I have now led seven funerals since we came back from Scotland at the beginning of July. I have also attended two others as doorman/sound system operator/bell ringer at the local Church. Maybe it is proof that I am getting old? The last one I led was different. We went through to Christchurch to catch up on my son and his family there one weekend. On the Saturday I had a call from a paramedic from St John Ambulance, (where I am voluntary chaplain) to say that the mother of an ex-worker there was dying, and the ex-worker was asking about possible funeral plans. At 7 a.m. (sleep in time when you are on holiday) on the Sunday morning I had a text to say that the mother had died. On the way back to Dunedin the next day, I had a phone call from the ex-worker to ask if I would lead a ceremony. The mum had moved to New Zealand from the UK a year or so ago, to be with her daughter, so knew few people here. They lived on a little farm property a few kilometres north of Dunedin. Between us we designed a funeral that suited the family. Mum was cremated and on the next Saturday evening at sunset, on the lawn of this little farm overlooking a misty valley, about eight people gathered for a ceremony. The mum had been born in Glasgow so two pipers, friends from St John, began the ceremony. I was in effect master of ceremony, so introduced things, had a reading, then two members of the family spoke. I spoke some more, reflecting on the mother's life, then shared some words of committal. The pipers cranked up again and when they ceased we all had a nip of whiskey to honour life and the mum. Then, with it being dark by this time, fireworks marked the end of the ceremony and the setting free of mum's being. Again bagpipes finished proceedings. It was in fact very moving and appropriate for this family.
I have agreed to lead services at the little local Presbyterian Church two Sundays in four. I had felt strongly that there was a need for consistency, pastoral care and a drawing together of the Church community. It is early days, but I feel that there has been an increase in attendance (at least when I am leading) and a more positive, "together" spirit about the place. I am enjoying the experience and feeling more and more relaxed in the role. Today's service was one where I involved a few people from the congregation doing various parts. A family shared their musical meal time grace with us, and we participated. The father of the family led a couple of songs with his guitar. Our parish session clerk lead a prayer, and a young teacher led our prayer for others. Each one played their part very well. Our Parish session clerk is a vital woman in her eighties. I had asked her to lead in a prayer of thanks for the life of a member who had died, and whose funeral we shared on Friday. His widow and daughters were in the congregation. Her prayer was something very special. It was born of love for the family, reflected the wisdom that came from her own experience of losing her husband a few years ago, and was extremely well worded with a beautiful economy of words. She did better than I could have done. When I announced that we would finish by saying "the Grace" together and "if you like you can join hands" there was a spontaneous move as the whole congregation joined hands with each other. I think we can do something with this little group of mostly elderly, but essentially loving people.
We own three 1990's vehicles. We have a little Toyota Starlet which is my wife's runabout, a red Nissan Bluebird which is a great car for trips and my Nissan Diesel long wheelbase van. We have a system in NZ where the vehicles have to go through a Warrant of Fitness check every six months. This is a nerve wracking process when you have old vehicles. The little Starlet has no problems. The van generally passes relatively easily, but often requires work between Warrants. The red car almost got through, but failed on an important difficult-to-fix problem. I have started repairs on that. The van lately has been causing me grief. I replaced the radiator. The windscreen wipers broke, so I repaired these, having to dismantle nearly everything under the dashboard to do so. One of the hoses to the transmission sprung a leak, causing the whole side of the motor and under carriage to be covered in oil, and of course, no drive. I fixed the hose, but could not find out how much transmission fluid to put in the gear box. I was advised by the man in the parts shop as he looked at his computer, but advised incorrectly. I put a way too much in, and upon driving it, it squirted out of the dip stick holder. This led to fusing of the glow plug system. I fixed all that, then discovered it was overdue for a Warrant of Fitness. The mechanic checked it and passed almost all of it. Except he said, "There is too much shit about, I can't see to check the fuel system." I brought it home, got some degreaser, and lying under the van and in the motor compartment, took the dirt off the vehicle, transferring most of it, I'm sure, to me! I took it in to be rechecked and the mechanic passed it. I must say it seems to be driving better than it has since I purchased it. People say that I should dump all my old cars and purchase one newer model. I am unconvinced. A man I know purchased a newer vehicle more than twice the price of all my cars put together. (Total purchase of my two old cars and van comes to $3,800) In the last year he has spent $4000 on mechanical repairs. All my vehicles have paid for themselves several times over. I have a versatile variety of vehicles, one which can transport big stuff, (firewood, furniture, tools, ladders etc, and we can camp in it) another for comfortable sedate trips, and an economical runabout. It is a satisfying feeling when you repair them, but just sometimes they can test my patience, and I envy those with flash new vehicles.