Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Friday, August 30, 2013

A chaplain's visit that made a difference .... to me, the chaplain!

"NZ men don't express feelings" - "Yeah we do but differently."

On Thursday I went and visited a man who has cancer and he says it is terminal. We have been comparing our "prostate treatment" experiences for some months now, but recently he learned his cancer had spread. I have been his workplace chaplain for 19 years but this time I called at his home. I knocked on the door wondering what you say to a man in his position. "Dave!" he said, "You better come in." He ushered me into his lounge. He is a bachelor so everything around the house is neat but very pragmatic, good basic living with no fancy bits. I sat down and I simply said, "What happened? Tell me what happened since I saw you last."  He told me his experience of losing his voice, the subsequent diagnosis and the treatment they are giving him. "What are they saying?" I asked. "I am on my way out." he replied in a matter of a fact way. "I am sorry. ... stinkin' cancer, there is no telling is there? I am sorry Fred." (not his real name) "Yes" he said,  ... silence ... "That's the way it is." ... silence... Now women would say we don't express our feelings.  Counsellors may suggest that I should have been asking, "How do you feel about that?" or some such question, drawing out his feelings.  If I did I suspect he would have said sarcastically, "Oh I'm over the moon! How do you expect me to feel? What a stupid question!"  I did not ask such a question. The silences were a companionable silence. It was as if words were inadequate to express what was going on.  In that silence I suspect both he and I knew our anger, our sorrow and our friendship for one another. If I spoke I would have cheapened the moment.  (I recalled a number of years ago when a close friend of his died. I was told about it and went to where he was leaning against a fence.  Then I asked what happened. He told me about discovering her in her bath dead. "Oh I really am sorry. She was special to you!" I said. "Yes!" he said, "I am sorry too." and we just stood leaning on a rail in silence... aching sorrow and friendship passing between us in the silence. It is like that between him and I. He claims to be an atheist but we "get" each other. We are quite blunt in our conversations.) We got talking about the things he was doing and he reminded me that the last time I had seen him he was buying a new computer. "How's it going?" I asked. "I can't sort out my email!" he said. "You could sort it out for me!" We are both fairly computer illiterate but over the years I had helped him with some of his computer stuff. We went into his spare room and cranked up his flash new computer. He showed me what he was doing and we tried different options. "There must be a help number?" I said. I got onto google and found a number. He brought in the phone and said, "I'll dial the number, you talk! You know what you're doing." We did. It was a bit of a comedy. Two computer illiterate old men and this voice on the end of the phone working out his email. When we finished he shoved a bit of paper in front of me.. "Now write it out! The steps..." I did and had him go through them. "Easy!" he declared, "Thank you! I'm glad you came." "You'll be around for a while yet won't you?" I asked. "Oh yes I think so." he said. "That's good. You have 95 emails to catch up on so I'll leave you to it." "Yes" he said, and talked about some of the emails. "I'll keep in touch and call from time to time just to make sure you are behaving." I said, and we said our goodbyes. I wanted to assure him that even though he was no longer at his workplace I will still be traveling his journey with him. Of course this is a very abbreviated version of our interactions.  
The thing that got me was that before I visited him I was grumpy. I had been doing some plumbing around the Church. I was annoyed about not getting my MRI results. I had been feeling the familiar frustrations of ministry and of trying to get on top of Night Shelter tasks. But some how after I visited this friend, a crusty old bachelor with cancer, - somehow his blunt friendship made me feel better about myself, ministry and life in general. Its a funny old life.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why do it?

Attempt at a panoramic photo of the Otago Harbour from up on top of Mt Cargill (My mountain) Sooo nice to be up there again.
A full day off.
I had a full day off yesterday (Monday). It was so good. I slept in a bit, read the paper leisurely and dawdled up town to get some necessary supplies. (Mash for the hens and sheep nuts for the goats) I then filled in online my application for the NZ government superannuation. That was a bad move. We made a few mistakes and the thing timed out a couple of times in the process.  I went up my mountain. Because a local road is still closed after a big slip awhile back, my trip to the start of the walkway was extra long.  For this reason I have not been up my mountain for a long time. It was so good to be up there. Somehow it energises me and at night I tackled a couple of emails.
Looking at the readings...
On Tuesday mornings I have coffee with some virtual people. On the "Textweek" I read the readings for the next week and often print them off. I then make a cup of coffee and click on the "Sermon Brainwave" link and listen to a small group of Biblical experts discuss the readings. They are different theologically than me, but their discussion of the Biblical texts and the possibilities for preaching often gets my own creative juices flowing.  I sometimes listen to another podcast and read some of the other articles on the textweek site.  Today as I read the readings and listened to the discussion about next weeks lectionary readings, I got quite excited. "Oh I could do this, and point out that!?" Jeremiah talks about cisterns, and fountains of water and I began to think creatively about props I could use and how we could celebrate truths. But as I thought, I got to thinking about my congregation who have listened to me for 26 years and wondered if anything I did, no matter how creative, would make any difference. "What the hell is the use of trying?" I said to myself.  I gave up my creative thinking and went on with other tasks. I guess that during the week something useful will gell.
Good encounters...
I had some good encounters when I went over to St John and when I visited fire stations. I feel at home in these places and appreciate the meaningful discussions I have. Last Sunday morning in discussions with people in the informal time after worship I felt I connected with some people. These times make me feel my "work" is worthwhile, even if running Sunday worship leaves me cold. Its a funny old job this Church ministry, only eighteen Sundays to go.
When you retire, I was wondering....
Today in an email and conversation I had two people making suggestions about "when I retire."  It is so hard. I want to be free from too much stress when I retire. I need that! Yet I still want to do that which is useful and makes a difference.  My wife says that I should not promise anything now and just say "We'll wait and see how I feel when I retire." I kind of think she is wise.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Some pleasures of "Being."

I love the natural beauty of this creek - taken on my walk tonight with my friend.
Spring blossom in our backyard.
Night Shelter Collection update
On Monday my wife and I and the Night Shelter Treasurer set ourselves up in my office to count about two days of donations in the Night Shelter Street Appeal. The bank's counting machine was not working so we sorted, counted and bagged well over three thousand dollars worth of coins and a whole stack of notes. We had to plead through the bank's closed glass doors at 4:30 p.m. to get them to accept them as a deposit. The total.... $12,176. Very pleasing indeed. Since then a $5000 donation has been made on line. We sense that there is a new level of support from the community. With sore backs and tired minds we went home, deeply satisfied with our efforts of the last week or so.
My response
On Monday night I was up late wording a response to the National Leadership Team of our denomination, discouraging their move to pass a remit which would not allow our ministers to conduct marriages, blessings or whatever in support of gay relationships. I carefully thought through what I wanted to say and how to say it in a constructive way. It along with others' responses has caused the NLT to withdraw the offending remit. I like to think I made a difference. I suspect that they will do it in other ways in due course. I suspect that the present state of the constitution, once it was pointed out to them, prevented them from continuing. - It would be nice if their stance has become more open. I felt I had to do my bit and was pleased with my composition. In spite of the late night, I enjoyed the challenge of wording this document, seeking to make a difference... it was like a work of art for me. 
I had to get up by 5 a.m. on Tuesday to fly to Wellington to a St John Ambulance Chaplains' conference. (Tuesday-Wednesday) I find it interesting to meet up with minsters (and a few laypeople) from a variety of denominations. I would have to say that while I appreciated the formal sessions of conference, this time it was more the informal conversations that I enjoyed the most. As always there are some people you feel drawn to more than others. Over dinner about four of us conversed openly and meaningfully about ministry. I enjoyed the company of my traveling companion. We come from very different places in life, but somehow we seemed to get on very well and the travel/waiting time there and back passed quickly. "I've enjoyed your company." she said as we said our farewells.  People are interesting beasts. I learned that travel and the conference experience is made a bit more difficult with my self-catheterising plumbing system. I can now understand why a friend who uses the same system, refuses to travel away from home. 
Sad news and no news.
For most of this year I have been having conversations with a man in chaplaincy who has had similar prostate problems as mine. He had been told he had some cancer and they had promised radiation treatment. I had been worried that it seemed to be a long time in coming. Well I went to his work this week and discovered he was not there and was not expected to return. I phoned him and found that he is now riddled with cancer and in his words, "It is pretty grim."  I am sad, I have known him for quite a few years and we had a strange friendship that in some ways went beyond that of chaplain & client. It also made me phone the doctor to see if there were any results from my MRI scan... but there is no news yet. I try not to worry, what will be will be, but after hearing about my friend, just sometimes I sense uncertainty about my future. Maybe I will find out next week.
The simple pleasure of just "being"
On Friday night I was exhausted having missed out on a good deal of sleep during the week. I opened the drop-in centre with a groan... "Do I have to?" But to my surprise I enjoyed myself. I helped serve food, then gathered up dirty dishes and washed them. During this time there was a lot of simply enjoyable good hearted, happy banter, and conversation with our guests. We joked, caught up on each others' week and laughed. It was simply "nice tasting" friendship between people. One such incident was when a young chinese guy came over to the sink with his bag that he carries his table tennis bats in - he wanted me to play table tennis. My fellow helper drying the dishes, asked him what the bag was? I said, "Its his bag for his precious table tennis bats." He seemed evasive and said, "Its a bad bag!" My helper persisted saying "Let's see it?"  He showed it. The zip up bag had written on it in different languages the word, "Shit!" "I warned you it was a bad bag!" he said grinning. "In a Church too!"I scolded. We laughed as we headed toward the table tennis table - it was simply simple good fun. Then I played table tennis. While there were quite a few there, I was confident that we had no troublemakers, so I found myself able to concentrate on the game without distraction.  Do you know the pleasure of hitting an unplayable shot against a worthy opponent? Then there is the pleasure of reaching and returning a shot your opponent thought was unplayable, and seeing the surprise and admiration in his face. There is the joy of working out his weakness and seeing your plan disrupt his game. The sheer joy at laughing together at the funny events in the game; the screams of triumph and groans of frustration. Play was interrupted from time to time when other duties called. Other people came past and shared in brief conversations. As I drove home I reflected that it was simply a good night when I felt the warmth of human contact, the joy of laughter and I experienced the simple happiness of being alive with others. 
I saw on Facebook this Chinese proverb. If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

As I think back on my week, I am indeed a lucky man. These are just a few of the things in which I have found enjoyment and satisfaction. 
Above and below; The incredible lightness of "being". 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Like "WOW!" - what a week.

I have not posted on my blog for over a week, simply because I have been too busy. There have been a few nights when I have been wanting to write, but when I sat to do it I was simply too tired. Here is a catch up.
Saving souls.
My last post was about saving the souls on my slippers. Last Friday night we had a full drop-in centre and I was busy playing table tennis, washing dishes and socialising.  I went down the hall to a pool table and saw a bunch of guys playing pool. Some had mental health problems, others intellectual limitations but they were enjoying pool together with a others watching and enjoying the game. Here was companionship, healthy laughter, sportsmanship, acceptance and just life affirming fun. I play table tennis with guys who love to beat me. I see them come alive at the end of the table, enjoying their skill, appreciating mine and sometimes telling me about their life.  Last Friday night I thought about my tongue in cheek blog post, and was reminded, I am saving souls. I am helping to bring into often troubled lives life enhancing friendship, companionship and happiness. I am saving souls, not in the old religious sense, but facilitating a measure of love, acceptance and wholeness in peoples living.
Sunday lunch
Our foster daughter with intellectual (and physical) handicaps has moved houses. She is in a house with others and they have full time care. They had a potluck lunch for families, so my wife and I, my daughter and son-in-law joined in. Now I would not wish handicaps on anybody. Being involved with people with handicaps can be a gut wrenching, heart aching and hard work journey.  But as we met the families of other residents, brothers and sisters, parents and others, and the carers in the house, somehow working and living with folks who have handicaps brings out the best qualities in humans. There are few pretensions, just open honest enjoyment and appreciation of the simple things of life. I was sitting next to Pania (our 34 year old foster daughter) helping her feed and singing softly too her. A lady nearby assisting her sister grinned knowingly. "Do you have secret songs you sing too? We do that don't we?" as she nudged her sister, "I love it" she said.  However challenging they are, our experiences with Pania continue to enrich our life.
Last Monday saw me leading a funeral for a 91 year old Church member. He had been a well known businessman in town and his late wife was my mum's cousin, so I had known him since my childhood days. He taught me how to play table tennis. In the early 1960s when we were young teenagers we complained to my father that "there was nothing to do!" He told us to get off our butts and do something for ourselves. With his encouragement we built table tennis tables and decided to begin a table tennis club down at our Church. This man had been a table tennis champion so my dad asked him to come down for a couple of Saturday nights and teach us to play the game.  The Table Tennis club expanded and became a youth group of around 40 people (at times) - but I am still playing table tennis. I led this funeral and got so much positive feedback. A man who has recently retired and was awarded a Queens honour for his career as a journalist on TV said, "You have a gift. Every time I attend one of your services I am so impressed." I told him I was looking forward to not doing them because it does cost. "Oh I am aware of the personal cost such work involves." and he mentioned his own experiences on TV.  It is interesting. On Sunday prior to my normal Sunday service, and Monday the day of the big funeral, while eating my porridge at breakfast, my hand was shaking as I lifted my spoon to my mouth, spilling milk and porridge back into the plate. I wondered why I get so stressed and what such stress is doing to my body?
Night Shelter Street Appeal
Last week the Night Shelter had its street appeal. We ended up doing rushed preparations because the man who was to run it resigned and left us with the task at a late stage. I needed somebody to ring volunteers and sort out who collected where and my ever patient wife (who knows I hate cold calling) stepped into the breach and put in hours of phone work over the last couple of weeks. So this week has involved delivering and collecting buckets and standing for several hours at a time collecting money off passers by. (as well as trying to fit in my normal work) It is always an interesting experience. I think I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times somebody under 30 put money in. (not counting children sent by parents) Young people just ignored our presence as they walked past.  The most frequent donors by far were women over the age of 50.  Perhaps it means that such generosity will fade out with the next generation? Or perhaps we become more compassionate and generous as we get older? Or is it that we just have more spare money to give as we age? It may just be that young people these days do not carry cash? Having said that some students offered to help collect. It was delightful. We went to gather their buckets and these two girls were sitting in the doorway of this supermarket having a ball. One had the Night Shelter poster and was jostling it to gain attention, the other had the bucket. They were all smiles and laughter and the people seemed to be responding. We have not counted all the money yet, but the results look good. Last night as we collected the buckets we were foot sore and exhausted. While collecting I realised that I know so many people. On one particular two and a half hour stint at a supermarket I had conversations with so many people I knew. I met this woman I used to run with years ago. I had not seen her to talk with for quite a few years. We dropped into easy conversation again. Ministers, ex-firefighters, drop-in centre folks, people from past chaplaincies and others stopped by to have a chat. One encounter was with a stranger. He dug in his pocket to find cash. Out dropped a nail, a screw and a paper clip. I asked if they were from his last job. With a grin he admitted to picking these up off the footpath. "I do that!" I exclaimed. We shared our gathering/hoarding hobby, and how we store our finds, laughing at how our friends and relatives react. When he left he gave me his card.
MRI scan
On Thursday I went for my MRI scan, a check to see if I have prostate cancer, or any cancer "down there". People had warned me about how claustrophobic it would be and of the terrible noise. I found it OK. (perhaps because I was expecting worse) I closed my eyes and nearly fell asleep.  I await the results. What will be will be.... I don't really have time to worry about it.
Will I fight it?

I received an email on Wednesday in which the national leadership team of our denomination informed me that they are going to put forward a remit for confirmation in September, which includes a "Statement on Marriage and Sexuality". If passed it will not allow me as a minister of this denomination to marry, bless or endorse a gay couple and it gives their interpretation of scripture to back this up. I will not be allowed to make public statements affirming gay relationships. Now we are congregationally governed so I do not think that constitutionally they have the right to dictate such things. Secondly I disagree with their stance. I have already broken their proposed rules by sharing my thoughts on this blog site. I do not know the consequences of disobedience? Maybe I will not be endorsed as a "minister in good standing" and will not be able to marry anybody? Are they going to excommunicate me? They want responses by Tuesday? I groan inwardly. Do I want to buy into a fight with 19 Sundays to go until retirement? But it is a justice issue? It is also a denial of our ethos and history? We are meant to be open to diversity? Watch this space. Whatever I do, I will lose the battle. People in scary times look for authoritarian leadership, they feel safe. In these days when all religions tend to be conservative, they have the numbers to defeat any protest I raise.  But life is not black and white. Such directions are not life enhancing, are not within a spirit of love and compassion. I think God would want us to live in loving life-affirming relationships, and is not as concerned about the gender of our "intimate other" as they make out.  They are the modern day pharisees. I doubt they would recognise Jesus if he could physically came back amongst us, and would possibly crucify him again.  Lord, hasten the day of a broader more life giving, more real faith expression.  I sense the noises of an emerging progressive Christian movement. It is so needed. 

That has been my week. On Tuesday I fly to Wellington which is still reeling from a powerful earthquake, and still experiencing aftershocks. Another busy week awaits.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

"Have you saved any souls lately?" ... "Well yes!"

I have a firefighter who when he sees me asks me first if I want a cup of tea. Then his second question is, "Have you saved any souls lately?" The first is serious, he loves to make me feel at home. The second is joking, a light hearted dig that I am religious and most of them are not. He often rates my chances of saving the souls of his colleagues. "He needs saved, you might have a chance with the young guy there, but that one - he's a lost cause." Well I cant wait till he asks next time because I will say "Yes I have!" I have had these comfortable old slippers. They are the best. They are warm, leather, wool lined, with solid rubber souls, zip up boot type things that you can wear outside if necessary. They are about the third pair I have had in my life, but now for some reason they have stopped making them! (I got my first pair as a teenager and wrecked them in a motor scooter accident) I have worn the current pair for at least twenty years and the souls were cracked and coming apart.
My wife explored in vain all sorts of places to try to find out where you can buy a replacement pair of slippers. She then went to a shoe repair place who refused to fix them, saying it was a lost cause. So we went to a shop which sells "rubber things" and bought replacement souls and shoe goo. I did some rough repair work on the old souls allowing the goo a few days to harden. Then I fixed up some temporary clamps and stuck the new souls on top of the old. They have been clamped for a couple of days and I now have them out, the souls trimmed and have been wearing them again. I hope they last a few more years. So yes I have saved a couple of souls. I would love if somebody would make these again. They are so good.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A threatened eviction, two bits of mail, a drive and a walk.

We all end up small
On Saturday I got involved with a older man who comes to our drop-in centre. He is in a state housing unit and has been told he will be evicted. His lawyer tells him it could be an immediate eviction on Tuesday so his family was keen for him to get his important items in storage ASAP. He was a bit of a hoarder so I went along to assist. He was so sad as we stashed just a little bit of his stuff. He looked around his remaining treasures and knew they would be discarded. "You may as well dump me as well!" he said. It reminded me that no matter how many material possessions we have, there comes a time when we will all have to "downsize". 
An MRI scan already?
At my recent hospital appointment the doctor felt around my stomach, asked questions and stuck his finger up my backside. He gave me instructions about tests he wanted and what to expect in the future, then went off to confer with the specialist. I thought it was all over, but he came back in and said that the specialist thought it would be good to have a MRI scan, just to check there is no cancer. I was surprised, but had read in the newspaper that there was a long wait for MRI scans, so was expecting a call up in a few months time. A letter arrived on Friday and they are going to do it next week! The reality of it hit me - I am having a scan to check for CANCER! Then, because I am a worry-wart, I said to myself, "Why did they make it so soon? Perhaps they are really worried?" - my sane brain reminds me it is just the doctors being thorough.  - But the mail brought a sense of reality and a measure of uncertainty.
Moeraki where we had lunch today.
A trip away.
In my role as a chaplain for St John Ambulance we drove about 45 minutes north of Dunedin to the township of Palmerston where I had to lead a dedication prayer as part of the opening of a new ambulance station.  We seemed to have been very busy lately so my wife convinced me to take a break and continue up the road a little to the beautiful little township of Oamaru. We had a special meal (two BIG ribeye steak meals - I had to help my wife finish hers so I waddled out of the restaurant) and relaxed in a luxurious motel there for the night, pretending we were rich.  We lazed around sleeping in and reading until we had to leave at 10 a.m. We wandered the shops and then dawdled home taking several side routes and exploring the countryside. It is funny how as you get older a quiet drive in the country is a thrill. Sometimes just a short spell of relaxation out of town can ease the stress. After checking emails (all of them work related) and doing a few other things at home I went for a 10k walk.  After about 4k I bumped into a man who we have dealings with through the Night Shelter Trust. I had a congenial chat, but he raised a couple of issues. The reality is that around town I just cannot escape "work".  
Official looking mail.
I received an official looking envelope in today's mail.  The opening line said, "Dear Mr Brown APPLYING FOR NEW ZEALAND SUPERANNUATION (NZ Super ) As you are about to turn 65 you may be able to get NZ Super." I could look up information at www.seniors.msd.govt.nz 
It is funny... I am looking forward to retirement at the end of the year. Twenty one Sundays to go!  But somehow the word "superannuation" and "seniors" hit me with the reality. I am a senior!  I will be classed as a pensioner! The newspaper would call me an "elderly man!"  I still feel young?  But I have not "succeeded" yet? Where did those years go?  Life seems to have passed by so fast.

On my walk - a sign of spring coming.
A new track looking across Sawyers Bay.
I decided to take a short cut down the railway line.
Just then one of the rare trains decides to use it.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Reflecting on my week...so far.

Advocating for the vulnerable
At different times I find myself standing up for the vulnerable people of our community. When I first began standing on the street for the night shelter street appeal I found some people passing pretty judgmental comments about the people using our facilities. At different times I have had to justify our drop-in centre, or advocate for some family in a Habitat for Humanity home. On Tuesday night I had to stand in front of a bunch of fairly well off Rotary club participants and plead the cause of our night shelter. I don't mind doing this, and even when I receive some flak, it only tends to make me dig my heels in and stand my ground. We are in this life together. We are here to help each other. But sometimes I am disappointed by the people I am advocating on behalf of. Sometimes one or two of the Habitat for Humanity house owners I have argued for have done things that disappoint. I called at our phoenix lodge today and was disappointed with one of the rooms. Some times drop-in people do things and I can almost hear the people who are impatient with such people saying, "I told you so!" I will continue to stand up for the vulnerable, but at times it gets hard.
"The Doctor says..."
I went along to my hospital appointment with the urology clinic. I was hoping for some answers and some progress with my "plumbing" issues. What I heard was not that encouraging. It seems my bladder is damaged and I may have to have this system of self-catheterisation for the rest of my life. The Doc did say that it could improve, but the tone of voice seemed to negate the positive. I can live with it, there are a heap of people living with a lot worse. He did assure me that they found no cancer when they did the operation. I have felt drained lately and had wondered if I was battling some infection in my plumbing system. They tested that and I had a phone call tonight to say I need antibiotics. The doctor did some other checks, consulted the specialist and is sending me for an MRI scan, "just to be sure there is no cancer." I had moved past the cancer possibility and this seemed to raise it again. I am trying to forget it and will wait with a positive mind for the scan. Life is an adventure. I learned of the death of a retired firefighter today. The last time he and I talked we compared notes. He had been down the prostate problem track like I am going down. He had to battle cancer. I was sad, I enjoyed his company whenever we met.
Being shy sucks....
I talked at this Rotary Club on Tuesday night. I put a lot of effort into my talk, I wanted to present the work of the night shelter Trust and its needs in as persuasive way as possible. While speaking I noticed my hands were shaking. Today I conducted a funeral. I found myself in preparation not trusting my skills. Editing and re-editing and sometimes procrastinating on writing the final sentences. Again as I ventured to the front of the funeral chapel I found that my nervousness kicked in. Even sometimes making phone calls to people, particularly strangers, especially if I want to ask something of them, I have to psych myself up to dial the number. This is one reason I am not good at delegating tasks. I will sometimes do them myself rather than risk rejection in asking others. Here I am nearly 65 years of age and I am still essentially shy. I can do things, but my shyness means that it takes an extra effort. I guess that is one reason I am looking forward to retirement - I may be able to be more reclusive then. By the way I received very positive feedback about both my Rotary club talk and the funeral today.
Who would have thought?
Today I conducted the funeral for a man who died last week at age 68. His wife rang me last Friday morning and told me of his death. She is a life long friend of my sister. At the funeral I got to talk with her brother. He and I went through school together, primary school, intermediate and high school.  We were playmates as young boys at school. He came to our youth group as teenagers. I had not seen him in years - probably 44 years. I enjoyed today's conversations and think that we may catch up more frequently in the future. I fished out an old photograph and looking at it I thought that we would never have thought back then that I would be a minister and that I would take this girl's husband's funeral. It would have seemed a most improbable option. I was just not minister material. Today we shared our live's journey, but also we talked about future possibilities, how we were growing and evolving as people. My friend has been a successful book designer/editor and is currently writing a book. (He always was clever) As I look at this photo, and think of where we have been, I realise that you never know what adventures in life are ahead. Back then I would never have thought today's funeral would have happened as it did.
The widow from todays funeral is the girl in the dark clothing on the left of the photo.  I am at the back, my head intersects the edge of the building. My friend I caught up with today is on my left, you can see his head between the front row twins. This was some members of the North East Valley Church of Christ Youth Group about the mid 1960s.