Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Some thoughts on loss and Mothering Sunday

This is the text of the 'editorial' section of my Crucible newsletter that I send out monthly to people in this Diocese involved in youth and community ministry. It's received a lot of response which I'm grateful for so I'm posting it here too, as a follow up to other posts from the time of our twin miscarriage.

"It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade." 
A very apt quote for our current season - I wonder if you know where it's from?

I wonder too how your Lent is going? I asked the question last month "What do you wish to lay hold of this Lent?" - maybe now, a week in, the answer to that question is a little clearer? Whatever you are up to this Lent - fasting, 40acts, Love Life Live Lent, Pilgrim....I'm praying it draws you deeper into the fullness of God's love for you in Jesus and gives you boldness too, as we hold out the word of life to young people.
Perhaps, like me and much of the rest of the country, you have been watching this series of Call the Midwife since January? I've watched it in blocks over this past week, a couple of episodes at a time and been blown away, emotionally, physically, spiritually but just how true to life, sensitive, resonant it is. For some receiving this newsletter, Poplar in the East End may well be familiar territory - our previous Bishop, Laurie Green was Rector there and it's just over the border, still marrying huge wealth and abject poverty under the gaze of Canary Wharf.
Call the Midwife has struck a chord with so many - despite it's beautiful filming and sometimes 'otherworldliness', it has touched on so many raw and real issues which still affect our lives today. Palliative care, adoption, childlessness, dementia, war, sexuality, love, marriage, calling, faith....the list goes on. The community of nuns, nurses, laity who live and work at Nonnatus House demonstrate extended family in a way which helps us to see a glimpse of the early church that Luke describes in Acts 2 or the extended family of Lydia and Cornelius that Peter and Paul encounter as they journey. Sharing everything, breaking bread together, serving the needy, loving and encouraging one another in the purposes they have been called to. Inspiring.
But there is also a huge amount of pain in each episode - not just the pain of childbirth which we expect but the pain of death, loss, relationships, poverty, illness. As we head towards Mothering Sunday on 30th March, it can often become a relief in the fasting and austerity of Lent to celebrate and focus on the loveliness of motherhood - daffs, funny videos (The Mom Song is great), out for lunch. Of course that is right, but this celebration also has a flip side which it can be difficult to know how to respond to appropriately.

Four years ago this March, my husband and I lost twin babies, 12 weeks into pregnancy. Only 2 weeks before, we had been given the news that I was carrying 2 babies and our lives were suddenly spun into a whirlwind of panic, elation, worry, delight and a whole heap of implications for the future. We'd need a new car, would I be able to keep working, how on earth could we afford 2 at once?! The impact was not just on us, but on all our extended family - grandparents, aunts, uncles to be, friends who knew how hard a multiple pregnancy could be, those who had been praying for us as we'd struggled to conceive a much longed for 2nd (and now 3rd child!) And then, as soon as we'd begun to get our heads around it, it was all over. Even now, it's painful to remember and yet, in the midst of that pain we saw love in action; food deliveries, supportive emails, childcare help, lifts for checkups and errands, people just coming and being. Extended family kicking in - rallying round. 
I'm so grateful for that as I look back. I'm thankful that in the devastating loss, I had a glimpse of what the body of Christ really is all about and more than anything, I want to see that as part of what we, as the family of God, are known for.
Mothering Sunday can be incredibly hard for many. Family breakdown, unemployment, loss, miscarriage, circumstances not having worked out - all these and more can make Mothering Sunday, parenting, families and relationships within them difficult to make sense of and difficult to deal with. It doesn't mean she shouldn't celebrate or affirm or support mothers, fathers, single parents, carers, grandparents....far from it. But as we celebrate, we must also recognise that many will stay away from church or other events cos it's just too hard. We can't offer solutions but we can offer ourselves, in all our sadness, vulnerability, joy and hope. Be aware of who isn't around on 30th March. Keep in touch, pray, invite, support, love. Be you and be bold.
Let's remember that too as we plan worship or crafts or events to mark the day. Many will not share their story as I have, wont want to. But I hope that in sharing my story it will help us be bold and sacrificial in offering love, support and care to those in need in our families, communities, churches, neighbourhoods - throughout the year.

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