Diary of a grieving Christian – 1 Year Milestone

Copy of 2012-03-31 11.59.261 year ago today (1.30 PM) Sue passed into eternity to be with Christ which is far better. Frankly, I try to avoid the word died because if the Christian faith means anything at all, in a very real sense she hasn’t died. Yes, her body, her earthly remains are dead and in the ground. I know that only too well. I will be visiting the cemetery today. I still balk at the word loss or lost as she is neither. I do admit it is difficult to avoid using them. When I sing hymns that speak of heaven or being with The Lord Jesus I still well-up because in my minds’ eye I see her there in that happy and holy throng. It’s with a sense of great thankfulness to God mixed with the gut-wrenching desire for her to be here with me. I miss her so.

It’s a remarkable thing marriage. If we try to do it right and truly become ‘one flesh’ as Jesus tells us to, we invest everything into it. (That includes the Bank account. We only had one account and our salaries were paid into that one account.) It’s a physical thing. It was that. Of course it was, otherwise, we wouldn’t have our three wonderful children. But it’s so much more that as well. Our wife or husband sees us in our vulnerability, at our worst, sees our body get old and flabby, sees us in our sin, in our failures, in our weakness and yet learns to love and care all the same. And, what a blessing it is to enjoy one another’s company, to like being with each other. And so often, to say so much, without saying anything. She used to wear my sweatshirts especially when decorating.

Given the oneness of marriage, please don’t think I’m over it because a year has gone by. I was recently speaking with a widow. She still has those times when the grief is raw after many years. I have to tell myself and realise the sadness isn’t going to be over anytime soon. I am learning to have part of me missing.

A lot of our marriage investment is done unconsciously at a deep deep level. It has to be so if the marriage vows are taken seriously. When we enter into that covenant; I don’t think we fully realise quite what that means. I wonder that in some supernatural way God fuses us together even deeper than the atomic level. God does this at the spiritual level. Something unseen that cannot be probed. Something that can’t be touched. We mess with marriage as our society is doing, and we mess at a level where the consequences are huge. And we are seeing the consequences. Marriage is for one man and one woman – that’s it. ‘Gay’ marriage is deeply sinful and rebellious. (I’ll have to do a separate post on this)

More than one person has told me I was punching above my weight with Sue. She was stunningly beautiful to the end, she was wise, nearly always right, ok, always right and incredibly capable. She loved me and the kids more than life itself. Above all, she was a Godly woman of prayer. Yet so disparaging of herself. She wasn’t perfect. I hope where she lacked I took up the slack as it were and the other way round too. We often said to each that we were a team. So despite her being way above my pay-grade, God had other ideas. I have heard it said that as long as your betrothed ticks the relevant boxes the person you marry could be anyone. We didn’t believe that for one moment. We believed and I still believe God brought us together. (Though I guess the means could be different) She could have done a lot lot better than marrying me. And when I told her that she would tell me off. We used to say to each other, we would do it again. We wouldn’t swap each other. She was the best thing that ever happened to me. God kept us together too. And however long I have on this earth I will have to deal with the parting every day. I’m told over time you do learn to live with it. But it never goes away.

Today, Wednesday is when she left for heaven. Friday would have been her birthday, then it will be my birthday, then the first funeral anniversary (7th Dec), then Christmas. It’s been quite a year. I left work, moved to another part of the country, left several friends, left Church, sold the house, put most of our stuff in storage, started attending another Church, moved into rented accommodation, brought some stuff out of storage, searched for and looked at loads of houses and I’m now in the process of buying a house. So there will be the move, then getting all our stuff out of storage, sorting (again) through the things we shared together, settling into the new house, and breathe (that’s for you Jilly. Thank you).

I have a lot I would like to write about. Please pray I would get on and do it and that it would be helpful and profitable to others. I am reading a few books that I will comment on. Some very helpful stuff out there. But in the end, all praise is to God and our Lord Jesus for keeping us from falling. Where would we be if it were not for the Grace of God! We daily raise our Ebenezer and say Hitherto has the Lord helped us. I do anyway. And I know many of you do as well.

Speaking of investing all, isn’t this exactly what Jesus did for us! We don’t really invest everything do we, but Jesus did and does. His providential dealings are remarkable. There are many many references to marriage in the Bible. It’s no accident the Church is called the Bride of Christ. Jesus invested His blood into us poor faltering failing sinners. He doesn’t cast us off. No. He has vowed to keep us, to forgive us and cleanse us. Sue liked me holding her, she felt safe. O how much much more are we His people safe in His mighty arms. My dear non-Christian friend, how I long that you might be safe and know the love of Christ, that He is mighty to save and mighty to keep. O call upon Him for Salvation and safety, and love, and forgiveness, and then eternal joy with Christ which is far better.

Thank you for bearing with me.

Sue’s Funeral – Order of Service

Here is the Order of Service for my beloved Sue. I have adapted it slightly to post it here. It’s quite close to how it was printed so you can read the wonderful hymns. The full service audio link is also at the end of this post.

Sue Iliff
25th November 1955 – 23rd November 2015


Funeral Order of Service Led by Pastor Paul Watts


1. The God of Abraham praise,
who reigns enthroned above,
ancient of everlasting days,
and God of love.
Almighty, great I Am!
by earth and heaven confessed,
I bow and bless the sacred name
forever blest.

2. The God of Abraham praise,
at whose supreme command
from earth I rise and seek the joys
at God’s right hand.
I all on earth forsake,
its wisdom, fame, and power,
the Lord my only portion make,
my shield and tower.

3. Though nature’s strength decay,
and earth and hell withstand,
to Canaan’s bounds I urge my way
at God’s command;
the watery deep I pass
with Jesus in my view,
and through the howling wilderness
my way pursue.

4. The goodly land I see,
with peace and plenty blest,
a land of sacred liberty
and endless rest;
there milk and honey flow,
and oil and wine abound,
and trees of life forever grow,
with mercy crowned.

5. There dwells the Lord our King,
the Lord our Righteousness;
triumphant o’er the world and sin,
the Prince of Peace
on Zion’s sacred height
God’s kingdom still maintains,
and glorious with the saints in light
forever reigns.

6. The whole triumphant host
give thanks to God on high;
“hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”
they ever cry.
Hail Abraham’s God, and mine!
I join the heavenly lays;
all might and majesty are thine,
and endless praise.


TRIBUTE 2 Adrian

1 IMMORTAL honours rest on Jesus’ head;
My God, my Portion, and my Living Bread;
In him I live, upon him cast my care;
He saves from death, destruction, and despair.

2 He is my Refuge in each deep distress;
The Lord my strength & glorious righteousness;
Through floods and flames he leads me safely on,
And daily makes his sovereign goodness known.

3 My every need he richly will supply;
Nor will his mercy ever let me die;
In him there dwells a treasure all divine,
And matchless grace has made that treasure mine.

4 O that my soul could love and praise him more,
His beauties trace, his majesty adore;
Live near his heart, upon his bosom lean;
Obey his voice, and all his will esteem.

PRAYER – Pastor Geoff Thomas (Aberystwyth)

BIBLE READING – Trevor Thomas
Romans 8:18-39 (New King James Version; NKJV)
From Suffering to Glory
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy
to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the
earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the
sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly,
but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation
itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious
liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation
groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only
that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves
groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption
of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen
is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we
hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know
what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession
for us[a] with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He
who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because
He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love
God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom
He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His
Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover
whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He
also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
God’s Everlasting Love
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be
against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up
for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33
Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34
Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also
risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession
for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation,
or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or
sword? 36 As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him
who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor
angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to
come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able
to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1. Come, let us join our friends above, who have obtained the prize,
And on the eagle wings of love to joys celestial rise.
Let saints on earth unite to sing with those to glory gone,
For all the servants of our King in earth and heaven are one.

2. One family we dwell in Him, one church above, beneath,
Though now divided by the stream, the narrow stream of death;
One army of the living God, to His command we bow;
Part of His host have crossed the flood, and part are crossing now.

3. Ten thousand to their endless home this solemn moment fly,
And we are to the margin come, and we expect to die.
His militant embodied host, with wishful looks we stand,
And long to see that happy coast, and reach the heavenly land.

4. Our old companions in distress we haste again to see,
And eager long for our release, and full felicity:
Even now by faith we join our hands with those that went before;
And greet the blood besprinkled bands on the eternal shore.

5. Our spirits too shall quickly join, like theirs with glory crowned,
And shout to see our Captain’s sign, to hear His trumpet sound.
O that we now might grasp our Guide! O that the word were given!
Come, Lord of Hosts, the waves divide, and land us all in Heaven.

MESSAGE – Paul Watts

1. I saw a new vision of Jesus,
A view I’d not seen here before,
Beholding in glory so wondrous
With beauty I had to adore.
I stood on the shores of my weakness,
And gazed at the brink of such fear;
‘Twas then that I saw Him in newness,
Regarding Him fair and so dear.

2. My Saviour will never forsake me,
Unveiling His merciful face,
His presence and promise almighty,
Redeeming His loved ones by grace.
In shades of the valley’s dark terror,
Where hell and its horror hold sway,
My Jesus will reach out in power,
And save me by His only way.

3. For yonder a light shines eternal,
Which spreads through the valley of gloom;
Lord Jesus, resplendent and regal,
Drives fear far away from the tomb.
Our God is the end of the journey,
His pleasant and glorious domain;
For there are the children of mercy,
Who praise Him for Calvary’s pain.


Diary of a Grieving Christian – 6 (The Burial & Funeral Service)

Follow this link to listen to the whole service. Funeral Service of Sue Iliff


Maybe a couple more and then I’ll probably get back to the usual posts interspersed with things I’ve learned over the last year or so or a ‘kind of’ diary entry. Waking up today (Tuesday 8th December 2015) in many ways is far worse because I now have to think about life without Sue, and move on as they say. But I don’t want to ‘move on’. Although I’ve talked about ‘moving on’ I have no idea what that means without Sue. For now, I’ll walk through Sunday and the day of the Funeral – yesterday Monday 7th December 2015. The whole Service was recorded. And I think it was just such an amazing service. The church was pretty well full. The Gospel was clearly proclaimed. The singing was wonderful. Without a doubt, God was in that service! And to bless!

So on Sunday I stayed at home all day. I planned on going to the evening service but in the end just couldn’t face it. Instead I joined Robert and the folks at IBC in Sacramento for their morning service on-line. I seriously wondered how I would get through the Burial and the Service on Monday. I was dreading it. I even thought about not turning up. Monday came and I started the day by lying awake worrying if the burial would be in the right place and a number of other things I seemed to only just be thinking about. Didn’t people throw roses or something into the open grave? What an idiot – I just hadn’t thought it all through and now it was too late to do anything about it. I read my Bible and prayed. Then I got up.
It helped that the family were here. Ruth and Adrian were on their way with the kids. I was hoping my suit would fit. It was horrible not having Sue making sure I had dressed myself correctly. I came downstairs, saw myself in the mirror and just felt so sad that Sue wasn’t with me – we did everything together. Rhodri & Sybil also arrived and we gathered in the living room  because I wanted us to pray before leaving. Chris and Adrian prayed. As we stood to leave, I said, ‘remember, as Sue would have said, her body is there, but she isn’t’. We then got in the cars and made our way to the cemetery.

One of the first things I noticed when we arrived at the cemetery was that Ruth came with a bunch of single Roses. Dear Ruth. I wasn’t sure how many would be at the burial. But I soon realised there were a lot more than I expected. All waiting for us to approach. Everything was in place. The grave was where I had hoped it would be (but worried about). I felt calm and at peace. Julie from the Funeral Directors briefly explained what would happen and directed us to the right spot – right in front of the grave with the coffin ready to be lowered. Everyone gathered round. Paul (Pastor Paul Watts) spoke beautifully, movingly and with much conviction. As Christians we can speak with conviction the truths of the Gospel even when death is quite literally right before our eyes.

My dear, dear, darling Sue’s body is now in the ground waiting for the resurrection at the final day, when Jesus will be revealed in all those that have believed and those that have rejected Him will call upon the very rocks to cover them from the face of the Lamb of God who will now be their Judge.

One of the things that stood out as testimony was the diversity of people that came to the burial or the service or both. People she had worked with from 30 years before, others from more recent times, friends and even girls from where she had her hair done. She touched a lot of people, all sorts of people, not all from the church either, but couldn’t see it in herself as you will hear.

I needn’t say too much about the funeral as the whole service was recorded (link above & below). But once we were all there and seated Paul began to lead the service. (Our Son Chris and Ruth’s husband Adrian gave tributes. Our friend Trevor Thomas read from the Scripture and Chris’s Pastor Geoff Thomas prayed.) The church was well-nigh full. Sue endeared herself to a lot of people. I don’t know what I thought throughout really. But the Gospel was faithfully preached and very clearly. We pray for fruit. There were a couple of times my emotions nearly got the better of me but I hung in there. Afterwards it was a case of trying to meet and thank as many people as possible. Sharon the lady that first spoke to Sue about Jesus was there with her husband and ‘naughty boy’ Paul. My Best Man Mike was there. It was lovely to see so many. By the end of the service I was shattered. So many people at our church (Lower Ford Street Baptist Church, Coventry) helped make the day happen. I am so thankful to God for all the people there that have prayed and helped and supported. ‘See how they love one another’.

The day(s) after is another story. Now what do I do?

Follow this link to listen to the service. Funeral Service of Sue Iliff

Diary of a Grieving Christian – 5 (The Viewing: Another Visit to the Funeral Directors)

Today (Friday) was the day I was not looking forward to. My friend Robert suggested I go see Sue if I can as it would or could give me some closure. I made the appointment to view Sue for 10.00 this morning (Friday). I was dreading this. It’s not for everyone and have made no demands on the kids. But I reasoned, whatever I decided, I would probably regret. But If I didn’t see her the opportunity would be lost and wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. If it was a horrible experience, I reasoned, the memory would fade having many better memories and pictures of Sue. Armed with Sue’s words echoing in my mind ‘they are not there’ I drove to the place where Sue is resting – her body at any rate.

So I pulled into the car park and sat praying for a moment and then decided what I would do. I would go in on my own, pray aloud and then read aloud a part of 1 Corinthians 15. I went in and was ushered into a room in reception while waiting  for Julie, the lady assisting us in the arrangements. Julie appeared and took me through a door and along a corridor with a series of rooms. Quite weird actually. We then stood outside the room where Sue was resting. I was emotional and crying outside the door. We went in, with me still crying to see Sue lying in the coffin. Julie was very good. I told her my intentions, explaining Sue was not there but in heaven. She said it was good to have faith – not quite sure what she meant by that. Julie then left. I was alone with the body of my beloved and wonderful Sue.

With trembling voice I thanked The Lord for saving Sue, for keeping her over the years, for bringing us together, for keeping us together, for our children and our grandchildren. I asked the Lord to be with us as a family, to be present at the burial and the service and that He might save, that the Gospel would be preached and that He would be Glorified.

I then turned to the Scriptures and began reading this passage: 1 Corinthians 15: 35-58. I noticed especially verse 37 where it says ‘what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel’. A bare Kernel! And then noting the following verses:

1Co 15:42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.
1Co 15:43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.
1Co 15:44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

I continued to read, reinforcing the truth that Sue is not here but has gone to be with Christ. Finally, I turned to Job 1:20 – 21.

Job 1:20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshipped.
Job 1:21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

After reading from Job I spoke to Sue, even though it was bonkers, given what I had just read. But it was for me. I then came out of the room and made my way through to reception. Julie appeared again, we spoke briefly and I was on my way. I was consciously different. Was this closure? Absolutely no idea. I felt calm and at peace. Quite different from how I was before. Is this normal? No idea. The Word was powerful as I read it there in that room alone with God. There was no flash of lightning, or smoke, or voice (apart from mine), or trembling (only mine). Just The Word of God. When faced with Death, all we need is the Word of God. All flesh is as grass, but The Word of the Lord endures forever!

In closing this post, note these verses very carefully:

1Co 15:54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
1Co 15:55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
1Co 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
1Co 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


Diary of a Grieving Christian – 4 (Overview of the week)

Just a quick overview of the week. It’s been a busy week. My emotions are on a roller-coaster. I went to Church on Sunday morning with family (very close friends) to a Church where a few people knew me and where only one or two knew that Sue had died. The Pastor knew me but knew nothing of my situation and said the usual ‘how are you?’. I said ‘I was fine’ and he was off getting ready for the service. It was actually quite nice to not be asked in that uncomfortable way ‘how are you?’ but just in a British way that really means Hello. I had never sung the last hymn before but it so fitted where we were that morning. So much so that we are singing (no 3) it at the Funeral Service. We all thought how fitting it was, and will be.

Slightly different in the evening going to my home Church. I nearly didn’t go but some friends had saved a place for me at the back. I figured I had to go at some time. Everyone was really kind. An older gentleman came up to me and said ‘I know exactly what you are going through’. We were both moved as we shared our grief together for a few moments. Pastor Watts mentioned Sue several times in the sermon. His sermon was based on John 17:24 ‘Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory…’ Used that text as part of the announcement in the local paper. I took the opportunity to sort out the hymns and tunes and to find out from the Pastor what the reading would be. He said he would be preaching from Romans 8. He would preach on anything I liked. I told him, Sue wanted him to take the service and that she would be happy with what ever he chose to preach on. I shattered at the end of the day.

On that evening someone came and said ‘they were sorry for my loss’. I intend on coming back to this phrase, maybe in a separate post.

Frankly, the rest of the week is a bit of a blur.My birthday on Thursday wasn’t much fun without Sue. I spent some time Wednesday & Thursday sorting out the Order of Service. Chris sorted the front picture and the layout – quite emotional for him. His Mum would be proud of him as she would be for all three of the kids. More time was spent trying to contact people and let them know the news about Sue. I think it was Thursday, as I went to go up the stairs there was a piece of note-paper on one of the steps. As I looked I could see it was Sues writing. It must have slipped out of one of the address books without me noticing. It was a list of people Sue wanted me to contact about her death. One of the names had after it: 1st person to tell me about Jesus. Please thank her for me. The only detail she left was that she worked in a flower shop in a nearby town. I tracked her down and they are hoping to come to the service. God is Good!

I find myself pacing around aimlessly for a lot of the time. I realised it was because of spending such a lot of time caring for Sue that now there was nothing to do. I told the Doctor this. He reassured me by saying it was normal. Also that being lethargic and tired is a part of grief. Their’s a commonality to our humanity.

Thursday I had a letter from Chris’s Pastor Geoff Thomas. It made for an emotional read but the truths he expressed were so powerful and so very helpful. We have a Great Saviour. His name is Jesus.

Today, Friday, I went to see Sue. I’ll do a separate post for this.