Julie and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary with dinner on the ‘976’ restaurant tram in Bendigo. The’976’ is a beautifully refurbished 1952 Melbourne W-class tram. We welcomed the slow movement of the tram which gave us time to appreciate the heritage buildings, the manicured gardens of Rosalind Park and the Saturday night revellers spilling out onto the street.
We enjoyed the delicious food and were encouraged that the seasonal ingredients were sourced from local suppliers. It was a memorable evening and one that we will cherish.
If you are familiar with the biblical narrative you will know that the number forty occurs quite often. The children of Israel, having escaped the clutches of their captors, wandered in the desert for forty years. Noah, safely housed in the ark with his family and the animals, listened to the torrential rain for forty days and forty nights. The giant Goliath, a formidable opponent, taunted the Israelites for forty days. And Jesus, the promised deliverer, retired to the desert and was tempted by the devil for forty days.
In most instances, the number forty refers to a period of testing or trial.
When Julie and I look back over our forty years of marriage we recognise that, like most marriages, there have been difficult periods relating to work, finances, health, housing, and family. But undoubtedly our greatest test was facing the reality of our son’s death to suicide. Nothing prepares you for such an occurrence. Suicide is often unexpected, sudden and violent. You are left reeling not knowing what to think or how to process you grief. Over time you learn how to live with the ‘new normal’, to accept that the pain will never go away.
Gillian Bouras lost her younger sister to suicide. In her book, No Time for Dances: A Memoir of My Sister, she says,
“Perhaps the first lesson those left behind learn is that the struggle to cope with this specific pain may last forever.”
You can become a victim of your pain or you can allow the pain to shape you into a more caring, responsive person. The purpose of any test in life is not to bring you down but to change you into a person of character, a person of renewed hope.