we will stand

27 02 2016

She came.
With her long fingers reaching.
To snatch.
Scratch out the life
drawn out in the pages of our plan.
Without fear.
Or negotiation.
Just the stark finality
of death.

Why she?
Everything about
sudden death is

Stripped from us
with callousness.
Casual disregard
for the good.
The right.
The fair.

We do not fear you.
Do not get ideas.
Though we fear
And the sheer
Desperate emptiness
Of the hole
In our being.

The defeat of death.
That is for then.
Not now.
We stand.

We will stand.
The valley of the shadow
of death.
Is dark.
But it does end.

Just not yet.


A good friend of mine died suddenly last week. Michael Etheridge, aged 41, a husband, father of 4. A church minister. A friend of 20 years. Sometimes in church leadership because we deal with other people’s grief all the time it can become a bit casual.For me, I mean. My friend’s death shocked me. Knocked me for six. And my grief, as a distant friend, is nothing to that of his family.

There are no simple answers. There is no bible verse or theological truth that will bring comfort to them. Michael and I met studying theology as undergraduates, so I wouldn’t demean his memory with easy cliches. It’s just crap. Utterly, totally, uncomprehendingly crap. One of my responses is to write, and that is what I wrote.


For you and your family little Mikey. May God bless them, in the deepest, least cliche-ey sense.



11 responses

27 02 2016
Sheila Whittle-Bruce

So sorry for your loss. A beautiful poem.

27 02 2016

Thank you Sheila.

27 02 2016

Beautifully honest, and of course, terribly painful response. Thinking of you…

27 02 2016

Thanks Bob

28 02 2016
Emily Bradbury

Thank you so much for this. Having lost my dad (also a church minister) in a car accident 11 years ago I am deeply moved by your poem. At the time and in the years since I have searched long and hard for writing/people who could help me make sense of the pain and the hope in appropriate balance. They were hard to find. Your poem and your comment that it’s crap sum it up. There is hope but for now there is profound pain and confusion. Praying for this family that they have courage for each day and know that they can rant and rage at God – his shoulders are big enough. I found Joyce Rupp’s book “Praying our goodbyes” helped me hold the ambiguity. Thank you. May I copy and use your poem as I work with others?

28 02 2016

Thanks for that Emily, I’m so glad it expresses something useful for others.. Yes, please do use it.

28 02 2016
Emily Bradbury

Thank you

28 02 2016
carol adams

We were not made for death but for life, that is why it feels so wrong.


28 02 2016

I feel your pain over losing your friend but wonder why death is she. You ask but never answer your own question. The following lines give the impression that women are also the chaos and destruction we see in any death that affects our world. I know people will get angry with my comments but we cannot, must not personalise death even when it is personal to us because in that way we give it human attributes like choice and thought and this just makes things worse. IT is a random, senseless, painful but natural thing and we are already afraid of it enough without making it personal. You and your friend’s family are on y prayer list.

28 02 2016

Thanks Jules… I sort of answered the ‘why’ question – because it is unexpected, like everything in sudden death. We usually call death ‘he’, in the imaginary sense, so I simply switched it to illustrate the unexpected. It’s not a statement about women, or gender, and I didn’t mean to give that impression. Thanks for the prayers.

1 03 2016

I keep returning to your words, thank you for them.

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