"Dead man walking"
I absolutely loved the film "Dead Man Walking" the story of Sister Helen Prejean relating with a man on death row and the community who saw nothing but evil in him. I have often thought that Chaplains of all sorts should watch the film, discuss the film and learn what it means to walk with people. But recently I have often thought of that call, "Dead man walking" apparently the announcement when a prisoner is led out to be executed. Sometimes, because of my terminal illness, I'll walk into a room and every one looks at me and you think... "That is what they are seeing. Not 'me' but a dead man walking" I try to bust through that stunned reaction to it all.
I was with a friend buying chook feed at a farmers supply company. The store man was coming past, recognised us as regular customers and said as he passed, "Hi, how are you?" "I'm good thanks." I responded. My friend sniggered, "Wonder what he would say if you told him the truth?... The conversation would go, 'Hi how are you?' - 'Me? Oh I'm dying!' - It would be great to see the reaction!"
In a hardware store a little later I bumped into a man I have known awhile. "Hi Dave." "Oh Hi John, it's good to see you!" followed by a warm handshake. Then in a good humour but with genuine warmth and sincerity he simply said, "I heard about your predicament! So sorry to hear that. It's a real bugger! Lots of people are thinking of you." and our conversation moved on to his life, his retirement and friends we have in common. It was so good... concern, but I was still me, our friendship real, and I was part of life.
A little later in the store I bumped into one of my brother's friends. I knew my brother had been at his house the night before and my situation had been discussed. "Hi Dave" he said awkwardly. "Hi" I said, "I heard you caught up with my big brother! That's good." "Yes!" Stunned silence and awkwardness. He did not know what to say next, yet his whole demeanour screamed, "Help! Dead man walking!" I was nasty I said nothing to put him out of his misery, "Well better go, catch ya!"
First I want to say I am NOT a "dead man walking." In some ways I feel more alive than I ever have. Fantails, Pukeko, Rosellas fly past my backyard, and these days I REALLY notice them. My wife cooks a meal and these day's I really taste it. I read a book and these days I really soak it in, chew on its truths and absorb them. Of course I am terminally ill, but I am in many ways so much more deeply alive. I am enjoying that!
Secondly I am still just "Dave". I am still interested in them and their journey. I still have opinions. I still am happy to talk current affairs, cars, tools, the weather. There is no need for stunned silence.
Mind you there have been times when I have been the "stunned silence" person uncertain of what to say next, so I understand.
We people are funny creatures.
Hope you are enjoying your journey.