Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Death and life...

Vida Simone Brown, Simon & Stephanies second child.
My week started with a phone call from my son to tell me that we had a new granddaughter born in Christchurch. She has spent a couple of nights in the intensive car unit, but today graduated out of there.  
But ....  my man in the hospice died on the weekend and I faced this week with a funeral to conduct on Tuesday and another on Wednesday. I spend a lot of time preparing funerals. I listen to the families, try to understand the deceased and seek to give expression to how they want to celebrate their loved one's life.  They both died because cancer had taken over their bodies, which had wasted away.  It is a sad disease. The funerals were very different. 
One was a retired firefighter who had been a great family man. The funeral home was full. One of the  moving things was that stacks of retired firefighters turned up. It was great to see them and great for the family to see the support. I enjoyed catching up with them. I appreciated too the way they came up, shook my hand and fell into conversation that was just like that of longstanding close friends. I received very positive feedback from that funeral. I was sure I had done a good job.
The second was a memorial service. The man had chosen to donate his body to the medical school upon death. He had been doorman at the Muso's (Musicians) club, so that was where it was held. It is a bit of an alternative club, but is a night club type place. The room is dark with coloured lights, and a massive sound system that could blow the place apart. The formal part I was to lead was to start at 4 p.m. but the bar opened around 3:15 p.m. I arrived and found the man who ran the sound system and we organised where I would run the ceremony from. The place was busy by then. In time he made contact with a jazz musician who could play the hymn "How great thou art" by ear on a key board. So I ran a very relaxed ceremony, some of the "congregation" were sipping beer and I was on a lighted stage looking out into a darkened, but packed room. There was applause for each speaker, laughter and nobody cared about tears. After the ceremony the man's sister came up and said, "We did it! That was just right!" I received a hug from another sister. When I said thanks to the man who ran the place, he thanked me and said, "You've done this before a bit haven't you?" Another guy, carrying beers said "That was excellent dude! Just great!" My paramedic friend who recommended me to his dying friend said, "They engaged with you. They were really listening!" "You still owe me!" I joked. So I managed again. But I am even more "peopled out" and exhausted, but deeply pleased that I ministered to people.
I had news today that a cousin's wife had died. She was around my age and I am sad for them. She had a progressive disease that slowly took her away. I will attend her funeral on Saturday. The cycle of life goes on.  

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