Faith,  Family

Quick, shut the door on 2020!

Auf weidersehn 2020! I am not alone in hurridly ushering out the worst year I can remember.

I haven’t written here for several months – mostly because my brother-in-law was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in October. We’ve been so busy dealing with that, and then with Christmas things at church, that I just haven’t had the headspace for anything else. But I’m doing better now.

I will never forget the shock of learning Eric had been killed. You know when you can’t believe the words that are coming out of someone’s mouth? It was exactly like that.

If Tigger from Winie the Pooh was a person, he would be my brother-in-law. Full of energy, zest for life and fun, it still seems utterly preposterous that Eric is gone. His passing is made worse by the fact he and his partner were scheduled to put an offer on a house later that day, and they had recently decided to get married and try for a baby. It is the loss of that potential that has devastated us all.

His partner is Korean, so of course thanks to Covid-19, her family are unable to come to support her. She is broken, and so is my mother-in-law and Rev G.

Rev G and I were suprised at how many people said ‘Oh, this must have really tested your faith.’

Let me categorically state that NO, it hasn’t.

Do we think it’s unfair that a young man in the prime of his life has been killed? Of course we do. Are we angry and sad and devastated that it happened? Yes.

My husband has lost his only sibling; my children have lost their fun-loving Uncle, and any chance of having cousins. We grieve for ‘what should have been’.

Do we think that it’s God’s fault? Of course not. I know people who think God is up there playing Russian roulette with our lives, like he’s picking and choosing who to save and who to smite. I hear this type of thinking all the time. “If God exists, how could he let [insert atrocity here] happen?” I think you’re blaming the wrong guy.

Bad stuff happens pretty much every second of every day around this broken world. Sometime it’s the result of greed, or violence. Sometimes it’s because we’ve stuffed up the environment, polluted the air, the waterways, leached toxins into our food. Sometimes there’s a pandemic raging around the planet.

And sometimes people die because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

What happened to my brother-in-law was an accident. The Police may lay charges against the truck driver who hit Eric’s bike, but did that driver deliberately set out to kill someone that day? Of course not.

I have seen Rev G feel nothing but compassion for the truck driver. As much as he wants his brother back, he knows what happened was an accident, and has forgiven the driver.

We have been uplifted and carried by the body of Christ throughout it all, with unswerving support from our church. The first people at our door with a meal were an older couple from our congregation – both of whom had lost a sibling in accidents at a young age. We didn’t need to cook for several weeks due to the kindness of others, giving us meals.

Rev G was told to take as much time off as he needed, and the church quietly set to organising the services and filling the sermon slots. We were prayed for daily, and a couple even gifted us some money to take a wee holiday.

I had daily cause to thank God for the other friends that He has placed in my life, and for the way He has taken care of us throughout. I thank God that we were in Whanganui at the time of the accident – meaning that we were at my mother-in-law’s side within minutes. Rev G and his mum were immediately able to head for Napier where Eric and his partner lived, to be with Eric’s partner.

I thank God for my friends A-M & J who we were staying with at the time. They took over looking after my kids for me; they comforted, cried and lamented with me. J even drove 6 hours to pick up Rev G from his brother’s house.

I thank God for my family, and for the many messages of support we got from friends. They meant a lot.

Shutting the door on 2020

Despite all the sadness and grief, I feel as if I ended 2020 on a good note. Much to my gratitude.

I spent hours working on a Christmas Extravaganza day at my church, and organised/directed/wrote the Sunday School play for the following day. It was exhausting, but SO MUCH FUN. I loved working alongside the creative souls from my church who took my ideas and ran with them, and made them into something wonderful.

The weekend of the extravaganza shifted something. Everyone felt it. New life was breathed into the church, and the weeks following have seen renewed energy and enthusiasm and fellowship in a congregation that has been without a minister for several years.

I have also had some new life breathed into me. I signed up for Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project over 2021. I have not been dreadfully unhappy over this year, but it has been hard, and I figure any help at improving my happiness would be great. I love Gretchen’s work, and her evidence-based approach to making small changes that have a big impact on one’s happiness.

The course challenged me to think about what I want to change or improve upon, and what fun to inject into the year ahead. Because I’m Angela, I started my goals on Boxing Day, and have been making some small changes already. I have been religously doing my back exercises given to me after it was decided surgery on my spine (injury due to car crash) was too risky. I can be a bit sporadic with these exercises in times of busyness, but I’ve set up reminders throughout the day so I don’t forget!

Rev G and I have been ending the night with a guided prayer of Examen (check out Pray As You Go under retreats and resources). The music and talking is so soothing it gets my brain ready for sleep.

And, just for fun, I am spending some time each day learning Norwegian. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, and amuse myself by declaring “Jeg snakker Norsk!” as often as I can to my startled family.

Each month through the course I’ll be doing with Gretchen has a different focus, and I am very much looking forward to trying some new things this year.

I don’t think 2021 is somehow going to magically fix the Covid-19 situation, nor make all my problems and worries disappear. It’s just a year. But I am glad to shut the door on it.

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