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Reform Magazine | May 18, 2024

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On the pilgrim way: ‘I weep when I wake early in the morning’ - Reform Magazine

Sheila Maxey bids farewell to her husband Kees

Kees died on 19 October, and it was a good death, even a wonderful death. I sat with him one evening with my coffee and a good book. He seemed, as usual, asleep or at least far away. I suddenly realised I could not hear him breathing. He had just died.

Now I am surrounded by family and flowers and they are a great comfort. Not many cards because of the postal strikes but lots of emails telling me, from far and wide, what a good man he was and how important he was to so many people. They tell me things about him I didn’t know and I am torn between pride and pain that perhaps I did not do him justice.

Planning the funeral with my children is surprisingly enjoyable – almost as if we were planning one of our big family celebrations – which, of course, we are. Family and friends are coming from Germany, Holland and Belgium. Some family members want to speak, some to sing or play the fiddle or the piano. Kees would have loved it.

One cousin wrote that she thought of us as one unit – ‘kees and sheila’ – and it is the severing of that unit which is so terribly hard to bear. Kees was the positive presence in our marriage throughout our 60 years. All the messages and words about him mention his unfailing good humour combined with his passionate commitment to making the world a better place. And even when dementia took hold, he was unfailingly sunny, making no demands, grateful for everything. The carers brought me a bouquet yesterday and said he was such a special man.

So how am I to go on? I weep a lot, especially when I wake early in the morning. My wise nun guide advises me to take plenty of time to mourn and says tears are a useful part of that. They don’t feel good and give me a headache but I will listen to her. After all, I won’t be able to help weeping. During the last months of Kees’s illness I did truly learn to live one day at a time. I have an app on my phone for night prayer which begins, ‘The day is done, the night has come, Wednesday is nearly over’, and I found that naming of each day very grounding. I will try to hold on to that gift from those months.

When I wake at 6am and know that if I stay in bed I will only weep, I go to my study, light a candle, and say to myself, over and over: ‘Underneath are the everlasting arms.’ Jesus said: ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.’

Sheila Maxey is a member of Brentwood United Reformed Church, Essex

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This article was published in the December 2022 / January 2023 edition of Reform

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