I've said before that I'm a bit hazy about heaven. But an image that does keep on reoccuring for me is one of a five barred gate set in a stone wall, a lush meadow with cows grazing on the other side. Fat cows, with udders swinging and tails swishing, their coats gleaming in the sunshine.
I think I shared this image with my uncle, who died yesterday. A gentle, unassuming man, he left quietly, in his sleep, causing as little inconvenience to anyone as he possibly could. He even timed it perfectly, attending his youngest brother's 70th birthday celebrations the previous Sunday, but ensuring that he departed well before the busyness of harvest: a farmer to the last.
I loved my uncle. We lived with him after my father (the middle brother) died. He helped bring me up. He was always there, a faithful, steady and wise influence in the background. And the glory of being well at the moment is being able to feel the love and the grief, the sorrow and the loss.
Many people mistakenly believe that depression is feeling miserable all the time. Often it's not being able to feel anything at all. But sorrow is the counterpoint to joy and grief is a natural part of our human experience and emotional repertoire. It's right that we should feel it.
So I am thankful to be able to grieve and to fully experience the whole mix of emotions that bereavement brings. Because there's joy and gratitude too: not just for the man he was, but that he was allowed to go with dignity, without having to leave his beloved farm, to suffer the indignity of hospitals or a residential home.
And because he was a deeply devout man, I have no doubt that he is now, with his Saviour, leaning on a five barred gate in the sunshine, contentedly looking at cows.
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