Example 1. The Night Shelter in Dunedin needs a new weekend supervisor because of the resignation of one of our guys. I have advertised in the local paper and have been emailing and sometimes sending out by "snail mail" the job descriptions and the application forms. It is the "snail mail" that annoys me. At one time when you posted a letter in Dunedin to a Dunedin address, it was sorted in Dunedin and virtually the next day, or at the most, the day after was delivered. These days it goes all the way to Christchurch, (364 Kilometres) is sorted, and brought back to Dunedin. Here these days we only receive mail on three days a week. (It used to be every day) So when I am posting these things out I am aware that the application form I post will take quite a few days to get there, and then when they post it back, it will require a few days to get back to me. Applications close next Wednesday, so it could be tricky for those relying on "snail mail". It used to be reliable, quick and easy. These days it is a relatively poor service. Are we becoming a "third world" country?
Example 2. A retired firefighter has been in hospital with very bad lung problems. He was full time on oxygen. His prospects looked very grim, and he had resigned himself to dying in the next week or so. There is a drug that could possibly help, the relevant agency in NZ has approved it, but has not purchased it. If they did it would cost heaps. It can be purchased more cheaply via India, but it will take some time to get into the country. It will not arrive in time. It somehow feels "third world".
Example 3. My friend is spending his last days in Dunedin hospital. There has been a public outcry because the powers-that-be decided that rather than cook meals at Dunedin Hospital, the supply of meals will be contracted out and they will come from Auckland. (1061.71 Kilometres North of Dunedin.) People have reported that the meals, reheated, taste terrible and are of a poor quality. I have thought it was a daft idea flying food all that distance and was annoyed at the loss of Dunedin jobs. But I have not got too worried about the quality of meals, after all you are not in hospital very long. I visited my friend, however, and he said through his oxygen mask, "The meals are crap - the papers are right." When the meal was delivered to him last night while I was visiting he said, "I have to beat myself up to eat them." I thought - here he is, life almost gone, and he has to spend his last days eating bad quality "old" reheated food! I was thinking of ways we could bring in nice food and perhaps some wine, since he loved his wines. Are we a third world country? It feels like it is.
... In the early hours of this morning my friend sadly died. One of my jobs this week will be leading his funeral.
I have known my firefighter friend for nearly twenty three years. In that time he went from being a station officer to being deputy chief of Dunedin Fire Service. In all that time, even though he was not an active church man, he has been very supportive of the chaplaincy service. I have interviewed him in Church and on a radio station service. He has confided in me and pointed me toward people needing support. He was the first to get his crew assisting with our community christmas dinners. He has been a supportive presence when others thought a chaplain was not needed in a modern fire service. He called me "Skypilot" a term from his navy days. Today I have moped around grieving, feeling sad. I spend time tomorrow with his family and will later in the week, lead his funeral, but just now, I am sad. It feels like the older you get, the more often you encounter this sadness. Apart from reminding you of your own mortality (he was only three years older than I am) you realise that you are losing people who have journeyed with you. He and I had stories to tell, history together and things to laugh about, and now he has gone. As he said in a matter of fact way when I first visited, "It happens to us all. That's life." My last words to him were that I would "Love and leave him for now and come back and see him." Sadly I was wrong. His last words to me as I left his room last night were, "Look after yourself." I'll try Trev, I'll try.