Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Life in perspective...

My Auckland grandchildren - Oh for a personal jet to hop up and visit them.
Not quitting yet...
Last post I felt like quitting my community group, life there seemed tough going. This week has been easier than I thought it would be. The Desiderata says, "Do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness." I had dark imaginings which were overstated. Since then I have had a couple of encouraging emails and it would also be too complicated to withdraw from the work of the committee at this stage. I have tended to back off this last week, but going by emails needing my response, the week ahead will be busy. There are projects to complete, and after that, maybe I will quit.
Old acquaintances.. 
I share with you experiences from three recent encounters. 
An old mover and shaker.... recently I was having coffee in a hardware store cafe with my wife and I noticed this limping white haired old man looking at me as he approached the counter. He passed my table and smiled saying, "Hello David, how are you?" "Oh.. hi... doing OK." I replied hesitantly. He saw my blank look and helped me out by telling me his name as we shook hands. He would be about 10 years older than I am and grew up in the same church as I did. I had known him and his family for years. All his life he has been a debonaire professional who was a bit of a mover and shaker around town, though his career suffered a very public hiccup toward the end. I asked how he was and the answer was "Oh you know, one step at a time."  Later I reflected how time had moved him from a "mover and shaker" to a white haired old man who I did not look at twice, and certainly didn't recognise. It was sad, but a reminder of what time does to us all. I have often seen people full of their own importance pontificating about life, sharing their opinions as if the world depended on them. In due course them and their opinions are long forgotten or are remembered as "quaint". We have to learn to see life in perspective. The years fly past and we will soon be gone. What is truly worth investing our life in? It was nice that this man wanted to chat, I appreciated his interest, and I hope he can enjoy a long retirement. 
An old plumbing colleague.... I was at yet another cafe in a hardware store with an old Habitat for Humanity friend. We had our coffee and with his purchases passed through the checkout.  While standing waiting an older couple came passed and I recognised the man. He was a plumber I had worked with often during my plumbing apprenticeship. I took a step forward, reached out my hand and called his name -"Bill". To my surprise he recognised me and grasped my hand smiling widely. He turned to his wife, "This is Dave, d'y'remember? We worked together." then he chuckled, "He's the minister one." (I think he thought it was funny that I became a minister.) "Were you part of that bad group?" she responded with a grin, and Bill laughed. He is Irish, and still stood as straight as he used to, still had a glint in his eye and a ready laugh.  I worked out later that he must be in his late eighties. He immediately began to recount a story about when we were vigorously "play fighting" on a worksite and I threw a guy up against a partly installed office partition. It fell, and like a set of dominoes, brought about the fall of a line of others. We never confessed to the installers. I asked Bill how he was, and he said, "Oh pretty good. It's twenty three years since I retired you know." He looked at the smoke alarm he had just purchased and laughed saying, "I guess this'll see me out, I won't have t'buy another."  I found out he knew more about me because of my regular appearances in the newspaper. It was so good to see him, I had wondered if he was still around.  Both he and his wife looked healthy. Our memories of people who helped shape us are special. He didn't know it, but his supportive friendship during my plumbing years was important.
Goodbye mate...  Later that day I went to my brewery chaplaincy. When I went into the reception area one of the guys said, "I think many are at the funeral." "What funeral?" I asked. The man told me of a retired worker who had died on the previous Sunday. I was shocked. I had seen the name in the paper, but because it was not the name I had known him by, it had not registered with me. He had retired early at 60 years of age about four years ago. I had been his chaplain for sixteen years but neither I, nor his workmates had seen him since he left. He was a single guy living with his elderly mother, but a quiet pleasant man I had enjoyed lots of conversations with.  I was sad to hear he had died, it seemed unfair. "When is the funeral?" I asked. The guys in reception did some research and told me it was in about half an hour at a funeral home a mile or two away. "I'm not visiting here today." I said, as I handed back the 'sign in' sheet, "I'm going to that funeral!"  I was not exactly dressed for a funeral, but tidied myself up as best I could and went, sitting in the back row with his workmates. We were all a bit shocked at his sudden death. We really do not know what could be around the corner do we? Value every day. At the funeral the poem "The Dash" was read. I like it, there are simple truths in it. Goodbye mate, I enjoyed knowing you and spending time with you.   

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