WELL OF LONELINESS By Norma Armand
I’ll never forget that Sunday afternoon when I looked out of my window and saw the flashing blue lights of an ambulance. I opened the front door to investigate, and that’s when I saw Trudy and her husband standing outside Dorothy’s house. Trudy’s face was ashen as she told me her mum had been found dead in the bath. I was horrified as I had a close relationship with my elderly next-door neighbour and meant to pop over for a chat in the days leading up to her death. The thought, like so many others, had bobbed to the surface before sinking again. And I begin to feel guilty for not acting on God’s promptings, believing I must be a bad Christian for letting Dorothy down.
Jeff, my husband, told me these things happened. Dorothy’s life had been long and fruitful, and she’d died because it was her time. I couldn’t have done anything to prevent it. But my negative thoughts and feelings persisted long after my neighbour’s funeral. I neglected to read the Bible, and my worship became dry. And as I sat in church one morning, it dawned on me they were all deluded. They believed in a God that didn’t exist, so I stopped attending services.
Jeff wasn’t a believer, but he worried about my depression. He had his own health problems to deal with as he had multiple sclerosis and retired from work on medical grounds several years ago. However, he could walk short distances with crutches and drove a car, which gave him some independence.
I worked full time as a telephone debt advisor. It’s the kind of job that requires excellent listening skills and a great deal of patience. After a while, I found I could no longer focus or function effectively, so I took sick leave. And the longer I stayed away, the harder it became for me to return. When my salary halved, money became tight, and I struggled to pay the bills. This put a strain on my marriage as Jeff couldn’t understand what was going on. I didn’t know myself. I only knew that darkness had descended and I couldn’t find my way out.
My doctor continued to prescribe me with antidepressants, which made me feel listless and numb. A night, in bed, my mind turned to all the things in my life I was ashamed of. The wicked thoughts, words and actions. My inadequacies as a human being. My utter worthlessness.
My father loomed largest. I found him physically repulsive, and I always wondered what my mother, who was slim and attractive, ever saw in him. I wanted him to die so that she could marry someone handsome. And death came suddenly one morning when my father went to investigate a roof leak. He fell off the ladder and broke his neck. I’d just turned twelve. My mother and siblings took it quite hard, but I was secretly happy. I’d got what I wanted, but mum never married again or took a partner, despite my encouragement. I was disappointed by her devotion to my father, and whenever l thought about him, it was always in derogatory terms, which persisted long after I'd become a Christian. It was a habit, a reflex action. Only later on in my Christian walk, did I repent of this sin and changed my thinking.
Yet here I was, dredging up the past, and hating myself all over again. Even worse than this, I started to believe that Jeff’s illness was my fault. A punishment from God, and the reason why my prayers for his healing hadn’t been answered. It became too much for me to bear and I silently sobbed, so as not to awaken Jeff. But my body shook the bed, and his arm went around me. I started wailing then, and in between the tears, I kept saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry. It’s all my fault.’
Jeff tried to comfort me as best he could, but my emotions were too strong to be assuaged.
‘You can’t go on like this, Marion,’ Jeff said. ’You’ve got to get some help.’
He was right, of course. I knew I needed help. I had put him through enough stress already.
‘I’m going to make myself a cup of tea,’ I said and got up.
As I entered the kitchen, an inner voice spoke to me and said, Why don’t you kill yourself? It seemed like a good idea. What did I have to live for? It’s not as if I had a good relationship with Shelley, my daughter. She‘d turned against me as a teenager, and we rarely saw our grandson. Even Jeff would be better off without me, and maybe my death would bring about a reconciliation between them. That thought comforted me as I opened the drawer and took out the large carving knife. It glinted in the light. I only needed to switch the handle and plunge the point deep into my chest, and my life would end.
‘Marion, what are you doing?’
I jumped at the sound of Jeff’s voice. I turned around to see his concerned eyes shift from the knife to my face. ‘I was about to peel an apple,’ I lied.
‘I love you, Marion,’ he said.
Shaking, I put the knife down and supported my weight against the work surface. Wrestling with my emotions, I looked up and said, ‘Okay.’ I swung my head toward the doorway and frowned. Jeff wasn’t there. I called his name but only heard a high-pitched ringing silence. Apart from the passage lights, all the others were off, and he wasn’t on the stairs as I climbed up them. I pushed open our bedroom door, and to my astonishment, Jeff lay in bed, fast asleep. I couldn’t believe it. Jeff’s legs didn’t allow him to move that quickly. Yet somehow he had.
He stirred slightly as I slipped beneath the covers. I decided not to wake him.
‘I love you too,’ I whispered in the dark.
I must’ve fallen asleep, for when I next opened my eyes, sunlight poured in through the net curtains. I reached for my watch on the side table. It read 12:30 pm. I sat up as Jeff entered the room and perched on the bed.
I thought I'd better let you sleep,’ he said.
‘Half the day’s gone, already.’ I sounded as though I had something to do; somewhere to go. Not that I’d made any plans for months. Time mostly passed in a haze as I operated on autopilot, but today felt different.
‘I don’t know how you managed it,’ l said, swallowing hard, ‘but thanks for stopping me last night.’
‘How do you mean?’ He looked baffled.
‘You came into the kitchen after I went down. Don’t you remember?’
‘I know you were upset, but I didn’t get out of bed.’
‘Of course you did. You stood in the doorway when I...’
‘I did have a strange dream though,’ Jeff said. ‘I dreamt that you were in the kitchen, holding a knife and I told you that I loved you.’
‘It wasn’t a dream, Jeff. It really happened. I was going to kill myself.’
‘I’m glad you didn’t.’ He put an arm around me. ‘I think God had a part to play in this.’
I’d never heard Jeff give God credit for anything. ‘It’s a miracle,’ I said as the truth dawned on me that something supernatural had happened.
‘I suppose it is, ‘Jeff said and laughed. We both did, only I had tears in my eyes.
‘Can we pray together? Now?’ I asked, seizing the moment.
He shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘If you want to.’
I put my hands together, closed my eyes and gave thanks to God, for snatching me out of the enemies clutches. When I’d finished, Jeff joined me in saying ‘Amen.’
From that day forward, my faith in God was restored. I started reading the Bible, and the words came alive. I copied scripture from Isaiah 43:18–20 and stuck it on my bedroom wall. It read, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” I did indeed. I realised God had more for me to do, and I was ready and willing to embrace whatever lay ahead of me, knowing I would not have to face it alone.
I reclaimed my life, which involved returning to work. And it was tough, especially on the first day. But having survived it, I knew things would improve, given time. And at home, the tensions eased in my marriage. Jeff and I didn’t talk about what had occurred on that fateful night, but it changed both our lives forever. I went back to church, and Jeff joined me, and not because I wanted him there. He made the decision alone, and I believe it was his way of giving thanks to God for saving my life and of course, to learn more about our wonderful, merciful Saviour.