(Eleanor Jane Mair, our daughter, died on the 21st April in Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, as result of trauma caused by alcoholism. She was a beloved and loving person, who cared for everyone except herself, bringing joy through what she was but also sorrow through what she was doing to herself. She is with God.)
Me: You have always had a loving heart, and showed it especially towards people in need. I remember once, when you had harmed yourself by bingeing, I had to take you the NHS out-of-hours clinic. There the waiting room was filled with all manner of needs that couldn’t wait: mums whose babies were sickly, insomniacs, old men with emphysema, young lassies looking for the morning-after pill, depressives of all kinds.
Among them was a youngish woman, poorly dressed, bruised by being battered and twitching because she’d run out of valium. I only know this because you saw her weeping and sat beside her and put your arm round her. Smelly as she was, you held her and listened to her quietly. Gradually she stopped weeping and waited patiently for her turn. When she came out from her consultation she kissed you as she left.
El: I remember her. All the time I was scared I would puke on her, as I couldn’t stop vomiting. There are people so conscious of their own virtue or scared of their own humanity, whose needs I would never have been allowed to share, but it’s surprising how many people respond to a need-for-need approach. That mostly didn’t involve any overt focus on need, but simply a mutual recognition that need was part of our humanity, of our ordinary conversation, of our working together, of our laughter; and that sometimes it could be admitted openly. My deepest relationships were based on acknowledging mutual need, which meant that I could be honest about my needs without fearing that the other would distance herself from me. In that sort of relationship people can also cherish each other’s strengths and graces without false modesty or competitiveness. It was like that with you and mum too.
Nice of you to say so, but of course sometimes it wasn’t like that, because of our anger, or fear of what was happening to you, or guilt that we must have contributed to your illness. I just hope those times were the exceptions. Underneath everything was our delight in you as an undeserved gift to us, as our dear daughter, our delight.
Now and then I would risk blasphemy…..
Only now and then?
…. I would risk blasphemy to think that the love of imperfect, needy human beings for each other is even greater than the love of God, who can rely on his/ her perfection. But now I know that supreme goodness is also supremely vulnerable. That’s Jesus is it not?
I started this out of my own grief, hoping to find where we could continue to meet. I think now I know the answer.
The answer had already been given, “Those who dwell in love, dwell in God, for God is love.”
So we can meet in the love which is God and us.
But don’t forget that these meetings are a product of your imagination…
Aw don’t tell me that!
I didn’t say they are only a product of your imagination, but the truth of them is filtered through your imagination. The reality is greater than you can know. As I said, I’m still learning it. If your imagination stays faithful, we’ll talk again soon.
If you’re going now, can I give a blessing?
Once you could, but now I should bless you…
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord smile with delight upon you, and be kind to you. The Lord look upon you face to face, and give you peace. Amen.