Elizabeth (R of photo) on pilgrimage in December 2007

I became a Bahá’í in August 2002, not long after the sudden death of my husband.

I had always been nominally an Anglican Christian, by virtue of the fact that my parents sent me to the church Sunday school. I was confirmed into the church at age 13, having never asked a single question at confirmation classes. Indeed I did not know what confirmation was, or what it meant! Over the years I enjoyed the music and the hymn singing, but found myself unable to say the Apostles’ Creed, especially the beginning, which says “I believe in God”, and I felt a fraud going up for communion.  You have to remember that this was taking place 1950-1960, and that I lived in a remote area. At the time it was unheard of to question one’s elders, or to show a streak of independence.

I married in the Anglican Church in 1964, went to live in another town, and gave up church attendance. However, we were both of sincere belief in the Ten Commandments and endeavoured to live by Christian principles.

So now, forward to Portishead. We had lived there for 32 years, without entering the church. We were busy raising our family and going to work, but always aware of the Christian virtues.

My husband enjoyed dreaming in his sleep, but his dreams became like a life review, and more than once, he said that he thought that he was going to die. He explained his immaculately presented domestic accounts to me and said that if he was taken suddenly, I would easily be able to take over. I made light of this, since he was only 58 and seemed pretty fit. Once I heard on radio 4 that beta-blockers, which he was taking for slightly raised blood pressure, could give hallucinations and we were satisfied that this was the explanation for his disturbing dreams.

However, after a lovely day in May 2001, spent in the garden with relatives, he collapsed at bedtime and was taken to hospital. I was told that he had suffered a brain haemorrhage and that his chances of survival were about 20%. He later had another attack, and there was no hope of recovery. I consented to his organs being used for transplant purposes, so he was kept on life-support until a recipient could be found for his heart. This gave time for our children to arrive and to see their father looking alive, but wired up and technically dead. They were shocked, particularly because they did not know about the dreams that were surely a warning.

After that somewhat traumatic time, life went into a new routine and I was grieved to think that his life was over, and that was all that there was for him. When I saw the advertisement for a short course, entitled Reflections on the life of the Spirit, I felt that this might shed some light for me, so I signed up and duly went along. The first meeting was crowded, because some people thought that it was to be a séance! However, I was very taken with it and stayed behind to ask questions. After the other three meetings, I was eager to learn more and went on to study Book 1 with the facilitator, Viv Craig. At the end of the book, all of my questions had been answered, and I was able to say that I believed in God. Previously I had wanted to understand and explain God; I did not realise that He is unknowable. Now, a tutor myself, I am a happy and fulfilled Bahá’í, still learning and striving, and grateful to my late husband for giving me the opportunity to know and recognize Bahá’u’lláh.


Elizabeth Norville

January 2012