Sunray – Dead and (not yet) buried

Sunray – Dad – died suddenly, albeit not unanticipated, on 16 January.

  • Am I mourning?  No.
  • Has it sunk in?  Not sure?
  • Am I still relieved that he died and did so quickly, rather than painfully and unsteadily like people dying prematurely of cancer, etc?  Yes.

Sunray was a man who made a lot of mistakes in his life.  (Admittedly, who hasn’t?)  In his twilight years on particular, he had fallen out with pretty much all his siblings and two of his three children, something he had done for years and decades.

Since his death: what has happened?  Everything I had expected.

None of his siblings would organise or pay for his funeral.  Nor would his offspring.  It’s your funeral, as they say.  I could have, but I am more concerned with his soul than his body. I can only pray for God to show huge mercy on his soul.

Instead he gets a public health (pauper’s) funeral next Tuesday morning.  Not even a proper funeral.  Not even a service.  Nobody in the end would turn up.  (Maybe his former Squadron Sergeant-Major out of a sense of duty and loyalty to his men.)  Nobody would meet the local vicar to prepare a eulogy.  Instead the hearse will pull up at the grave.  The pall bearers will lower his coffin into the grave.  They may their heads to him.  They may even say a short prayer.  The wreaths from his old comrades will be placed on his grave.  That’ll be it.

I will mark his life and death with friends here in Germany with an informal, structured, mini-service.

  1. To thank God for his life.
  2. To thank God for his death.
  3. To beg God for mercy for Dad.
  4. To beg God for love and forgiveness of all our sins.

When I next head home, I will stand by his grave and say a prayer for him and his soul.  That’ll be more meaningful for me than a funeral service where kind words are said but not really meant.

Have a merciful day, won’t you!

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Sunray Down

Sunray is down.  Sunray passed away died one week ago.  Sunray is was my Dad.

How do I feel about his passing away death?

  • 80% relieved
  • 10% “It hasn’t really sunk in yet”
  • 10%… well, I’m not sure

Thankfully when death came, it came quickly.  Heart attack on the way back from the shops.  I had feared bluebottles at the window, police having to smash down his front door and find his lifeless body on the sofa.  I am grateful that when the end came, it came relatively swiftly.

For the last three to four years Sunray had not been enjoying life.

  • Riddled with arthritis
  • Out of control diabetes
  • Personality disorder
  • Depression
  • A sad, lonely, unwashed, embittered old man, his only company – a bottle of whisky and twenty Benson & Hedges cigarettes
  • Estranged from almost all his family
  • At best, tolerated by the rest of his family

A very pitiable end of life.

Will I go to his funeral?  No.  Will there even be a funeral service?  No.  Sunray had fallen out with his family so badly over the years, that nobody was prepared to organise or pay for his funeral.  Maybe his ex-Squadron Sergeant-Major from Army days would have come.  But nobody else.

Despite his faults I did love and care for him.   Agape love.  My last contact with him had been a phone call four days before his death, a very jovial call.  Was he on the way up?

I will visit his grave later in the year, say a prayer over his grave.  That is more meaningful to me and to him than a Theaterstück of a funeral service, where kind words and cliches are said to an almost empty room.  I’m not bothered about seeing his body one last time.  I am more concerned about his soul.

Heavenly Father, I beg You, have mercy on Dad’s soul.  Amen.

Have a merciful day, won’t you!

Sunray Still Alive

Wednesday morning.  I’m pairing socks on my sofa.  Glenn Miller American Patrol playing in the background.  Incoming call on my mobile.

Sunray’s number comes up.  He has not phoned me on my mobile number for nearly two years.  Is this the call where a stranger’s voice tells me:

“Hello.  Is that German Ginge?  Could you sit down, please?  I’m sorry to tell you…”

It was not to be.  It was Sunray himself.  At least he was sober.  Well, it was 0930 in the UK.  Give him time.  He was fine, thanks.  Actually, no he was very, very down.  Nobody cares about him.  Nobody comes to see him.  He does not very often leave his house.  No, he does not want to go to the library.  No, he does not want to go to coffee mornings to go out and meet people.

Clearly he is in a rut, and it is hard to kick-start someone when they are that deep in the mud.

But, but, but…

I can’t help but asking if some people are “only happy when they are unhappy,” when they can portray themselves as victim.

Nobody from the Royal British Legion (charity for ex-servicemen and women) has been to see him since they were contacted four months ago.  How shocking.  How inept.  How uncaring.

A blatant lie.

A liar has to have a good memory.  His is clearly very poor.  He himself told me two months ago about two lady caseworkers visiting him for coffee and chat.  I myself had a long phone call with one of his caseworkers two months ago, whotold me about his:

  • Alcoholism
  • Drink-caused accidents at home
  • Callouts to the ambulance
  • Discussions with the alcohol nurse as follow-through
  • Constant drunken calls to people in his address book at all times of the day and night, in once case, fifteen (sic) times in one day

Then he tells me the (expletives) from the Legion have not sent a single person to see him.

It’s my birthday in less than a week.  It’ll be forty years to the day since one morning I was asked to come to the headmaster’s office at Wolfenbüttel Primary School, Germany, and take a phone call from Sunray on duty at HMP Maze in Northern Ireland, wishing his first-born a happy birthday.  I think of where his now.  Choose the action, choose the consequences.  You cannot always rescue a drowning man, without you risking drowning.

Have a sober day, won’t you!

Sunray Heading Downhill

Sunray.  His children used to call him “Dad.”  His daughter nowadays calls him “the sperm-donor.”  He’s been a  “problem child” all his married life and in the years thereafter.  Serial borrower.  Serial non-payer-back.  Heavy drinker.  Alcoholic.  Serial nuisance caller, trawling his address book for people to phone up to fifteen times a day.  Serial texter.  “U R ME PAL”; “CUM N SEE ME”; “GET ME A BTL OF ROSE PLS”.

I used to write to him every week or two, either a proper type-written letter or a postcard to boost his morale.  I used to phone him once a month.  Has he ever written back?  Once this year.  He now has a professional caseworker from the Royal British Legion, the Armed Forces charity.  Her summary to me?  “Yes, he’s a very difficult case.”

So, what’s the future.?  It’s not bright.  It’s not orange.  When someone is that deep in the rut of late-stage alcoholism combined with borderline personality disorder or sociopathy, there’s little you can do.

  • Poor physical health
    • Diabetes
    • Obesity
    • Osteoarthritis of both knees
  • Estranged from most of his family
  • No real, flesh-and blood, friends in his locality
  • The kind of personality that means people give you a “wide berth” (his favourite expression)
  • Poor hygiene
  • Etc etc

Does he actually want to live any more?  What are the reasons to live any more?  To even get out of bed?  Would death be a relief for him?

Choose the action, choose the consequences.

Have a consequential day, won’t you!

A moral dilemma

So, for the past month or so, I have been back in DUS, worshipping at my local Anglican church again.  Now, a moral question…

Is it fair for me to avoid “babysitting service” for two member of the church?  I know it is better to give than to receive, but sometimes I feel the need for some “me time.”

It’s often said that single people, especially men, are the overlooked people in a church.  Maybe that is true.  Those with wives/girlfriends/husbands/significant others head home after the service for Sunday lunch and stroll and family time.  Some of the single people need fellowship.

Now, here’s the twist.  What should you do if you feel people expect you to babysit you every Sunday afternoon – on their terms?  In the last three years I have kept two single men company afte church, which trips to villages, coffee and chat, while they let off steam to me.  That’s fine.  Romans 12:12-15 and all that.  Lately one of them has literally breathed down my neck inviting me to head to the pub for a chat.  Last year I did that and ended up as his bereavement counsellor, sitting in a pub for hours, normally on bright sunny days.  In recent weeks I’ve declined his invitations, but suggested to him that he join a group of us for a stroll round the local woods.

Reply: “Oh, sorry I can’t, I have another appointment later in the day.”

Sorry, folks, everyone has a limit.  My time, my terms, I’m afraid.

Have a moral day, won’t you!

Sunray at 70

At long last after an excessive period of silence, I come back to blog.  Two months ago Sunray turned 70, somewhat to some people’s surprise and chargrin.  I have to confess, I waited till a week before his birthday before buying him a birthday card and sticking a tenner in it.

At the end of May I came up to see Sunray and also pick up several items I’d left in storage und her stairs when I did one of my several nomadic moves.

I’d been briefed Sunray had gone downhill.  Nonetheless, quite a shock to see how a “bullsh1t” soldier, who used to be into boots looking like black glass, razor-sharp creases in trousers and shirt sleeves, had “let his personal administration go downhill.”

  • His living room stank of a mix of stale body odour and old tobacco.
  • There was a thick layer of dust everywhere throughout the house.
  • I struggled to find a clean work surface in the kitchen, eventually taking a glass chopping board and scrubbing it under piping hot water.

A whole weekend spent with Sunray.  It was more a chore than a pleasure.  A definite lack of social skills on display.  Imagine a mix of:

  • Petulant teenager
  • Hormonal woman suffering from PMS
  • Two-year-old having a temper tantrum

All that for several hours in Whitby, while Sunray held court on a bench in Whitby town centre on a glorious sunny.

Look at that (expletive deleted) walking around, hands in his pockets.

Look at the state of her, with her hair dyed.

Why are so many (expletives deleted) bringing their dogs down to Whitby?  Why can’t the (expletive deleted) walk their dogs elsewhere.

Etc etc ad nauseum.

No wonder Sunray has so few friends.  Galatians 6:7-9 is spot-on.

Sad to say, a very sad, lonely, almost pitiable man.

Will I be seeing him again?

No.

Looking on the bright side, I did manage to get some delicious, crunchy sticks of Whitby rock for my Schatz back home in Germany.  My trip was therefore not entirely in vain.

Have a crunchy day, won’t you!

Sunray at Seventy

Sunray’s birthday was earlier this week.  Slightly to my surprise, he has reached seventy.  His diabetologist is also probably slightly surprised, given that he had warned Sunray in June:

If you want to see Christmas this year, stop drinking now.

However, Sunray, because of his psychological/chemical dependency on alcohol, kept on drinking and drinking, often being heavily intoxicated at 2pm or 3pm most days, a textbook example of a man with late-stage alcoholism.  After receiving in early January what the police call “appropriate words of advice,” from his younger son, Sunray has cut back on his drinking (but not stopped), and reflected on his actions.

I rang Sunray on the morning of his birthday, and he was subdued.  Five cards.  None from his daughter, none from his younger son.  A card from his elder brother, with whom he is estranged, wanting to “kiss and make up.”  Sunray didn’t.  I agree.  High hedges make good neighbours.

Quite a pitiable situation.  But what you give out, gets repaid – with interest.

Have a celebratory day, won’t you!