It could be argued that the one selfish act of my sister’s adult life was her leaving us all at such a young age. This has created a huge gap in many lives with family, friends and former colleagues all devastated that Linda is no longer with us. Quite how someone who spent her life dealing with pain and the increasing deformity caused by her scoliosis could bring joy to so many people is beyond me.
Linda also managed to cram many other things into her fifty-nine years – on top of her more than full time career as a nurse. She served in church and even her minister stated that Linda spent more time in the church building than he did. Linda kept in touch with numerous people visiting family and friends whenever she could. She also travelled the world enjoying holidays close to home and in many far flung locations.
Memories are fine but if we are honest the last three weeks, and particularly this week when Linda’s crematorium service took place, have also been filled with an overwhelming sense of stolen joy. Quite simply we have been robbed of the joy that Linda brought into our lives. Perhaps the best word to describe this feeling of stolen joy is grief. We are all grieving because we have lost so much.
Is there such a thing as good grief? Perhaps good grief is when we think differently about what we have lost. Perhaps if we can rejoice in all that Linda was and in all that she achieved in those fifty-nine years then the sense of loss and the pain that accompanies that loss might diminish?
We should also rejoice in the fact that Linda’s physical pain has ended. Linda might not have considered her pain to be suffering, but she had to continually take prescription only painkillers that could only be dispensed in small quantities because they were so strong.
It is also important to acknowledge what Linda has gained. As the family shared during the crematorium service Linda had one special friendship that carried her through everything that life threw at her. This friendship was with Jesus Christ, who walked alongside Linda as a personal friend as well as her saviour. I don’t want to get into religious language because for Linda it wasn’t about organised religion or going to church (although belonging to her church was important for Linda) but about her personal walk and relationship with the Son of God.
Linda didn’t feel ready to finally meet Jesus in person because she had so much more planned (more of the same loving and blessing and serving of others) but if any human ever earned the right to leave this life earlier than they thought justifiable it was Linda Joy Welford. She might have been my younger sister (and yes we fought like most siblings do for much of our childhood) but she set an example of a life lived well and worthy of the eternal reward promised by her friend Jesus to all who follow Him.
If you don’t know Jesus the way that Linda did then the one thing you could do to really honour Linda’s life would be to look into how Jesus came to mean so much to Linda. The best way to do this is to grab hold of a Bible (or find it online) and read through at least one of the four books at the start of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). It would add so much more meaning to Linda’s earthly life if all those she loved and passionately cared about could find what she found and join her one day at Jesus’s side.
Jesus said: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”
“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. (John 14: 1-6 New Living Translation)