Glasgow minister releases poignant new book
Published on 15 June 2020
Rev Fiona Gardner, the minister of Temple Anniesland Parish Church in Glasgow, is releasing a new book, ‘Love Song For A Wounded Warrior'. Based on her late husband Colin's struggles as a war veteran, as well as his family's experiences, the book is co-written using Colin's own memoirs. The proceeds from the book will go towards funding two charities in Glasgow.
‘There are times when we need to be honest and vulnerable'
Fiona and Colin decided to share their story in order to raise awareness of the ongoing battles that many veterans and their families face, as well as to stimulate discussion as to how we can better support people with disabilities—both visible and invisible.
"For many of us, we desire to be seen and understood and loved," said Fiona.
"Yet there can be so many fears around this, in case we are judged or misunderstood, and so we are often silent, or hide. Yet everyone has a story to tell, and perhaps we all need to learn to listen more attentively and compassionately.
"I have been challenged about this in recent years, as my husband Colin died in April 2018 after a long illness. He was a veteran and battled with so many issues of identity, trauma and ill health - physical, psychological and spiritual - and he wrote about some of these struggles.
"He wanted his writings about his struggles and difficulties published, and it seems like my last loving honouring of his memory, to do this posthumously.
"Yet to make sense of his pieces of writing, I have had to write too, to provide a narrative for the fragments, and now I find myself telling something of our story as a family. Daring to do this, to have courage to speak, to be authentic, is one of the scariest things I have ever done.
"Yet trying to communicate something of our story, which is just like so many others, has reminded me than in the Christian family, maybe there are times when we need to be honest and vulnerable, because this is where we find growth and freedom.
"Yet, we need to be wise, because knowing how to trust takes discernment, and being hurt or let down is so sore.
"Colin's story is about his reflections on his military service, things he struggled with - the violence, memories, regrets, guilt, trauma - things that at times brought him pride, and at other times oppressed his spirit.
"My story is about how as a family we sought to support him, though his psychological and spiritual struggles, and also through his physical deterioration through intractable epilepsy. It is a tough and disturbing story, but also contains recollections of frustration and fear, absurdity, humour and courage!
"I tell Colin's story to honour his memory, to raise awareness, to stimulate discussion as to how we can better support people with difficult disabilities, and to ask questions as to how we might best respond - particularly in terms of medical and spiritual perspectives.
"The answer of course, is that we respond with love, but how do we put this into practice?
"From a Christian perspective, may we find inspiration in how big and loving and steadfast our God is. Instead of facing judgement from others, may each story told be honoured as precious, so that every person might be encouraged to tell their story in their own time, however impossible it might seem.
"Our individual lives would be both challenged and enriched by this, relationships in our church family become stronger and deeper, so that Christ's love can flow more freely, through His church and out into the world.
"When we have courage to speak, it can be messy, and sometimes we just need to admit that we don't have answers and lament together.
"I would be honoured if anyone reads this story, for it tells a story both personal and universal, and I hope it brings reassurance and understanding and enables us all to speak more freely of our journey, whatever it looks like."
An interview with Fiona is included in the current issue of the Church of Scotland's Ascend magazine. You can read a digital copy of the magazine here.
Register for Fiona's virtual book launch
Fiona will be hosting a virtual Zoom book launch on the release date of the book, Wednesday 24 June, at 7:30pm. To register to attend, and receive the link and password to the Zoom call, please email Fiona directly.
The proceeds from sales will be split equally between Epilepsy Connections and The Coming Home Centre in Govan, Glasgow.
Fiona has also recently started writing a blog to share her husband Colin's story, as well as her own experiences. You can read her posts here.