Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Lost One

Try this, says Julia, after talking about memories and loss - bring to mind the things lost that you want to memorialise, make use of whatever materials you think are appropriate and….make a doll.  She had warned me that I would likely resist. Although we have never met she knows me well.  She also told me that is a powerful act and considered in some societies to be almost religious.

I am as capable of making a doll as the next person.  I allowed my mind to hunt down the necessary materials.  Twigs and sticks were not to be ruled out.  For a moment I entertained the nation of how much like playing voodoo the whole thing sounded.  Did I really want a doll that embodied my loss only to have someone steal it off me and stick pins in it?

The real hiccough was to make “a doll that reflects your emotions”. She assured me that I would know the right form.  It sounds like a remit given to an artist for a display of work in our local art gallery. I’m no artist and, to be honest, some losses are too deep to probe. I have made my peace with them and prefer not to stir the water.

But I can write about loss.

The London Underground lost property office boasts of 12,000 umbrellas, 27,000 phones and 11,000 keys and a shrine to Arsenal FC memorabilia left on trains. One of those umbrellas might me mine depending on how long they hold on to things.

Things that comes to mind that I lost include the keys to a trunk.  The trunk belonged to my brother who had graciously passed it to me in my university days to ferry clothes and books back and forth between Durham and home.  It was bigger than your average suitcase and in those days, in the absence of wheels, a person sent things ahead on the train and picked them up at the destination.  I lost the keys and discovered I had a talent for picking locks with a hairgrip. I can manifest an enormous amount of patience when required.

My husband has lost a selection of walking sticks.  I bought him a really nice one in Lisbon on a recent holiday.  The shop was amazing.  It was like stepping into a past era. Polished walnut cabinets and shelves stored hats for every occasion, not girly hats for weddings, but men’s hats for walking about town and looking gentlemanly.  They had walking sticks too, and the resources to cut them down to whatever size you needed. 

I have frequently lost my perspective on things.  I was unemployed for a long time.  It came at the end of a gospel outreach year of knocking doors and talking to people in the streets – of being possibly the kind of person most people would give a wide berth to.  Grace seemed to be absent from my presentation.  Afterwards, it was not so easy to slip back into the world of work.  I was overqualified for most jobs in the paper.  There was this voice in my head that insisted that God owed me.  I had given up a year to serve him (“Not your life then?” asks God) and thought I deserved better than the dole queue.  I dissolved into depression and it affected every part of my life. Worship and reading the word were not abandoned but neither were they enjoyed.  I didn’t feel valued and saw criticism in every loving conversation.  It was not a good place to be. My friends rallied round and pushed me out of my pyjamas to at least do some voluntary work.

At this point in time there is an elephant in the room.  The losses that I could write about are small and perhaps entertaining – but there is a big loss, not even standing in a corner, obscured by the shade.  Two big losses.  A year into our marriage we discovered that we couldn’t have children naturally.  We had married late in life compared to some and some of the bits necessary for creating life were missing.  A few years of the rollercoaster of fertility treatment ending in two horrible miscarriages – that makes for big loss.  To make a doll about that? Perhaps not.  In those two losses there are a hundred or more, a thousand other losses.

Thinking about loss, it occurs to me that I have been the lost one.

We were not really a family that had enough money for big summer holidays.  We took day trips to places, sharing a minibus with another family from the street and setting off at ridiculous hours in the morning.  We went to Southampton once to see either a warship or cruise ship.  We might have gone to London once to take in a matinee performance of a show. It’s a long time ago. 

If you ask me whether I got lost in the children’s playground I would have to say yes.  If you asked me whether I was frightened when it happened I would have to say yes. But I have a sneaking suspicion that it might not have happened at all.  It might have been a generic story told by my parents to scare me into not wandering off, but tell a child the story often enough and it becomes a memory.  Apparently, so the story goes, it was on one of these day trips and there was a children’s playground.  There were swings and roundabouts and lots of other stuff not accessible in our village playing field.  We did the rounds of every item and then left to go back to the minibus – except for me.  I wasn’t part of the clan.  Much like the 12 year old Jesus not being immediately missed, I wasn’t immediately missed.  Two sets of adults and a gaggle of kids, I wasn’t missed until the head count was done.  I was a lost item.  Was it hours?  I doubt it.  It wasn’t in an age of snatched children.  I was found and reunited, after a swift smack for wandering off.  I didn’t like to say that I never wandered anywhere.  I was on the swings. But my memory of the event is only what I have been told.

My other sense of loss, not a manufactured memory but a real one, happened when I was eighteen.  My birth into the Christian faith happened in Wales at a houseparty run by Evangelical Alliance.  Dave Pope was the lead musician in worship and Pete Somebody was the main speaker.  It was a morning prayer meeting.  I was there because…I have no idea why I was there.  It wasn’t compulsory to attend.  I wasn’t a person of faith – a person of abandoned faith perhaps.  Listening to people praying I had a keen sense of being very lost.  These people knew God enough to pray normal words about normal things and I was on the outside of it all.  I was in the room but not in the throne room – access denied and all that.  That sense of being lost drew me to pray the sinner prayer.  Was I found then?  I didn’t have a sense that anything had changed, but it had.  I was found and carried on the shoulders of my shepherd.  Feeling found didn’t happen until much later.

There may be times when I feel lost but know that I never am.

God knows I am still on the swings when He does His count up of His kids.



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