Living with children with profound disabilities can provide a short cut past the social chit chat sometimes. Forget the weather (easy to do when you haven't been outside all week), forget politics (except how they might impact on various policies and allowances), and forget the regular child stress about my child possibly not having very many friends or maybe getting a cold or whether or not to allow your teenager to pierce her ears; we're concentrating on whether this child will survive their latest illness, that child will ever be able to sit upright again, or if the other child should have surgery which might help but might kill them.
It cuts through a lot of the clutter.
So we meet friends, online or in person, for cake or for a week away. And there are smiles and laughs and tears and we swap fears and we talk about stuff which terrifies a large proportion of the population of this country. And we know that death is not a distant stranger, and somehow in talking about it, by acknowledging the reality that we probably will outlive our children, we make that truth something we can live with. And then we do talk about the general life clutter too; we dip deep and we float about in the shallows of conversation, and we make another date, and we do it all over again.
And it's refreshing, and it is so good to be with people who understand.
And it serves to hide so much.
Did you know, for example, that I have been blaming myself for my daughter's death for the last three years? And before you rush in to say I mustn't blame myself, that there are in fact good and solid reasons why I do bear some responsibility. Did you know that I've been totally unable to forgive myself for that? And unable therefore to accept forgiveness from anyone else?
Did you know that I have been unable to praise God freely, with my heart as well as my head, stumbling about over my prayers (well actually, you might know that if you've ever heard me), that I have been unable to trust God with the lives of my other girls, despite blaming not Him but myself for Goldie's accident?
Did you know that I have been weighed down, browbeaten, by my guilt and shame over things both recent and long past? And that through all this, I have been calling out, apparently unheard?
If you did know all that, congratulations, because I didn't know it all myself.
I have just been on holiday with friends, with church, and with God Himself. Which is fairly awesome really. And God, and God's people, met with me, and didn't hate me for the things I have done. And I am forgiven, and I am loved, and this is a new day that the Lord has made. And that was just the beginning.
I think things just got real.