Category Archives: Death

Grappling with the big questions Part 1

I have just finished a book by Philip Yancey, The Question That Never Goes away  (What is God up to in a world of such tragedy and pain).  In this book Yancey grapples with acts of unspeakable evil, and shares his thoughts about where God is, in places like Sandy Hook, the Twin Towers (911) and many other places where disaster has struck wither through human hands.   Nothing quite prepares you for facing death, either your own Continue reading

Two weddings and a few funerals

Weddings and Funerals

I have been thinking about both of these things lately, my son is being a best man at Easter for a friend of his, 20 years old and getting married, the first thought that pops into my mind is don’t,too young, that is informed by a number of narratives, personal experience, societal norms mainly.  A friend of mine attended a wedding recently, too hard she said, too many memories, couples everywhere.  Another friend of mine was expressing similar thoughts about a wedding he is going to.  There is a common thread about these feelings, negative experiences, hurt and cynicism inform them.  I have attended a couple of weddings since I became single, after thinking about them I have to say that I had different attitudes and experiences at both.

Weddings and funerals have a lot of similarities, both take a lot of planning and involve preparation and expense.  They are where friends and relatives come together and share emotions, love, mostly, and grief, yes grief even at weddings.  Sadness and happiness inextricably linked with each other, even at their most base level, grief only comes through knowing love.  Weddings and funerals have elements of loss and gain in them. Rites of passage they are both and they are important milestones in society.

For me they are a reminder of my own singleness, however I am not going to bang on ad infinitum about me.  I am going to talk about regrets.  As I was driving home from Auckland the other day I reflected after another near miss as a camper van took a sudden turn towards me on the express way.  I have had closer experiences with disaster, squashed between a truck and a power pole in a vehicle crash, electrocuted underneath a house to mention a couple of experiences.  I vowed then to live a fuller life without regrets.  Most of the regrets in my life have come from inaction rather than actions I have done.  I counselled someone this week that doing nothing was not an option for them, someone close was dying and they were not sure if they could cope with visiting them.  “paying respects” at a funeral just doesn’t really cut it.

I understand some peoples reluctance when they are going to see someone who is terminally ill, what do you say to them, whispering, weak, wet platitudes, how are you doing doesn’t seem to cut it…..  There are some people who thrive on the drama of death and dying, professional mourners almost, I have experienced these at some funerals and at death bed scenes, noisy and seemingly abject grief which at first glance looks like they must have been extremely close, yet the reality is far different.  Similarly I have been at funerals where people have said they won’t last 5 minutes.

In the case of the former I do wonder if through their very public showing of grief if they are trying to make up for actions past?  Perhaps they are mourning the cost of their own actions.  In the case of the nay-sayers at weddings, I don’t see why they would come to a wedding that they thought won’t last, why would you waste your time, surely the lure of food and drink is not that strong?

A constant theme that emerges at family funerals I have attended is the narrative that we should meet as a family at celebrations of joyful occasions, we just don’t seem to be as close today in terms of contact with aunts, uncles, cousins as I was in growing up.  The effects of separation and divorce hit this as well.

None of these reflections probably come as a surprise to most people I am quite sure, these  is  symptoms of a modern society that is extremely focused on the individual and are a natural consequence of the all-pervading religion of consumerism that drives society today.  Our dog eat dog world is a pernicious sickness that invades and pervades every institution from the church through to that unholiest of places parliament.

I know this because I recognise it, I see it in myself and it disgusts me.  If it is not in something external that I do it is that which I see in my own heart.  I have seen it in a new light recently and I have had to make some decisions about that which I value and give my time to.  It means that some of the things that I have given value have to fall away whilst I concentrate on doing the primary thing that needs my attention and that is being an effective and caring parent.

What does this have to do with weddings and funerals you may well ask.  Weddings and funerals are places where regrets are often remembered.  I hope that I don’t have those regrets at any of those life markers that I attend.  I have enough regrets about things that have impacted on my and my children’s lives already. I do not want to add to that list.  My hope is that you read this and examine your own lives and if need be make some adjustments of your own.

With peace and love,

Paul

 

Waiting for God

I have been corresponding with a friend of mine recently, her mum is seriously ill, hanging on to life by a thread, she has had a reasonable innings and also has cancer, so if her current illness doesn’t get her the cancer will.  She is waiting for God, I haven’t met her at all but from what I know she has had a full life Continue reading

Broken, somethings just are….

I remember it as if it were yesterday, 41 years is a long time to have a memory like that.  I had admired it for a week, standing tall and proud  Dressed in shining splendour, green and gold with a shiny silver overcoat, it had to be mine.  I am not sure how I wangled it, either bottles to the bottle-man or I may have mowed some lawns but in my hand I held the necessary to make it mine, possess and admire it till the time came to set it free.  I took it out of the over coat, smelt it savored  it, stroked it even, smooth then just a little rough.  I held it by its single white leg and imagined how it would end, and then disaster, in a moment it was an amputee, this thing of wonder lay in two pieces and I was desolate.  My rocket was broken.  this was no plastic fantastic but made in China nevertheless. This was the grand deluxe, sky traveller rocket, ready to be ignited to fly high into the sky and with a huge bang ignite a flare that would hang in the air by a thing of absolute marvel, its own parachute.  But now it was broken.  I remeber taping it up, but like a modern space rocket tape didn’t do it. I lit it, it fizzed rose a few feet, exploded and was done,  it was broken and could not be fixed, refired, rebuilt, re engineered, it was finished.

I thought about this as I read the news about the Pike River Mine http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11354441, it’s so unfair I heard one person lament.  Twenty nine men dead, and no one held accountable and no bodies to be recovered, no comfort here, just 29 men lying on the hard rock at the bottom of the earth, no words said over their bodies,no final farewells, time to move on they said, nothing more to be done, nothing to see here, move along. Tomorrow I have another MRI scan, back problems, bad, no relief from the relentless pain and disability, sucks me dry, destroys me one little bit at at time.

This is a last gasp attempt t try and get some resolution, lose some weight they said, so I dd 45 kgs, no improvement. get fit they said, so I did, be active so I did,get a job, so I did, take these pills, that vitamin, this mineral, pray, be thankful, all of these things I have done.  It is like I have used my prayer quota up on other things…. a long time ago.  I am prepared to be told that there is nothing “they” can do for me, I have heard it all before.  I have a plan for that but I know.  I know broken when I see it now and i am largely a broken man, living a life dictated by circumstance and brokenness.

I have encountered broken many times, I have pressed on chests and poured air into my neighbors lungs, in a futile attempt to start here heart beating again, all I did was push her blood into her chest, you see her heart was broken, an aneurysm they said, you did a good job, there was no chance, but I tried, I prayed and pumped and pumped and prayed and breathed, nothing, just a still whiteness and the smell of death,

I recognise other things in my life that are broken, I am tempted to try and fix them however b myself all I could do would be like my rocket, fix it with tape and hope, if I had had Gorilla glue I may have had a chance, however the weigh to be power ratio in the rocket was made for it to be perect and could never function with tape around the stick.  I have carried that broken rocket in my head for 40 plus years.  I hope the other brokenness is not with me for that long.

Live laugh and love well and freely, who knows what the morrow brings, it may be too late on the morrow.

The right to choose? Life or Dignity?

I just read my news feed on Facebook and happened on a poignant and touching post.  In it one cancer sufferer writes to another, this young woman has chosen to take her own life before her brain cancer robs her of all dignity and her suffering becomes unbearable Continue reading

Sieg Heil, a cause for concern?

Values, what are they today? I am applying for teaching positions at the moment. The last vacancy I applied for came back to me asking what qualities would I bring to the position.  Iwas a  little surprised at first, partly I think as a result of being a little overwhelmed by a big week with some emotional and physical challenges in it.  Continue reading

Stephen Dudley, Counting for Nothing, the cost of an over tolerant, society that lacks moral fibre.

I am enraged, Stephen Dudley’s life counted for nothing in a courtroom in Auckland this week. Justice Helen Winkelmann demonstrated her complete lack of touch with reality in discharging the second of two brothers without conviction. Stephen Dudley This was no petty misdemeanour, not a boyish teenage prank, this was an unprovoked attack on a vibrant young man that ended in his life being lost and Justice Winkelmann in her manifest wisdom decided that to enter a conviction against the main instigator of this would be a consequence out of keeping with the crime.

Her reasoning behind this, is that fights like this occur every day in schools around New Zealand, this indeed is the heart of the matter, never mind the asinine judge (Peters Principle probably) because she in the end only reflects societal view (around school yard violence).  I have no doubt that these brothers are remorseful, that they have suffered consequences, (exclusion form a prestigious school they attended so I am led to believe), family and church consequences.  They walk free in time they will become anonymous and whilst they have to live their lives in cognisance of their actions so do Stephen’s family.  From whatever side you look at this it is a tragedy that is seemingly without cure.

Stephens’s family think that their loss has been made even worse, salt has been rubbed into their raw and gaping wounds, and they think a law change is necessary.  The offender’s family think that justice has been done and the consequences of this moment of madness will be with the boys and the shame of it on their family for ever.  The reality of this situation is that it is broken forever and cannot ever be fixed.  If Stephen’s life is to count for anything however there must be a change.

What is it about our society that creates a norm where violence is endemic and an incident where a young man loses his life is labelled as just another school yard fight like hundreds of others every day.  Yes it has been going on for a long time but it only continues because we as a society condone it.  We condone violence in our school yards and our homes, the same as we condone abuse and all  the other social ills that blight our society like an invasive cancer.

When it manifests itself we wring our hands and look inwards for a moment and nothing changes, there is no accountability for any actions or violence.  Schools are left with very few options to try and mop up the mess that starts in the home and is accepted by the community.

Recently I walked from the security of a full time job to go back to day to day teaching because of a school that at its heart had developed an acceptance of violence and disrespect. In my teaching I confront and challenge the narrative of violence that underpins our society.  In my opinion assault is assault and it is time that it was treated as such.  Punch one of my children in the school yard and I will refer it to the Police and expect accountability, should my children offend I will hold the same position and ensure they are held accountable.

See below for more posts on a similar vein

https://kiwipaulspoetry.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/murder-up-close-and-personal/

https://kiwipaulspoetry.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/five-years-and-change-for-incinerating-a-man-alive/

https://kiwipaulspoetry.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/rest-in-peace-robyn-alma-grace/