Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A well deserved recognition

Jean in her FED's uniform and new medal.

The Medal with Queen Victoria on it.

The program we had down at the Church on Sunday. Jean initiated, and mostly Jean's work.

Jean with oldest granddaughter, Edith.
Us as a family many years ago - the youngest is now 38.
From left to right- Our oldest child Angela. Pania our foster daughter, and Jean. Angela has many of Jean's traits. 

My wife is Jean. She is a "FED" for St John Ambulance. FED stands for Friend of the Emergency Department. She dons a St John uniform and fronts up at the Dunedin Hospital Emergency Department. There she does supportive chores on a voluntary basis, doing a four hour shift. FEDs will get cups of tea, or sandwiches or soup for patients. Care for the family or friends who are with the patients. Sometimes fluff pillows for patients or chat with them in a supportive way. She has on occasion sat with an elderly dying patient when there are no relatives or friends around. She will collect laundry, find pillows, or move beds or make beds. It is support work in the Emergency Department for both patients and staff. Jean has been doing it for 12, nearly 13 years. She was part of the original team who started the venture at Dunedin Hospital through the Order of St John. For quite a time she did two afternoons a week, and has often been used to train new volunteers. These days they have enough in the team for her to do just one afternoon a week - Thursdays. (that is when I cook the meal) On the 16th March we were invited to the annual St John Awards ceremony. There many people receive awards. I normally go as chaplain but Jean has received a service pin every three years. We went along expecting her, along with others, to receive just a 12 year pin, but when they reached the appropriate part of the program, they said it was to be a 12 year service medal. Apparently you get a medal after 12 years. The medal, they said, was a Queens medal, which is akin to a military medal, and can be worn on occasions when military medals are being worn. So they read out a citation describing her service, and the fact that she had trained others, and she was presented with her medal. I was a proud husband. Recently when she took me into the Emergency Department and doctors and nurses were dealing with me, I saw how they related to her in such a positive way. The FED's in some ways are the bottom of the heap in a very busy department - doctors, nurses, nurse aids then FED's. But Jean seemed to be at home there.

A story: When we were first married we bought a house on a steep street, the steepest street in the world in fact. It had a basement cellar and one Saturday I was trying to light a white petrol blow torch. There was a flash, and white petrol on the concrete floor was burning, and to my horror there was a flame on the top of the tin of white petrol. I made a few panicked attempts to extinguish the fire, but soon thought, "It can't be done! There will be an explosion soon!" I yelled at Jean to get out of the house. She saw my predicament, came down to the cellar. No fire was going to ruin her house! In she went determined to put the fire out. Well that prompted me to man up and have a second, more reasoned attempt, which was successful. That has been the story of our life.  I have often been seen to be the one doing things, but without her, I would not have the impetus and often the courage to do the things we've done.

We have been married nearly 49 years, (we were dating three years before that) so I have seen her incredible ability for work. She was mother to our five children, (two natural born, two adopted and one fostered daughter with severe handicaps.)  She has been a caring nonstop loving mother to all our children, advocate and always keen to communicate and support. I recall meetings with teachers (she once was a teacher) she would sometimes question the poor teacher mercilessly, if she thought her child was getting a bad deal. She has had to advocate, and still advocates endlessly for our foster daughter who suffers from Retts Syndrome.  She often says "I married a plumber!" When I decided to turn my back on plumbing and train for 5 years for Church ministry, she helped finance it and went with me to Australia. Since then she has worked hard supporting me in whatever Church we have been ministering. - There have been stacks of tasks involved in that. In our first Church  every Sunday afternoon we had the Youth group for tea. She has taken a major role in overseeing the catering for 25 Community Christmas Dinners in our last Church. She has been Sunday School teacher, elder, children's worker, caterer, an industrial chaplain, organiser of all sorts of programs (carrying major part of the hard graft of anything she organises) and often, so often talked me around to continue on, in my many dark hours. In retirement this continues. In the local little Presbyterian Church she is on the Parish Council with me, she helps out at a children's music and movement, she helps run our "Rumpus Room" every second Friday night where young people and parents from the community come to spend time. She runs a Tuesday afternoon afternoon tea where parents and kids from the school next door call in to the Church. She is now 70 years old, riddled with arthritus and she still would leave many much younger people for dead in the way she works. I have seen her stick at digging a patch of ground in the vege garden, and just keep on going until it is done. She has herded goats, milked goats, and clipped their hooves. She has helped me butcher hens, sheep and goats, and cut up the meat. She helped out on Habitat for Humanity houses, planned and organised and collected on Night Shelter street appeals. She travelled around the country with me for two years, living in a caravan with four children, having to teach the children on the journey. I am relatively shy, so when the awkward phone call has to be made, or some shop keeper needs challenged, she is the one to do it. When we ran a drop in centre, I have seen her face off with an angry man brandishing a pool stick, and have him back down as she treated him like a disappointed mum. She was better to interrupt any potential fight. She has always been a listening ear for people. On Church councils, she will ask the challenging question, and challenge the notion that "that's the way we always do it" or the "we can't do it" response. She can ask "why" and keep asking it if necessary. Nothing seems to phase her, I have little panic attacks and scream, "I can't do it!" but she just "plods on" working her way through any challenge. AND she has put up with me!

All that to say that as she received her twelve year medal, my mind went back through all the 52 years that we have been an item, and all the efforts she should receive a medal for. She simply is the hardest, most devoted and consistent worker I have ever encountered. I am a proud husband. 

1 comment:

KILL LI said...
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