Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve reflections.

A sad Thursday.
Last Thursday I had a reasonably busy day lined up, planning to go into town to do chaplaincy at about 11 a.m.  I rose had my breakfast and was beginning to carry on my work toward Sunday's service when the phone rang. It was still relatively early in the morning so I was expecting it to be the Night Shelter. It wasn't. This woman's voice said, "Hello Dave I am "X" I am "Z Y's" wife. He wants to see you." "Z Y" was a retired fire fighter who has been retired nearly five years. Ten months ago I had heard he had been diagnosed with cancer, and in April, just before we headed away to visit Edinburgh, I had heard that it was terminal and they did not expect him to last more than two weeks. "Z" is a nice guy and I had enjoyed talking with him as his chaplain. He had always made it very plain he was an atheist and didn't believe, or tolerate that religious "shit". But I liked him. He is a very skilled man and appreciated some of the things about life that I appreciate. But because he was an atheist and because he had expressed a wish that he did not want hordes of visitors, I did not go up to see him. I thought he may interpret any visit as me wanting to "save" him before he died. Before we went to Edinburgh I wrote a card expressing my admiration and appreciation of him as a person and wishing him all the best for whatever time he had left. He has lived all this time and a fellow fire fighter had been keeping me up on how he was doing. But now he was asking for me, so I made a time that afternoon to visit him. But more was to follow that morning.
Yet another funeral!
I set about doing work and the phone rang again. It was Jack. Jack had been a good friend of my Dad's. He and his wife, Florence had been like a younger Aunt and Uncle to us as children when we were growing up. They were part of my last congregation and I had been visiting them from time to time since my retirement. Both were in their nineties. "David" Jack said, "I need to let you know, its Florence, she has died this morning." He told me the details, how it happened and how he was feeling. She had been becoming more frail. They live in the same area of town that my retired "ZY" lived and I had thought that I could call on them after my visit to him. But now Florence, a lovely loving woman, was dead. "She would want you to take the funeral." he said. He had to hang up because a daughter was arriving, but I made plans to see him after I had visited my retired firefighter. I was choking up as I talked with him on the phone.
It was some afternoon. My terminally ill retired fire fighter was struggling to accept the inevitable. We talked and he asked me to lead his service when the inevitable happened. I promised to keep in touch. I visited Jack, and his two daughters and a grandson was present. We had a nice time of memories and reflection until the funeral director came. We made necessary plans and I stood with Jack as the funeral attendants prepared and carried Florence on her last trip down her garden path. As I held the door for them to load her into their wagon, I said, "Take care of her, she is a special lady to me." I know the funeral Director well. So on Wednesday this week once again I was up front leading a funeral ceremony. There was a big number of people there, and among them most of my old congregation. I felt a bit awkward because professionally the current minister should have been leading the service. But I have known this couple virtually all my life, I had led the weddings of their two daughters and knew them well. He accepted the situation when Jack mentioned it to him. 
I was told by many, many people, including the family, that I did an excellent job. I was relieved and again wondering how come I succeeded? 
Questionable Carols
Tonight in an hour or so there is to be a Christmas Eve service in the local Church. I am not leading it, the "Interim Moderator" is doing the honours, but he wanted the Carols, all eleven of them, on power point on the TV screen. So yesterday I found myself typing up Christmas Carols. I do not believe in the Virgin Birth as an historical event. I do not think that the "real" Jesus would like the theological adulation of him that goes on in Carols. I hate the sentimental hog wash linked to Christmas. So I spent time yesterday typing up these carols. "Lo he abhors not the virgins womb." What on earth is that? He better not! "But his mother only, in her maiden bliss, worshipped the beloved, with a kiss." "Maiden Bliss"? Is a normal woman who is sexually active somehow dirtied? The implications of the doctrine stink! So I will display the words like a good little helper, but some verses I will definitely not sing.
Happy Christmas everyone. Have a great day.

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