleeping pills
after that first night, and even the mild ones were
dropped after a week, so I wasn‟t literally doped, but
just completely dazed. People talked, people helped,
people kept me company, but still I felt nothing, not
even a sense of loss. I knew what had to he done and
for the most part acted automatically. It was as if a
power outside myself were pulling the strings and I
was just a wooden puppet devoid of emotion of any
 The funeral day came and still I had no desire to
weep. It was a triumphant day and not a time for
sorrow. A flicker of emotion sparked to life and I
sang with all my heart
        „Jesus lives! thy terrors now
        Can, O Death, no more appal us.‟
I wanted to shout it from the roof-tops. I wanted all
these people in the church to understand that this was
what Christianity was about. There was no need to
mourn or grieve for Jeff. He had gone home.
 For the second time in my life I subjected my
friends and relations to the clear-cut message of hope
and forgiveness. The first time had been at our
wedding, but now there were many, many more in
the congregation, some of whom wouldn‟t normally
have darkened the doors of a church, but who were
prepared to do so out of respect for Jeff. How I longed
that this message might burn deep into their hearts.
There was meaning in life and death. Could they not
see it for themselves? Now they knew what I believed.
My brother-in-law, George, explained it in words of
one syllable. He preached the message that Jeff would
have preached if he had been in the pulpit in his place.
Thank heavens !—I could no longer hide my light
under a bushel.
 I don‟t think I‟d ever really known what knees of
jelly were like before that service. I felt as if my legs
were butter and I was powerless to prevent my knees
knocking together. Spiritually, however, I was elated.
It seemed as if every word of that service carried a
special meaning for me, as well as for those around me.
I can only attribute this to the power of God released
by the prayers of the many Christian friends around
 Not only were these friends prayerful. They were
practical as well. They had already begun to obey our
Lord‟s command to care for the fatherless and widow.
We had run out of coal on the Tuesday before the
funeral, and, as one of our friends replenished the
empty coal hole with her own coal and logs, I
answered a peremptory ring at the front door. There
was our best man with his wife and two-year-old
daughter. He was now a curate in East London, and
because Tuesday was his half day they had dropped
everything to come and see me. This alone would have
moved me, but then they unloaded the shopping
basket and revealed provisions to save me shopping—
provisions that they could ill afford to buy and time
that they could ill afford to spend, unstintingly and
lovingly given me.
 Then there was Jan, who insisted on spending the
whole day prior to the funeral cleaning right through
the house. „No, don‟t you worry,‟ she said, as I took
up a duster to help. „You just get on with the business.
   I‟ve brought our lunch, so there‟s absolutely nothing
   for you to do.‟ She was right too. The house hadn‟t
   looked so clean for months and I had no need to think
   about housework for the rest of the week.
    There was no need for me to worry either about
   the people travelling long distances for the funeral.
   Jan, together with two other friends from the church,
   insisted that they would prepare a tea for these guests
   after the funeral. By half past two on the day it was all
   delivered. Nothing was omitted—even the sugar and
   the tea itself were provided, while the large family-
   sized table positively groaned with the load of food
   it held.
    The garden, too, was not forgotten. Jeff‟s brother
   took me and the girls to his country cottage for a
   break at the week-end and when we returned on
   the Sunday evening the garden was immaculate. My
   next-door neighbour must have spent hours on it.
   This kindness, combined with saying „Goodbye‟ to
   Peter, tugged at my heart-strings. I felt absolutely
   desolate Action alone would prevent me giving way to
   tears, and I was determined never to give way to them
   in front of the children. I picked up the suitcase.
   „Come on, girls, „ I said briskly, as much to myself as
   to them „Let's go and unpack.‟

     If I thought that I could kick myself out of my grief
   I was sadly mistaken. I could no more force my
   emotions into a state of equilibrium than I could have
   walked with a broken leg. My whole personality was
   at sixes and sevens. It would have been natural to
   have cried my eyes out - or would it? Some people
   obviously thought so. Within a week one member of
   the family deliberately set about trying to open the
   dam gates that were holding back my tears. As he
   went on talking I remembered how my mother had
said that it was wrong to bottle up one‟s emotions
inside oneself. Thinking that I might have unconsci-
ously stifled my emotions until now, I let my mind
dwell on events that brought the tears to my eyes, arid
soon my defences were down. I threw myself to the
floor and buried my face in the chair. Somehow I was
still loath to reveal my weakness. I have a horror of
exposing my feelings whatever they are, whether of
grief or joy, hope or despair. Perhaps this is because
I was brought up to conceal them beneath a stoical
exterior, or perhaps it is because tears in an adult
have always frightened me. My mother had told me to
release my feelings in tears, but her example had
taught me otherwise. The number of times that my
parents had wept in my presence could be counted
on one hand, and each time their tears had shaken me
to the core. I think it was therefore partly because I
didn‟t want to upset other people, and partly because
I was proud of my self-control, that I always tried not
to weep. I had never seen the need to analyse the
reason why we have been given tears, so now, when
I was deeply and emotionally involved, I couldn‟t see
that being stoical was neither particularly Christian
nor particularly non-Christian. The fact that Jesus had
wept in the presence of death had completely escaped
me, and my whole upbringing rebelled against my
so-called „weakness‟.
 „It‟s all wrong. I shouldn't cry like this,‟ I jerked
out. „It‟s only self— pity because I miss him so.‟
 „It‟s not wrong. Jeff would want you to. I know if
I died I would want someone to weep for me.‟ came
the somewhat unsteady reply.
 „No. No. You're wrong.' I cried out. „Jeff's happy
now. He doesn't want anyone to cry for him.‟
 „How I wish I could believe that too.‟
Hopelessness and despair reverberated round the
room, and my tears redoubled. How abysmal is death
to the non-Christian, a bleak void, a total disintegra-
tion ——.Jeff was gone and gone for good. His life had
been wasted. Where was the point of it all? He could
have done so much with his research. It wasn‟t right
that he should be cut off in the prime of life…..Never
have I longed more for a non-Christian to have a faith
to cling to. Even through my tears I knew for a fact
that there was life after death. If ever I had been
uncertain about it before, my faith was now un-
shakable. Jeff was alive and we would meet again. It
had been no wishful thinking when he had scrawled
„Au revoir‟ in his last conscious moments. I knew this,
and my heart-ache now was for this desolation that
could break a man and reduce him to tears, for, as he
moved to take my head in his lap, his voice broke.
 His face streaked with tears, he gently stroked my
hair. The touch of his hands reminded me of Jeff.
Never again should I know the joy of physical contact
with my lover. I hadn‟t missed it while he was ill,
but this unexpected, gentle and loving caress aimed at
soothing my tensed body drew me further into the
arms of self-pity.
 Today I question myself: 'Was it right for me to
give way, or was it wrong? Had it done me any good?‟
When I stopped crying I was trembling like an autumn
leaf, frozen and exhausted. Was this all that I could
gain from a good „healthy‟ howl ? Perhaps I had given
my companion the freedom he needed to give vent to
his feelings. Certainly we had seen each other in a new
light, like skeletons stripped of the flesh of pretence,
with every nerve of feeling laid bare. This nakedness
was not to be shared with all and sundry, and I
determined then and there that I would never resort
to tears again in public.
 This outburst proved to be an isolated incident
during the early days of loss. To most people I must
have appeared abnormally hard and callous in my
approach to life. Shock had spread a neat protective
layer of numbness over my system, and it wasn‟t till
several months later that this veneer gradually began
to peel off.
 The first flaw in the surface showed after we had
spent Easter with my elder sister in Lancashire. We
drove home on the Saturday bringing my twelve-year-
old niece for a visit. Next day I developed an ear
infection. As it was Sunday I wouldn't disturb the
doctor but carried on as usual, but by the time my
niece had gone to bed the pain was acute, and
depression was looming large on the horizon. I took
two Dispirins and phoned my brother-in-law. I just
longed for someone to talk to, to take my mind off
the throbbing, pulsating heat of my ear. I half-hoped
he could come and spend the rest of the evening with
me, so it was with a heavy heart that I returned the
receiver to its rest with only advice ringing in my
ears. I did take the advice, and two more Dispirins,
and retired to bed. Here the true nature of widow-
hood began to dawn on me, and I cried and cried.
There was no one to care that I was in pain and alone.
Praying seemed useless because it seemed that God
didn‟t care either. All through our marriage the only
pain I‟d known had been that of child-birth, and now
to add to the ache of separation there was this throb of
physical pain that must go uncomforted. There was
no one to hold my hand now; no-one to take me in
his arms and soothe the overwrought nerves; I just
had to endure this suffering alone.
 Looking back I wonder if this was something akin
to what Christ felt on the cross—the dreadful
isolation and desolation that come with physical
fatigue and suffering, and the complete inability to see
the light round the corner. Surely He knows some-
thing of this and so can understand and feel with us.
However, at the time I was totally immersed in self-
pity and couldn‟t think that anyone had ever suffered
anything quite like this before. It seemed as if that
night would last for ever and that the pain would
never go: but morning did eventually come and I
struggled to my feet again.
 As I prepared breakfast Christine turned to me:
„You look dreadful, Auntie Jenny. Are you feeling
all right?‟
 „I‟ve got ear-ache,‟ I admitted.
 „You go to surgery after breakfast. I‟ll look after
the children,‟ my god-daughter ordered, and I meekly
 When I returned Christine continued to take charge
of the situation. „You go to bed. I can get the lunch
and look after the children.‟
 I crawled into bed psychologically better already.
I was not a complete fraud (the doctor had put me on
penicillin straightaway) and somebody did care.
Christine may have been only twelve but she did love
me. She cared enough to suppress her usually
ebullient nature and prepare lunch quietly and
efficiently. God had so cared that He had sent her
when I needed her, and the love between us would
be deepened because of this experience. Grateful
that the burden of responsibility for the children had
been temporarily transferred, I relaxed, and slept.
 Emotionally, however, my feelings were still in a
state of transition. For weeks after that episode the
veneer of numbness continued to keep them hidden
from me as well as my friends, but then about six
months after Jeff‟s death things began visibly to alter.
I began to put back the weight I had lost. During the
early days I had, to my delight, lost over a stone in
weight without any effort at all. It‟s true that I had
temporarily lost my appetite, but its return had not
immediately caused my sylph-like dimensions to
disappear. Now suddenly I resumed my normal tubby
proportions, and almost at the same time the flood-
gates opened. Night after night I would go to bed and,
for no apparent reason, dissolve into floods of tears.
The double bed suddenly seemed to be a terribly
lonely place, and far too big just for one. Instead of
the comforting animal warmth on the other side, there
was only the unrelenting cold of the sheets. If I rolled
over by mistake, I rolled back at twice the speed. I
couldn‟t bear it.
 I knew the tears didn‟t do any good, but I couldn‟t
stop them flowing. I was too shy or too proud to
confide in anyone, and so again I felt that no one really
understood or cared. Oh, I knew that my friends
cared all right, but they had lives of their own to lead,
and the novelty of caring for me had worn off. There
was no longer any need to drop in to see if I were
lonely in the evenings. After all, I had been given an
old television. Surely that should take me out of myself
and supply some form of companionship. Maybe my
Christian friends had ceased to pray. I don‟t know. I
only know that my spiritual resources were exceed-
ingly low, and I reacted by indulging my self-pity in
tears. I didn‟t question God‟s wisdom in allowing
Jeff‟s death. I no longer tormented myself with
recriminations for my own actions, nor did I batter
Heaven with my prayers for acceptance of the situation.
I accepted the inevitable, and, during the day,
managed to do it with a fairly good grace. It was at
night that this frightening and empty loneliness hit
me—frightening because of the enormous responsi-
bilities that I now had to carry, and empty because I
had to carry them alone.
 The conflict was once more inside me. I knew that
God had made promises that covered all the situations
in which I found myself, and I was still convinced that
„All things work together for good to them that love
God‟, but this knowledge and this conviction did not
prevent the emotions raging in my mind. Perhaps I
shouldn‟t have cried myself to sleep during those two
or three weeks, but I think it was through these tears
that I at last managed to recover the power of prayer.
 When I lost Jeff I lost my prayer partner. For seven
years we had prayed together every evening. Even if we
were apart we could be certain that we were praying
for each other. Suddenly this human support was
removed, and I fell flat. There was no one to encourage
me to pray if I didn‟t feel like it, and no one to
remind me of the things for which I ought to pray.
For a while I stumbled along, praying a little, but as
I found that life wasn‟t quite as black as I had imagined
I found the desire to pray fading. I didn‟t want to
tune in to God any more. If I tried to my prayers
seemed to rebound off the ceiling. Had God turned a
deaf ear? Had I been living off Jeff‟s faith? Surely not.
At the time of crisis God had been there! Many non-
Christians say this too, but I had known God‟s love
and strength and guidance before the crisis as well.
Why not now?
 Now I was like a beetle lying on its hack scrabbling
with its feet in the air, wanting to turn over but not
knowing how. I couldn‟t pray or read my Bible and
when I tried it seemed that I grasped thin air. There
seemed no reality beyond, yet deep down I knew that
God was there. His love and His power still surrounded
me. Because I didn‟t feel anything spiritually it didn‟t
mean that God had deserted me. Once my emotions
had touched rock-bottom I began to surface again
spiritually. It was as if I had to be thrown flat on my
back with all my tenderest feelings exposed before I
was able to put my feet on the support that God was
offering me and be turned up the right way again.
My friends had supported me for a time in prayer,
but now it was God‟s turn to take over completely.
Only after I had relaxed sufficiently to allow the tears
free rein did I find I could talk to God with, if
anything, more intimacy than before. Through my
weakness I found His power.

  As I emerged spiritually, so my problems
  altered. Initially I had wanted desperately to
  know just exactly what happened after death.
  A very old friend of the family had triggered
  this desire for knowledge. She had said very
  emphatically that she believed that Jeff was
  still with me in a spiritual sense—caring and
  feeling for me, „Can‟t you feel that he‟s still
  with you?‟ she had asked.
     „No, I can‟t,‟ I‟d replied. „How can Jeff
  still be with me and in heaven at the same
  time? He couldn‟t be happy if he knew that I
  was suffering, and I believe that heaven is a
  happy place. I know I‟ve lived with Jeff long
  enough to think the way he did and to act as
  he would have done, but I don‟t think this
  means he‟s here now. I certainly don‟t feel
     When I put the phone down after this
  conversation my mind began to work
  overtime. My ideas about heaven weren‟t as
  clear as I thought they were. As I thought
  about it other questions started to crystallize.
  Did Jeff know what we were doing here on
  earth? Or did he know nothing because his
  spiritual body was lying dormant in the grave
  like some chrysalis? Or had he already got his
  new body and gone straight to heaven? If he
  could still remember this earth and take an
  interest in it, how could he possibly be
     I remembered on a sixth form course
taking up one of the lecturers who had said
that our God was a suffering God. I had
queried whether he had meant merely that
Jesus had suffered on the cross, or that God
actively suffered in heaven. It had been an
academic question then, hut, if God really
suffered in heaven now, as I was given to
believe, would we too endure suffering when
we reached it? My mind continued in a whirl.
„No more pain, no more tears. How could I
reconcile this with suffering? I began to feel
trapped. Where was Jeff now? He was still
alive, I was convinced. He would, if he
wasn‟t already there, live in heaven one day. I
knew that too. But where was he
now—heaven or oblivion? The question
suddenly became all-important to me. I must
know the answer. I turned to the phone.
Patiently and quietly our minister insisted
that Jeff was no longer in pain either physical
or mental. I had no reason to worry. „If you
like to call round in the morning I‟ll lend you
a book on the subject.‟ I took that book next
day, and I regret to say I haven‟t a clue now as
to what it said. It was only a small book, and I
read it from cover to cover in one evening.
The mere act of reading calmed my milling
thoughts but when I had finished I realized
that the Bible was strangely reticent on these
issues that seemed so important to me.
   Later my elder sister and her husband
discussed the problem with me.
   „I‟ll tell you something now,‟ said
Veronica. „I didn‟t want to tell you before in
case you might be upset. While we were
waiting on the church steps before the
funeral, I saw Jeff.‟
I gasped.
She went on. „I saw him quite clearly. I was
talking to Rex at the time and he must have
thought I was very rude because I looked
beyond him and saw Jeff just standing there
and smiling. It was as if he were saying
“Carry on. You‟re doing things quite right.” I
turned back to Rex and when I looked again,
Jeff had gone.‟
„But even if you did see him and your
imagination wasn‟t playing tricks with you,
that doesn‟t mean that I should see him,‟ I
objected. „Quite honestly I don‟t want to see
him. I think I‟d be scared.‟
„Don‟t worry, then,‟ George chipped in. „God
loves you. He won‟t send you anything to
frighten you.
„If you saw him, then he must have his new
body,‟ I thought aloud. „Then he must already
be in heaven. Perhaps it‟s because our
concept of time and space is so limited that
we find it difficult to understand exactly what
happens. Maybe, like God, he too can see the
end from the beginning now, and if a
thousand years in His sight are like a single
day, then all the horror of pain and suffering,
war and want must be over already! It‟s only
we who see it as a drawn out process.‟
After this conversation the problem started to
lose its urgency and I immersed myself in the
practical day-to-day business of living. One
of the very real practical issues at stake was
„Should I go out to work?‟
Many of my friends urged me to go in for
teaching. They thought that because I was a
graduate and wouldn‟t need much further
training it would be the answer to my
financial problems. The hours would be right
for the children, and, they assured me, I was
very suitable. Their arguments were so
forceful that I finally wrote to the local
education authority to find out how I should
set about entering the profession. By return I
had the offer of a place on a refresher course
for married women returning to the
profession; I could start next term. It would
involve six weeks‟ lectures at the local tech,
and then I would be launched in at the deep
end, teaching under supervision for a while
but receiving full pay. I couldn‟t believe my
eyes. It seemed too good to be true, but the
more I thought about it the less I felt happy
about embarking on the course. By bringing
in more money I should be entering a new
income tax bracket and by being out at work I
shouldn‟t be free to nurse the children if they
were sick. Moreover Elisabeth was still only
attending school in the mornings. Who would
look after her in the afternoons? Besides all
this, I had spent six years graduating and
training to be a qualified librarian, not a
teacher. Was this all to be thrown overboard?
Deep down I don‟t think I ever thought that
this was right.
I pushed the sheaf of literature to the bottom
of the pile of magazines on the table. I would
read it in detail later, but meanwhile the
decision could wait. How I hated decisions of
any sort, and how grateful I was that, when
the time came to reply to this offer, I had
already been shown very clearly the right
course of action.
I had never envisaged money as a problem
before. My parents had been reasonably well
off and Jeff had earned a good salary. True,
we had been saving frantically to pay off the
mortgage on our house, but only the previous
autumn we had realized the little capital that
we had, to put it in our deposit account for
just this purpose; now this money was
available for me to draw on because it was in
our joint names. It wouldn‟t last long. but it
did save me having to make an immediate
decision about going out to work.
   It seemed as if it were only yesterday that
Jeff had come home and said „You know
we're becoming a university soon.‟ I had
nodded. „They asked us today if we wanted to
join the F.S.S.U.‟ (the universities insurance
   „Without a medical‟ I had queried
  „They gave us carte blanche to go straight
into the new scheme'.
   I had been delighted . No other insurance
scheme would touch him with a barge pole
once they heard his medical history. Six
months later I was to reap the benefit of the
university‟s generosity. The evening
following Jeff‟s death a representative from
the university had called on me. Somewhat
awkwardly he had expressed the condolences
of his colleagues.
„We wanted you to realize that there‟s no
need to go short of money,‟ he explained.
„Jeff made a very wise decision when he
opted to join the F.S.S.U. You wouldn‟t have
got a penny otherwise but this way you‟ll
receive quite a substantial lump sum. We
can‟t free it immediately but if you‟re short of
cash we can lend you some.‟
It was strange how my friends and relations
all considered money as my biggest
headache, yet I found it easy to relax
concerning finances. While I was at
university I had been tremendously
impressed by the stories of missionaries who
trusted God for all their financial support and
I had longed to be able to do the same. Here at
last was my chance and I was completely at
ease about it.
For the first three months there was no
income. I could have claimed Social Security
benefits, but these would have had to be paid
back later, so I decided against them.
However, I did, at the university‟s
recommendation, battle against the
Ministry‟s decision to give me only
three-fifths of a widowed mother‟s
„I‟m sorry, but your husband was a student
for too long,‟ the woman at the office
explained. „You see, he only averaged
thirty-one insurance contributions a year
instead of at least fifty, and so you‟ll receive
the corresponding proportion of an
„Could the missing contributions be paid up
so that I could be entitled to a full
allowance?‟ I asked. „The university has
offered to do this for me.‟
„I‟ll have to find out.‟ The woman
disappeared and many phone calls and many
letters later I finally received a negative
answer. My friends were indignant at the
callousness of the State, but I think this
decision only made me more aware of God‟s
goodness, more
grateful that He had allowed Jeff to live until the
college had received university status, and more
overwhelmed by the gifts, small and large, that
enabled us to carry on in much the same way as we
had before.
 Then there was the matter of the girls‟ private
 Here, too, God took control. I had realized right
from the start that the absence of a regular salary
might mean transferring the girls to the State education
system, and I was quite prepared for it, so I was
thrilled when I received a substantial cheque from the
Parents‟ Association at the school.
 „No, we didn‟t set a target. „We just went house-to-
house visiting round the parents, and hardly anyone
refused,‟ said the instigator of the scheme. „We don‟t
mind how you spend the money, as long as it‟s for
the children.‟
 I allocated it to Ruth‟s school fees for the coming
year, for the headmistress had already called on me
to discuss the girls‟ future.
 „There‟s no need to worry about Elisabeth,‟ she
had said. „The board of governors have agreed to keep
her for nothing until she‟s five. „We don‟t want her
to have to spend her day at home now that she‟s
settled in so well.‟
 Our decision to send the girls to a private school
was entirely vindicated by these gestures, and I was
convinced that it was right for them to stay there for
a while longer anyway.
 News of the harshness of the Social Security‟s award
soon percolated my circle of friends and relations, and
my ageing aunts turned up trumps. For several years
they had been helping to support a mentally sick
friend, who just at this time had recovered to such
an extent that she no longer needed their assistance.
They promptly turned over this sum to me. Perhaps
to a certain extent one expects one‟s own family to
rally round at times of stress, but I certainly hadn‟t
realized before quite how great was the privilege of
belonging to the Christian family. One never-to-be-
forgotten morning a cheque for a hundred and ten
pounds plopped through the letterbox, together with
the love and prayers of many who had been on a
Christian camp with me. Instead of the spontaneous
joy that usually greets a gift, instant depression set in.
I behaved like a spoilt child. I threw down the
envelope, and, gripping the kitchen table, I wailed
„I don‟t want your beastly money. It‟s Jeff I want.
Nothing else will do. Money doesn‟t make up for what
I‟ve lost.‟ In a fit of childish temper I hurled my hurt
and my anger at God. There was no doubt in my mind
that He was responsible for this generous gift, from
people many of whom I had lost contact with years
ago, but it had touched me on the quick. Perhaps it
was because there didn‟t seem to be any specific need
to be met by it. Most other gifts, big or small, were
earmarked for special purposes. It was some time
before I could bring myself to show my appreciation
of this practical help. It was the only gift that really
hurt deeply. Others moved me just as much, but not
in the same way.
I‟ll never forget going to the station to claim a
refund on Jeff‟s season ticket. I explained the situation
to the station-master and passed the ticket through
the grill.
 „No,‟ he gasped. „I can‟t believe it. He was such a
nice young man.‟ Shock, and, to my amazement,
genuine grief passed across his face. „I am sorry.‟ Then
he saw the girls at my side, and shutting up the ticket
office, he came round to the front and fished in his
pocket. „Here,‟ he said „Go and buy yourselves an ice-
cream.‟ He handed each child a sixpence. They
couldn‟t believe their good fortune and had to be
prompted with their „thank you‟s‟. Turning to me he
said, „He‟s only used his ticket a couple of times;
I‟ll see if they won‟t give you a complete refund.‟
Shaking his head, he wandered back into the ticket
office. „He was such a nice man.
 The uninvited compliment to Jeff and the un-
solicited gift to the girls moved me deeply, and
sparked off no resentment either then or later. It was
the same when I received a cheque from a university
friend, who was now a patient in a Cheshire Home for
incurables. It was accompanied by a note to the effect
that because she couldn‟t go on holiday that year she
would like me to have a holiday instead.
 My reactions seemed to have no connection with
the size of‟ the gift or the character of the donor, and
to this day it is often something very trivial that will
leave me thoroughly distraught while big events have
no effect at all.
 This holds true for Ruth as well as myself. Elisabeth
was too young and too placid fully to appreciate her
loss, but Ruth was just old enough for her sensitive
nature to be affected. The first time it hit her with
force was while we were driving through the Lake
District at Easter time. Suddenly she burst into tears.
 „What‟s the matter?‟ I asked, half turning to see if
she was unwell.
 „Last time we came here Daddy was with us,‟ she
 Quickly I tried to turn the conversation and distract
her. „Yes, and do you remember where we were
going?‟ I asked with a forced brightness.
 „Scotland,‟ piped up Elisabeth, while the sobs con-
tinued from Ruth.
 „That‟s right,‟ I said, „and what animal did we see?‟
Desperately I tried to rack my brains to think of
something that would interest Ruth.
 „I can‟t remember,‟ said Elisabeth.
 „Do you, Ruth?‟
 „No,‟ she quavered, still thoroughly upset.
 I pulled into the kerb and took her in my arms.
„Don‟t you really remember?‟ I asked. „Out scavenging
by the dustbins?‟
 She tried hard to think and gradually her body began
to stop quivering. It had been in August nearly
two years before that we had spent a fortnight in the
Lowlands of Scotland. It had been one of the happiest
times we had spent together and the children had
loved it. To me it was strange that Ruth should have
remembered a place that we had only passed through
in transit, but then it was always to be the unexpected
things that caused the problems.
 Elisabeth‟s one apparent reaction to Jeff‟s death
was a tendency to car-sickness, which lasted, approxi-
rnately six months, but I must confess I often wonder
whether she would have been car-sick just the same
if Jeff had lived. Maybe it was an emotional outlet,
but it could as easily have been a phase through which
she was passing, and I doubt if she herself knew
the reasons behind it. Children are complex creatures
but they have plenty of resilience, and even Ruth‟s
occasional lapses into tears only lasted about six
months. After that she would sometimes moan
because there was no Daddy to mend her broken
toys or take her out, but for the most part both she
and Elisabeth could discuss Daddy without batting an
eyelid. Strangers would ask about their father and
would be far more embarrassed than the children by
their reply. Unfortunately this is likely to continue
for some time. Only recently Elisabeth came in from
playing in tears.
 „Now what?‟ I asked wearily from the kitchen sink.
The girls often come in like this if they are
thwarted or the gang has temporarily ostracized them.
 „Trevor won‟t believe that our Daddy‟s died,‟ she
howled indignantly.
 „Calm down‟, I said. „Just take no notice. If he
goes on I‟ll come and see him, but I expect if you tell
him how he died he‟ll probably shut up.‟
 She eyed me unbelievingly. „I told him he had a
spot on his forehead.‟
 „Well, tell him next time that it was cancer. Go
on back and play. He‟ll think you‟re a baby otherwise.‟
I pushed her firmly out of the front door again. She
had to learn to stand on her own two feet, but how I
felt for her over this particular battle! As the little
figure disappeared from view, my mind took the
obvious turn. „Trevor was thinking Elisabeth‟s mother
was divorced or unmarried.‟ „Was he teasing her
about being illegitimate?‟ „Would she have known
what he meant if he had?‟ I was far more concerned
that this nine-year-old might think she was illegitimate
than anything he might conjecture about me.

 „You look smart.‟
 I glowed under the compliment. It was the first
time for a year or more that anyone had paid me a
personal compliment.
 „I hope you‟ll forgive me for saying this,‟ my friend
continued, „but I think we know each other well
enough by now. You didn‟t care how you looked
before, did you?‟
 „Well, I did try to keep us all tubbed and scrubbed,‟
I exploded laughingly.
 „Yes, I know, but without Jeff you weren‟t really
interested in clothes any more—or the house, come
to that. Look at it now, and look at you.‟
 She was right. I had carried on with the ritual of
living; I had found an outlet for my energies in
helping others; I had found my niche in writing; but
now I had also found a pride in myself and my home
as well as the children—a pride that Jeff had given me
when we got married. I had been very much aware of
my limitations before I met him, but when we fell in
love he helped me lose my inferiority complex, and
he gave me a poise and self-confidence that even my
relations noticed.
 Now this friend was encouraging me to go ahead
and experiment with decorations in the house and
shorter skirts on me, and I badly needed this impetus
from outside myself to restore my self-confidence.
Once I had regained a little confidence the movement
began to gather momentum.
 I found I really enjoyed wielding a paint-brush
in a slow amateur fashion, and the time came when I
was ready to ask my friend to help me repaper the
small bedroom. Unaided I had painted and stripped
a room for the first time in my life, and now I was
ready to learn the next step from a more experienced
amateur. Having hung the first strip of wallpaper, we
returned downstairs for the next.
 „Wouldn‟t it be funny if we hung it upside down
with all the stalks facing upwards?‟ chortled my friend,
as she slapped paste expertly on the floral paper I‟d
chosen for one wall.
 I grinned. „We‟d better check next time we go up.
 A few minutes later I heard an anguished squawk
From above. „Oh no!‟
 I belted upstairs.
 „Here, give me a hand. Those flowers are all standing
on their heads. We‟ll see how much we can salvage.‟
 Very gently we eased the strip away from the wall.
Only one tiny flaw! We heaved a sigh of relief and
started again—the right way up.
 Next morning I told the children what had hap-
pened, and now every visitor who sleeps in that room
is greeted with „Guess what‟s wrong with the wall-
 Even if we did have to patch it up the room is so
much cleaner and brighter that I feel better just to
walk in, and since then I‟ve had the courage to
complete the hall, and the initiative to plan doing
the girls‟ bedroom in my spare time.
 Yes, my spare time is what I said, because I‟m
writing when I‟m not doing the housework or
coping with the children. I had always wanted to
write since the time when a friend and I made up
serial adventure stories over our school dinners, but
I had never felt that I was good enough. At thirteen
I won a Highly Commended in an Independent Schools
Literary Competition, but a year later I only got a
Pass in English Language at School Certificate level.
My English teacher assured me that it was only
because the examiner had taken a dislike to my style
and I must try again as it was all I lacked for matricula-
tion. I tried again and got a distinction, but my
confidence was shaken and I thought no more of using
my pen for a career. Books it could still be, but it
would have to be from a different angle and so I
trained as a librarian.
 Ten years later I was given the chance to prove
what ability I had. While working with children under
eight on a beach mission I used a leaflet called
Honeycombs to help the children understand their
Bibles better. Almost every evening I grumbled about
the inadequacy of this publication. Jeff had always been
one for positive rather than negative action, so at the
end of the mission he called a meeting of fellow-
grumblers. Five of us came together.
 „Let‟s see what it is that we dislike, he said. „if we
shared the booklets between us and read two or three
each we could then put our criticisms on paper and
send them to the Scripture Union.
 „Perhaps we all ought to read all the Honeycombs
to get a properly balanced picture of them.‟
 We agreed.
 „I feel sure that between us we could produce some-
thing better than these,‟ one girl thought aloud.
 „Yes, but there‟s no point in writing it unless
someone s prepared at least to consider publishing it.‟
She was firmly squashed.
 „If we know what we dislike, we‟ll know what to
avoid in the future,‟ another voice chipped in.
 The discussion went on—what we would write in
its place; what format it would take; how we would
divide between us; etc etc. We didn‟t reach any
definite conclusions but our comments reached
Scripture Union a month or two later and we received
the go-ahead to write something with a view to
supplementing or replacing Honeycombs. We worked
hard and long on „Beehives‟, writing and rewriting,
getting to know editors and artists, it reached galley-
proof stage and then, only days before Jeff died, the
enterprise was quashed for good. A change of staff had
led to a change of policy on how to introduce young
children to Bible reading. We were paid off, but not
forgotten. One door shut and another opened. The
new one had, in fact, been ajar for a while now, ever
since we had been commissioned to write other
material for Scripture Union covering different age-
groups, varying from a film-strip for Juniors to a
Bible page in a Sunday School leaflet, from a leaflet
for Secondary Modern teenagers to Bible aids for
Juniors. We both enjoyed writing. It was something
we could do together and yet as individuals. We
would write our own material, and edit each other‟s,
scrupulously dividing the commissioned work between
 When my „family‟ editor died I seriously wondered
whether unaided I could produce anything worth-
while. Then a letter came: „We wondered if you
would be interested in writing for Family Worship
Of course I was interested. I had only just pushed
aside the decision as to whether to teach or not. Here
was my answer. If I could use my pen to earn a few
more pennies, I could work when I liked and be free
to give the girls the sort of home life to which they
were accustomed. What a relief when another letter
came accepting my work! It wasn‟t lucrative, but it
was stimulating and it kept my beaver-mind busy. I
turned down the teacher-training course.
 A year later my decision was decisively confirmed
in my own mind. I saw a course for Christian Writers
advertised in the paper. „Interesting,‟ I thought, „but
out of the question for me. It‟ll be for the high-
powered chaps.‟ I turned the page and forgot about
it till I received a personal invitation to attend. I was
stunned. How could I leave the girls, and where would
I find twenty pounds for such a personal thing? „God,
if You want me to go,‟ I prayed, „send me the money
and a full-time baby-sitter, pronto.‟ Within a week
I had my reply. A single friend volunteered to live in
for the whole week and the Chemical Society sent me
a cheque for twenty pounds (a Christmas present in
May! They had forgotten to give it to me the previous
year!) I filled in the necessary forms and went, to
enjoy one of the happiest weeks since Jeff died. I
hadn‟t worked so hard since I‟d left university and I
loved it.
 I shared a room with a girl who had lost her father
when she was a child, and her compassion and under-
standing strengthened me. I began to feel myself
come alive again. I was a person in my own right, and
life could still be fun, exciting and rewarding. We
talked far into the night—and the stimulus of hard
intellectual work and warm Christian friendship began
to have its effect. I thawed and learnt to laugh
spontaneously with someone outside the family. I
laughed till the tears rolled down my cheeks and I
could laugh no more.
 We may never meet again, but to my dying day I
shall remember that week with Margaret. It culmina-
ted in one of the most thoughtful expressions of love
that I was to experience. We were discussing what
we were going to do when we got home, and
Margaret said casually, „I must have my hair set, as
we‟re going out to dinner the day I get back. I think
I‟ll ask the staff and see whom they recommend. Will
you come with me?‟
 „Mine doesn‟t need doing,‟ I replied, knowing that
I could ill afford a luxury like a hair-dresser, except
when I needed a trim
 Margaret eyed me. „If you‟re thinking of the cost,
don‟t. I‟m going to treat you.
 I gasped. Until Ruth had been born I had had my
hair set regularly once a fortnight, but then the visits
had dropped to once a month and special occasions.
With Jeff‟s death I had had my hair trimmed at home
by a free-lance hair-dresser, and had given up sets
altogether. How could Margaret have realized bow
much I missed them, and what a treat it would be to
have one again! I was thrilled, but could barely find
the words for a faltering, incredulous „You can‟t.‟
 „I can and I will,‟ said Margaret. Come on. Well
phone for two appointments on the last day, just as
soon as we know where‟s best.‟
 We got two cancellations, and I returned home next
day all curly-wurly and fired with enthusiasm to put
pen to paper. My zeal was increased still further when
I found a letter waiting with another cheque for
twenty pounds. A Christian couple with whom I had
long since lost touch had felt that I needed it. That
finally convinced me that I should be writing, though
I little realized how much discipline this would bring
into my life.
 Discipline was what I had lacked, because I found it
 easy to let things slide without a husband to prod
me into action. Now I knew what should be done.
The decision had been made and I had to buckle down
and get on with the job in hand. Increasingly I felt
I understood a little more of the purpose behind Jeff‟s
death. If he hadn‟t died the flow from our joint pens
would have been quite different and would probably
have decreased in volume as the children grew older
and our responsibilities increased. As it is, my experi-
ences without him have enabled me to see life from a
completely different viewpoint, and I feel that I have
found a new vocation in life which is full and
 Does that mean that I am over all the pain and
the heart-ache, the loneliness and the longing of the
first few months? No, I can‟t honestly say that I am.
There are still times when trivial things, like other
people taking their husbands for granted, or the
Hoover breaking down, will upset me. My emotions
are still very much on the surface. A piece of music
or a recalcitrant child can reduce me to the verge of
tears, especially on Sunday evenings or Bank Holidays,
because these are particularly lonely times. Everyone
else seems to have somewhere to go or someone to
do things with. I can go places and do things with the
girls, and I love them dearly, but I sorely miss adult
company, and the stimulus of a lively mature mind.
 Many of my friends find their intellectual stimulus
either in their husbands or in something like evening
classes or an outside job, and when they talk with me
their conversation is usually on a very undemanding
level. They shy away not only from intellectual
issues, but from emotional ones as well. They seem
frightened of even mentioning Jeff, let alone discussing
how people face up to problems like bereavement.
Perhaps this is for fear of hurting not only me, but
also themselves. Of course there is the risk of losing
a friend if you say deliberately hurtful things, but
no widow is going to spurn a friend because of
an unintentionally hurtful phrase or a constructive
criticism. If people are genuinely trying to express
love and concern then I find it quite easy to under-
stand and forgive them any unintentional pain they
may cause. I am only too grateful that I have
friends who are prepared to risk losing me (in their
own minds) in order to help alleviate my loneliness.
Even if they can‟t fully enter into the heart-ache, they
can help to ease it.
 One morning I was badly jolted by a lack of under-
standing that I now realize often exists towards
 „Just look at your home,‟ sighed a friend enviously,
„all your new decorations. It‟s so nice and clean and
 I ought to have been flattered by the compliment
to my achievements, but because I was feeling slightly
under the weather her envy cut me to the quick. After
all, she had a husband. What more could she want?
But think what I‟ve lost to get my home like this,‟
I replied, trying hard to keep my tongue in check. „I
should never have found the time to redecorate if‟
Jeff had still been alive.‟
 „No,‟ came the grudging reply, „but think what
you‟ve gained by his death.‟
 My mind went a blank, and my hackles began to
rise still further. „What, for instance?‟ I asked, well
and truly on the defensive now.
 „Well—the freedom to come and go as you choose,
the freedom to use your own taste in decorating, and
the ability to make decisions without having to
consult anyone else.‟
 I couldn‟t believe my ears. Did this woman honestly
believe that all this made up for the loss of a husband?
Would these things really be gain for her? They
certainly weren‟t for me.
 „But I don‟t want to make decisions on my own,‟ I
said indignantly. „We enjoyed planning our home and
our lives together, and that‟s just what I do miss.‟
 „Sometimes I long for my independence again,‟ came
back the reply, „and I envy you yours.‟
 I tried hard to see her point of view. Maybe she was
heavily shackled to her husband and family. This was
something that I had never experienced. In our
marriage there had always been freedom to express
our individual personalities.
 „Don‟t you see,‟ I tried to explain, „Material
comforts don‟t necessarily bring happiness?‟ I looked
around to see some of the things that I had been given
since Jeff died: central heating and a television, new
decorations and a new carpet. God had seen to it that
I had some of the luxuries as well as the necessities of
life, but how could these material comforts possibly
replace or even begin to make up for Jeff? I would
gladly throw them all out if I could have Jeff back
again. My friend was not convinced by my arguments,
but slowly I realized what she was trying to do. She
was trying to make me look at the present rather than
live in the past. We might not see eye to eye in our
discussion, but we did not sever relationships because
of it.
 Another morning I appealed to a neighbour for
help. We had come downstairs to pitch darkness at
7.30 a.m. and had had to eat breakfast by candle-
light; not exactly a romantic situation with two small
children eager to be off to school! As soon as they‟d
gone I went for help. I was a complete ignoramus as
far as the fuse-box was concerned. I knew how to
change a fuse in a power plug, but had no idea where
to begin with the mains box.
 My friend was washing her hair.
 „Have you got any fuse wire?‟ she asked practically.
 „I think so,‟ I answered uncertainly.
 „Well, if it‟s the lights that have gone, it will be
5 amp. Take ours, and then you needn‟t come back.
Do you know what to do?‟ She gave her hair another
rub as she passed me a card of fuse wire.
 Shamefacedly I had to admit that I wasn‟t sure.
 „Take out each fuse till you find the one where the
wire‟s snapped, and then rewire it with the thinnest
fuse wire.‟
 „Sounds simple enough,‟ I acknowledged.
 „Don‟t forget to put them back in the right order,‟
she warned me as she ushered me out again. „If you
get into difficulties, come back and I‟ll come over and
give you a hand.‟
 Ten minutes later the house blazed with light, and,
oozing with pride, I returned the excess fuse wire.
How grateful I was that my neighbour had made me
mend the fuse myself. She had risked hurting me by
not mending it for me, but by making me do it she
had taught me so well that next time a fuse blows, I
shan‟t have to worry anyone because I now know
what to do.
 Like a child I needed to be taught to be independent
again, not only so that I could help myself, but also
so that I could help other people. I had been used to
helping Jeff and I needed to continue to express my
personality by helping others. I needed to feel that
I was still of use, and in the early days it eased the
pain in my heart to be shown where and how I could
help. The reservoir of love that I had stored up during
a happy childhood and marriage needed to be drawn
upon so that I should not swamp the children with it.
Gradually I found outlets for it, visiting a friend in a
mental hospital; befriending a lonely person in an
Old People‟s Home; running a Bible Study Group in
my own home; and above all being accessible to those
who sought my help, whether they were genuine
social misfits or just people who had not known love
as I had.
 My friends and new interests help to fill the mental
and spiritual gap. Some help to keep alive my mem-
ories of Jeff by talking about him freely and others
help me to face up to my responsibilities and live a
full life again, but none of them can do much about
the deep physical loneliness and longing that only
another widow can really understand.
 I am still a woman, with a woman‟s hormones and
a woman s reactions. Once the first few months of
numbness were over, the emptiness of the double
bed accentuated the loss of intercourse. When I‟m
overtired, my mind will run riot and I sometimes
long more for physical release than for Jeff himself.
It was a relief to read of an American widow who
experienced similar feelings even to the extent of
dreaming that she was taking part in intercourse, and
waking literally sweating with the effort. Maybe a
single bed would be the answer to this problem, but
our bed is synonymous with a warm haven after a
day‟s labours, and normally its warmth and comfort
lull me to sleep quickly. The times that I am tempted
along these lines are now fewer and further apart than
during the second six months, but this doesn‟t reduce
the feeling of loathing and shame that covers me when
I give in to these thoughts. The only consolation is
that „the happier the marriage, the more the husband
was loved, the greater the desire may be‟.
 I keep thinking that I have learnt to live with this
desire for a man‟s company, till I am jolted into an
awareness of my own weakness when I find myself
enjoying the company of men again. I am a woman.
Nothing can change that, and the fact that Jeff and I
discussed remarriage in the event of either of us
dying and leaving the other does not make it any
easier. My father had remarried after my mother‟s
death, and Jeff and I had considered this to be the
greatest compliment that he could have paid to my
mother. Now I am in the unfortunate position of
knowing that Jeff wanted me to remarry, wanting,
in a sense, to remarry myself, arid yet knowing that it
is not God‟s plan at the moment.
 Before I was married I used to look at boys with a
speculative eye. If I felt that I could write them off
immediately I would be at ease, but if they were at all
attractive there would be a degree of tension in my
behavior. It was only when I accepted the fact that
I might never marry that I relaxed completely. Now
I feel that I must accept the fact that my situation is
likely to remain permanent, and then maybe I shall
be able to relax and fully enjoy the stimulus of male
companionship again. Meanwhile the situation is
probably aggravated because I see so little of the
opposite sex. My married friends rarely ask me out
when their husbands are there, and when they do, it‟s
usually with the children in tow. Because I have to get
a baby-sitter in order to go out in the evenings I
hardly go anywhere where there are men, let alone
eligible bachelors. There are weeks when I might just
as well be living in a closed order of nuns. Older
widows (I‟ve only met older ones!) have reinforced
my views on this subject. Because we are widowed—
whatever our age—we don‟t want to be treated as a
race apart, segregated from the opposite sex. We may
feel truncated, but until people treat us as whole
individuals, there is little chance that we shall blossom

If we as widows want to be treated as whole people
so too do our children. Death has become part of
their lives and, if they are still young, they don‟t
recognize this as anything abnormal. Ruth and
Elisabeth have little conscious idea of how great their
loss is. One day on the way to church Ruth dissolved
into tears for no apparent reason.
 „What‟s the matter?‟ I asked.
 „I wish Daddy were here,‟ she cried.
 I remembered her saying this before on our way
through the Lake District, so cautiously I tried to
probe her real feelings.
 „Why?‟ I asked.
 „Because he would have mended my doll,‟ she
explained jerkily.
 Ever since the girls had been tiny they had been used
to my saying, when something broke, „Never mind.
Daddy will mend it.‟ Obviously the phrase had stuck and
they had no longer expected me, or anyone else, to
be capable of mending things. The fact that Ruth‟s
doll had lost an arm just before we left home that
morning had not given me time even to attempt
mending it.
 „I‟ll try and mend it when we get home,‟ I offered,
thankful that the tears had been caused by so slight a
problem. Even children with fathers cried over broken
toys, and just as a broken toy was not a trivial problem
to a „normal‟ child, so a broken doll meant a great
deal to Ruth. I had to learn something that all parents
have to learn, that what is important to a child must
be treated as important by the parent. As a lone
parent I could not shift this responsibility to the
father. All the children‟s interests must be welcomed
by me, even if they bored me to tears, or I didn‟t
understand them. I must learn to listen, to offer
advice, and, as they grow older, to learn with them.
Yet, right here lay a problem. I was, and still am,
tempted to immerse myself completely in their prob-
lems and their lives to the exclusion of my own. I had
to learn to live a life of my own as well. How intensely
grateful I am to the many friends who have continually
made this possible by baby-sitting for me, sometimes
at only ten minutes‟ notice! I needed to opt out and
away from the atmosphere of children, children, and
more children, while they too needed the opportunity
to spread their wings. Particularly appreciated in the
early days were those friends who freed me for a while
by inviting the girls out without Mummy in tow.
 For me it was all too easy to transfer the love I‟d
had for Jeff to his children. I‟ve become far more
demonstrative towards them since his death, and I
often question whether I‟m smothering them with
maternal love. But I haven‟t the heart to turn them
away when they crawl into my lap, twine their arms
round my neck and whisper „I love you, Mummy‟,
yet I know too how easy it is when one is tired or ill
to rebuff them in their craving for affection.
 One summer afternoon we all went out to tea and
Elisabeth, without any sign of embarrassment, climbed
on to our host‟s lap. To my amazement he turned on
her and told her to get off. „I‟m too tired,‟ he said.
We knew him well and I believe this was genuinely
true, but it hurt me deeply to see one of the few men
who knew her well refuse her overtures of love.
Perhaps it‟s because they‟re little girls, or perhaps
it‟s because Jeff‟s dead, but there is no doubt that
they seek to attract men of Jeff‟s generation. Maybe
I was hurt more than Elisabeth over this incident.
I‟m sure that she‟s forgotten it already, though she
and Ruth continue to play up to men, particularly
those of whom they‟re not very sure. With men who
are strangers or men they know very well they behave
reasonably well, but with men of neither category
they can be simply unbearable. They need to know
just where they stand, and this means a man must be
firm about how much playing up he will take. Once
they have found their own level, all is well again, and
everyone can relax. It is, therefore, a real joy to me
to meet men, whether married or single, who
recognize this flirtatious streak in the girls, and who
can respond not only affectionately but with discipline
as well.
 If I could cope with the discipline I feel one of my
biggest hurdles would be behind me. I swing from
one extreme to the other like the pendulum of a
clock, and as the girls grow older so the swing
increases. When Jeff was alive I could guarantee that
if I was too harsh he would mitigate my sentence,
while, if I was too lenient he would at least tell me so.
If anything Ruth was his favourite and Elisabeth mine,
so that things tended to balance out overall.
 I have always tended to be a strict disciplinarian,
and since Jeff died the tendency has increased, and I
long for someone to tell me that I‟m being too hard
on them, or that I‟m indulging them. A few of my
friends are prepared to say so, but only a very few.
Of course our friends don‟t often criticize us face to
face. They don‟t want to hurt us or cause a rift in
a friendship. Those who do criticize tend to do so
harshly and without love so that our hackles rise and
we take virtually no notice. If only people would
realize that we lone parents need someone to advise
and help us constructively. It‟s difficult enough bring-
ing up children in this permissive society, but even
harder without anyone to discuss the matter with. Am
I being too hard on Ruth and Elisabeth when I insist
on 6.30 p.m. bed for a week because they abuse the
treat of staying up late on Saturday? True, they
refused to come to bed when their television pro-
gramme finished that night, and true, they fought over
the toothpaste in our tiny bathroom, but perhaps I
was at fault for letting them stay up late in the first
place. They wouldn‟t have been overtired if I hadn‟t
let them stay up. Who‟s to tell me whether I‟m right
or wrong? Who‟s to back me up once the sentence
has been passed? Who‟s to help me carry it out?
 Thank God. He helps. The children remember the
punishment better than I do, and when I get angry
they invariably obey! I tell myself that Jesus got angry
when He was on earth. He threw out the money
changers from the Temple. Again and again I have to
turn to prayer and at least I find peace, if not an
answer as to whether I‟m right or wrong. If only I
would learn to turn to God before I get angry instead
of afterwards, I feel a lot of the conflict with the girls
would never occur; yet I‟m sure that together we are
learning what it is to come to God for forgiveness
immediately we have done wrong. It is not uncommon
after a scolding for one or other of the girls to bow
her head and say „Sorry, Jesus.‟ We can then cuddle
and forget the unhappiness. On the other hand we can
get right through to bedtime without an apology from
anyone. When we pray then, I prompt them by saving
„Any sorries tonight?‟ Sometimes a surprised little
voice will pipe up „What for? I can‟t remember,‟ and
sometimes there comes spouting out a long list of
what we adults might call trivialities. Then and only
then do they apologize to me, if necessary.
 Prayers at night have always been my prerogative.
If Jeff came home in time he would join us, but
otherwise it was always up to me what we read and
how we prayed. This pattern has remained unaltered,
except that the girls play an increasingly large part in
the proceedings. If we have god-parents staying we
invite them to join in, and particularly I try to get the
god-fathers to come. I have that nasty sneaking feeling
that if the girls don‟t see active Christian men praying
and reading their Bibles they‟ will conclude that
Christianity is „sissy‟ or a „woman‟s religion‟. While
Jeff was alive this wasn‟t possible because we had
„Family Prayers‟ round the breakfast table, and he
would lead, but now, though we still do this, it‟s not
the same thing. What a joy then it is for all of us to
go to stay with a Christian family who have Family
Prayers, and where it is obvious that the father is a
Christian. The responsibility is no longer mine, and
because there are other children there and it is all
different; Ruth and Elisabeth pay attention in a way
they often don‟t or won‟t at home. Not that they
don‟t believe in Christian things. They both have a
very real faith of their own, and I pray that it will
remain theirs for ever. They have no doubt at all that
„Daddy is with Jesus,‟ and even now when they get
very angry with me they express a desire to „go to
heaven now
 A close friend of ours died not long after Jeff, but
he was an elderly man and I didn‟t expect much
comment from the girls because they didn‟t know
him as well as I did, but when it came to bedtime
Ruth prayed spontaneously „Thank You, God, that
Uncle Guy has gone to live with Jesus, and thank You
that he is happy now with Daddy.‟ Several months
later one of their favourite teachers at school died very
unexpectedly. She had been Elisabeth‟s form mistress
at the time of Jeff‟s death and I too had grown very
fond of her. As I was on the parents‟ committee, I
was notified before the girls were told, and I prayed
hard that Ruth and Elisabeth would not be unduly
upset. I underestimated their complete acceptance
of death, and their unswerving belief in heaven.
When later that afternoon the front door burst open
to reveal two bedraggled brown figures returning
from school, Ruth could hardly contain herself.
„Mummy!‟ she said excitedly, „Do you know what?
Mrs. Parker‟s gone to live with Jesus too.
 „She‟s happy now,‟ added Elisabeth, not to be out-
done by Ruth beating her to the gun.
 The news was very important to them both, but
once they had told me they dismissed the whole
subject until prayers at bedtime, when once again they
thanked God for making Mrs. Parker happy.
 As I tucked them in and kissed them good night,
I marvelled at their reaction to such news. Were they
really such heartless creatures as they seemed? Did
they not feel any sense of loss? Had Jeff‟s death
touched them so deeply that they could no longer be
affected by death? Could death reach no closer? I
shuddered as I thought how they might react if either
one of them or I should die, but as I pushed the
unnerving thought away I realized that this stoical
composure of theirs was not just a facade. They really
believed, with the childlike faith of which Jesus
spoke, that death was not the end. How glad I was that
they felt like this. What takes some people years to
discover had been revealed to Ruth and Elisabeth so
clearly that they had accepted it completely. Maybe
when adolescence comes they will question their
beliefs, and I shall have new worries on my hands,
but meanwhile I can only thank God that their faith
can help them, not only in facing death, but in facing
life as well. It is a real joy to me to see the way they
turn to prayer in times of difficulty.
 One blustery winter‟s afternoon we were driving
home along some very isolated narrow country
lanes. The snow was driving hard against the wind-
screen and the wheels slid on the icy snow fast
packing the roads. Suddenly, as we were climbing a
steep lane the engine stalled and the wheels spun.
Ruth began to cry as again and again I failed to get a
grip on the icy surface. As I pulled the starter for the
nth time I turned on her: „For goodness‟ sake, stop
crying, and do something constructive, can‟t you?‟
I exploded. (Tense and worried I didn‟t even think
to use a child‟s vocabulary. I had visions of us stranded
there all night, miles from anywhere, or else ploughing
our way on foot to the nearest house. Presumably this
was how the girls saw it too, but I was too concerned
with trying to start the car to put myself in their
 Ruth‟s tears miraculously stopped, and she prayed
„Please, God, help the car to go, and let us get home
 „That‟s better,‟ I commented, and pulled the
starter again. Wonder of wonders, the engine flooded
with life. Now came the crunch. Could I get the
wheels to hold? Should I try some new technique?
I had no sacking or anything similar to help. What
could I do. The girls weren‟t strong enough to push
and there was no one around to give me a hand. It
was absolutely up to God to get this old car up the
hill. Suddenly I saw a patch of road sheltered by the
hedge which had obviously not frozen yet. Why hadn‟t
I seen it before? With my foot hard on the throttle
we made it and the wheels found the grip they had
been searching for. „Coincidence,‟ you say? Perhaps,
but how encouraging for the young in years to have
their prayer so swiftly answered. Even though they
have learnt since that God sometimes says „No‟ they
have not lost the ability to pray anywhere or at any
 There is much that I can learn from them in the way
they tackle their problems, but there are some things
with which they cannot help me. Finance is one of
them. At the start of my widowhood I had to keep
a very tight rein on spending. I had seen other people
doing this and admired them for it, but Jeff and I had
always vowed that we would never make money a
problem for our children. We had seen children so
conscious of every penny spent that they had become
miserly and almost dishonest in their outlook. If you
asked what they wanted for a gift they would always
choose a cheaper thing than they really wanted,
because it had been dinned into them that „Daddy and
Mummy can‟t afford it.‟ Never did I dream that I
would come to use a similar phrase myself! How
careful I had to be that I didn‟t give our children the
wrong impression about money. I am encouraged at
times to think that I‟ve succeeded in keeping them
honest and generous. This last Christmas both girls
assiduously saved up their pocket money and bought
their own presents. I had given each of them a ballet
tunic and the promise of‟ ballet lessons to start in the
New Year. While I was clearing away the supper
dishes a few days later I could hear a lot of excited
chatter going on in the bedroom—obviously about
ballet. Suddenly they summoned me.
 „Mummy, we want to pay for our ballet lessons,‟
said Ruth.
Stunned, I stammered „B— but it was your
Christmas present, darling. I‟m paying for them.‟
 „Yes, but you pay for so much,‟ explained
Elisabeth, „school and piano lessons and things.‟
 „We‟ve worked it out,‟ added Ruth. „We had some
money for Christmas and we‟d like to help you.
I was deeply touched. „It‟s very sweet of you both,‟ I
said, „and if you honestly want to, you shall pay half.‟
 They had given me one of my most thrilling
Christmas presents.
 The pride I feel on occasions like that is usually
swiftly knocked down by something like a refusal to
pay for their own sweets. But surely these are the
feelings of every parent, not just a widow? What is
perhaps more essentially a widow‟s problem is the
inability to share with another the details of her
children‟s daily lives. At the end of the day when
Jeff had told me about the sort of day he‟d had in
college, I used to tell him what Ruth and Elisabeth
had said and done; we would discuss their future and
our hopes and aspirations for them; we would thrash
out our problems and worries concerning them and
we would pray for them. Now there is a blank. There
are few if any friends who really want to know these
essentially personal things, and if they do, they‟re not
usually accessible at that hour of the day.
 I fill my time because there‟s always plenty to do,
plenty of people to help, plenty of housework and
gardening, plenty of mending and cooking; children
to help and rooms to decorate; letters to write and
cakes to bake. The list is endless, and I‟m rarely at a
loss as to how to occupy my time. Indeed I don‟t have
time to do all I should like to do. Like Michel Quoist
I‟ve found that once you‟ve opened the door of your
heart to people they keep on coming. They know
they‟ll always be welcome, so they keep on coming.
My problem is to know when to stop them. Often
they exhaust me but they never completely fill the
aching void. The pain now is only a dull ache.
Periodically it becomes inflamed, but always it is there.
Will it ever go this side of heaven? I wish I could
tell you.

                       At my blackest hour
Lord, it hurts. You know it hurts. The agony seems
endless. The night is dark and the light far away. I have
lost half my being, half my purpose in life. I want to die
too. How can I ever lead a normal life again? Show me the
way out of this maze. I’m frightened to love again for the
hurt that it brings when You take away the loved one. I
know You do it for my good, but does it have to hurt so?
There is no freedom in tears. Nothing removes the pain. I
daren’t show it to others but You know how I feel. At every
turn something reminds me of my loved one, and makes me
aware of what I’ve lost instead of what he has gained. Lord,
you can take away the pain. Why don’t You?
One of my greatest comforts
The cry of man’s anguish went up unto God
Lord, take away pain.
The shadow that darkens the world Thou hast made
The close coiling chain
That strangles the heart, the burden that weighs
On the wings that would soar—
Lord take away pain from the world Thou hast made
That it love Thee more.

Then answered the Lord to the cry of the world:
Shall I take away pain?
And with it the power of the soul to endure
Made strong by the strain?
Shall I take away pity that knits heart to heart,
And sacrifice high?
Will you lose all your heroes, that lift from the fire
White brows to the sky?
Shall I take away love that redeems with a price
And smiles at the loss?
Can ye spare from your lives, that would climb into Mine
The Christ on His cross?
            (From ‘‘Take my Hands,’’
    by Dorothy Clarke Wilson, published by
              Hodder and Stoughton)

                          Now I can pray
 Thank You, God, for so much love surrounding me, now
and in the past;
 Through the loves of my childhood You have given me a
security that I can never lose;

 Through the selfless love of my parents I have learnt the
value of giving without hope of reward;
 Through the sacrificial love of many friends I have
received inexplicable comfort;
 Through the trusting love of my children I know what it
is to be wanted;
 Through the unfailing love of my husband You have
increased the reservoir of my love;
 Through Your dying love You have given a purpose and
meaning to my love.

 Teach me to share the security born in childhood and
nurtured in marriage with those whose lives have known no
 Teach me to push self aside no matter how great the
temptation to self-pity
 Teach me to see that You always want me even if life
seems bleak and pointless:
 Show me how to enrich the lives of others by caring for
them even as You have cared for me
 Help me to channel my reservoir of love to those who
need it. I have had so much; help me to give to those who
have so little—to those who have been hurt and embittered
by hatred and insecurity, by cruelty and selfishness.
 Help me through Your power to show that there can still
be peace and joy even within grief and sorrow.
 Life is worth living. People still need loving. Jeff has
gone ahead and he had learnt to love. May I follow in
his steps, and claim the same strength and the same power
as he did.

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