Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sharing with families.

A fire fighter who retired eleven years ago was terminally ill and his son got in touch with me telling me his Dad wanted to speak with me ASAP. I saw him last Saturday and had a special time with him and his family. We all thought he would be around for a few weeks more, but on Tuesday night he died. Today I was back with the family planning the funeral. Yesterday I had a couple of brief telephone conversations with family members and then with the funeral director. I was in my mind working out all that needed to be done for a funeral. I have been a bit "peopled-out" lately and in some ways the last thing I needed was a funeral.  I have been busy since talking with various people about the man and the arrangements for the funeral. 

I had not long put the receiver down from discussing something with the funeral director, when the phone rang again. It was one of the paramedics I have been involved with in my St John Ambulance chaplaincy. "I have an old school mate in the hospice." he said. "I told him about you and I recommended you to him a few weeks ago. He asked about you the other day. He is dying and I was wondering if you could drop by and see him with a view to taking his memorial service when he dies. He wants to meet you." I inwardly gasped. So today after planning the funeral with my ex-fire fighter's family, I drove to the hospice and introduced myself to this other man and his family. He was really in no shape to talk, but again I felt a sense of privilege to be allowed into this family's life. I sat as they talked about their life together. They shared about their brother, their childhood experiences and generally cared for one another and their loved one. 

Without looking for work, I, who already feel peopled- out, have two grieving families and two funerals coming up. I will survive, and even enjoy, or feel fulfilled in the challenge of meeting the people where they are at and ministering to them, helping them to celebrate the life of their loved one. Just now it feels like a massive amount of work in front of me.  But.... isn't it great, very humbling and moving, that this fire fighter retired eleven years, when he is facing death thinks to call on the services of his old workplace chaplain? And... I have felt very humbled and moved by the number of fire fighters who have been offering assistance and are obviously pleased that I am involved.  And.... isn't it great and humbling, that a paramedic (who used to work for an undertaker and knows the funeral business) will think to recommend his workplace chaplain to his dying friend? I was surprised that he had that much confidence in me.

I am a privileged man indeed, albeit too busy in retirement. I was talking to the fire chief tonight, and he grinned, patted my shoulder and said, "And you thought you had retired!" My wife told him jokingly that I had threatened to "deliberately make a stuff up of the funeral so that I would never be asked again." "They would still love it!" he responded.

No comments: