One Year On

My Dad, Sunray, passed away died exactly one year ago today, suddenly at 14:00 GMT, while walking back from his local shop.

How time flies.

How was my grieving process?  Actually, IMHO, there wasn’t really one.  I was very matter-of-fact the moment I found out via a Facebook Messenger message from my younger brother.  I was in the office, collating an Excel spreadsheet.  I told my colleague, “My Dad has just died,” in the same way and tone that we would tell a colleague, “Our boss popped in, looking for you.”  I then carried on with my spreadsheet to meet a deadline for our rather unfriendly product owner.

I did pause to send out a Whatsapp round-robin message to Schatz and to church friends to ask for their prayers for Sunray’s soul.  Replies came in from single “prayer” emojis to long, warm messages from members of my house group.  I wasn’t in shock, but I think I was stunned.

I did not cry until I got home.  By then the posts and kinds words and funny stories about him flooded in on his regimental old comrades Facebook page.  Tears of grief ran out of my left eye, and of laughter from the right eye.  It’s what Sunray would have wanted.

That was then.  This is now.

I still feel relieved.  I still do not regret deciding to stay away from his funeral.  In any case I was still not well enough to travel at that time.  Even walking to my local shops and back was a major physical exertion.  I am glad that I visited his grave two months later, said a prayer or two over his grave and placed three daffodils on the broken earth, marking his relatively fresh grave.

I have prayed daily that his is indeed resting in peace and that God will let his infinite mercy shine on Sunray’s face.  Since he died one year ago, several more of his regimental brothers have died.  I pray that they will join him in the Senior Squadron bar to exchange “Do you remember when…?” stories.

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Sunray in November 1998

Have a poignant day, won’t you!

 

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Another Day, Another Funeral

When I was in my twenties, I was attending weddings on a pretty regular basis.  Since I moved to Germany in early 2012, I’ve been attending funerals on a regular basis, admittedly not as me, but as church warden/verger/dogsbody.  Last week I even decided it would be prudent to keep several condolence cards at home “on stand-by” for the next few deaths within the church family.  I even admitted to Schatz last week that I often write Tripadvisor reviews in my head after each funeral.

  • Quality of the eulogy
  • Piety of the mourners
  • Was there any laughter among the tears?
  • Suitability of the songs/hymns
  • And so much more

Last Friday, I came with Schatz to a funeral.  Very rarely is there much “fun” in a funeral, even if it’s Grandma Beatrice who passed away at 103.  But this was not a “nice” funeral, where the Brits would sigh philosophically:

Oh well, they had a good innings.

This was a very difficult funeral.

  • A “professional” suicide.  (Let’s leave it at that.)
  • She had had a very unstable life from childhood.  (Let’s leave it at that.)
  • She had been well-loved by many friends.  It was standing room only in the chapel at the cemetery.

The lady vicar preached very well.  She bit the bullet.  She talked about the elephant in the room: the fact that this was a suicide.  The vicar mentioned God wrestling with her decision, but ultimately we humans have free will.  The vicar quoted from Psalm 130.  After the service, I thanked the vicar for using the ideal Psalm for this funeral.

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Upbeat songs were played during the service.  Tears were seen.  I squeezed Schatz‘ hand a few times, for the widower was a good friend and confidante of Schatz.

The mourners all filed out towards the grave for the urn to be placed into the ground.

Ah yes, I nearly forget to tell you, the two dog-lovers filed out towards the grave, bringing their two dogs along.  Thankfully neither dog barked.  Thankfully one of the owners had brought a sandwich bag in which to place his dog’s mess as “pooch” left a “present” en route to the grave.  I’m a great dog-lover.  But dogs at a funeral, and, moreover, at the burial?  Why?  Tell me why.

We reached the grave.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…

So called out the vicar, a fact which was quite ironic, given that a group of five or six smokers stood about 20 metres away from the grave, topping up their nicotine levels.

(Could they really not have waited a few more minutes, or stood behind the adjacent trees, out of sight?)

The mourners placed rose petals and shovelled earth on top of the urn.  Friends shook hands with, and hugged, the widower.  I shook hands with him.  I did not hug him.  Nothing to do with being British and not huggy-huggy.  I didn’t want to pass my bronchitis onto him.  (The smokers meanwhile carried on smoking.)

The vicar led the mourners in the Vater Unser prayer.  I prayed it in English.  A few heads turned in my direction, when the English language was heard.

Our Father,

Who art in Heaven…

The mourners filed out.  The smokers stubbed their cigarettes on the footpath.  Everyone headed off to the restaurant for the funeral buffet.  Schatz and I did not.  We headed home to my flat to decompress.

J, RIP.  May you finally find peace.

Have a despair-free day, won’t you!

Topic (sic) of Cancer

Cancer.  The Big C.  A tumour… and it’s malignant.  And probably many other euphemisms.

Mrs Grasshopper was diagnosed  with stage 4 terminal pancreatic cancer on 25 October last year.

Der Tod ist sicher.

Prognosis – how long before you die – twelve (12) months from diagnosis.  As at today, Mrs Grasshopper is still alive (but not alive and well).  Every day is a bonus.  Guesstimate now as to how long she has got is now 6-8 weeks, maybe a a few days later so she gets to see Christmas Day.  But who can tell?

Anyway this article is not about Mrs Grasshopper per se.  Death, sad to say, is certain.  That’s a brutal fact.  But what about Grasshopper, my classmate from the mid-70’s, hard-nosed riot squad policeman?

Ever since diagnosis, Grasshopper and I have kept the communication lines open.  He calls me “Padre Ginge.”  I send him and Mrs Grasshopper a pastoral card.

In the last two months, Mrs Grasshopper has been suffering new symptoms on a weekly basis.  Grasshopper has been dealing in a businesslike manner, being a trained medic, logging her symptoms and monitoring her slow downhill journey.

Mrs Grasshopper is in denial.  She truly believes she will be alive in two years to see her son’s graduation.  It’s unlikely that she’ll still be around in two months.  That’s a brutal fact.

To be honest, cold, callous and clinical, Mrs Grasshopper is not my main concern.  My main concern is to make sure that Grasshopper does not end up having a nervous breakdown while looking after his wife.  Today he admitted to me that he had had a meltdown this morning and had spent almost all day in bed.  That is out of character for Grasshopper, who is normally a very positive, matter-of-fact person.  We had a good long chat via Whatsapp while I was taking the tram into the city centre this afternoon.  He sound weary.  His voice was starting to crack a bit.  First time I’ve heard him like that.  Big boys do cry, or at least allow their voices to wobble a bit.

I mainly listened.  Grasshopper needed to let off steam.  I told him I was here 24/7 if he ever need a good rant.  I don’t want him having a nervous breakdown or “doing something stupid.”

Yesterday Grasshopper found this pastoral card from me landing on his doormat.

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Who cares for the carers?

Have a caring day, won’t you!

Today’s Puzzle

Just a decade ago, I was a schoolteacher working in some of the rougher comprehensives on Teesside, North-East of England.

In those days I had two catchphrases:

I don’t like spoon-feeding people.

and:

I prefer to treat adults as adults.

So, should I now break these two golden rules?  Actually, I’m referring to the later, rather than the former.  I’ve known Green Leader and VW since I moved to this city in January 2012.

Both are very nice people, devout Christians. VW told me today that she and Green Leader have got engaged.

VW, in particular, is salt of the earth: Sunday school teacher, house group leader, very good on the pastoral side.  In my opinion, she would be an excellent, all-rounder vicar.

Green Leader is also a generally likeable guy.  We often joke about Zimbabwe, Rhodesia, Ian Smith, Uncle Bob, Clem Tholet and Jon Edmonds.  That may mean nothing to you, but… hey, what’s Google for?  Now, here’s the rub, the central problem or difficulty in a situation.  Green Leader is a nice guy.  But he’s also neurotic with a capital N (italicised and bold).  He can never give a straight answer to a straight question.

Q. Green Leader, do you prefer tea or coffee?

A. Let me explain the reality of the situation like this.  I like coffee.  I like tea, too.  But the actualite of the situation is, I like both.  I really thirst for coffee and indeed any hot beverage. 

[Add another five minutes of explanation, including an exhortation that Northern Europe should increase its birthrate.]

So: in a summary.

  1. I like both people.
  2. They are both nice people.
  3. I don’t think they are going to be a well-suited married couple.
  4. While VW, is very stable, Green Leader has mental health issues, namely tension and anxiety, and won’t take medication to combat the symptoms.
  5. Should I express my opinion to VW, who is in her 40’s, very approachable and rational?

After all, as I said before, I like to treat adults as adults.  But should I, on the other hand, be like Sergeant Wilson off Dad’s Army and ask:

Do you really think that’s wise?

I have no intention of policing my friends’ personal lives, but on the other hand, would I be failing in my duty as friend if I did not say, like The Housemartins?

I find my next-door neighbour likeable.  But…. it doesn’t mean I’d want to marry her.  If I don’t talk to VW, would it be a case of sin of omission, by not wanting to interfere?

Have a puzzling day, won’t you!

A Quarter of A Century

“A quarter of a century” sounds (to my ear) like a longer time than “twenty-five years.”  It’s a quarter of a century since I last had cause to speak Slovene, a South Slavonic language, spoken, funnily enough, in Slovenia, ex-Yugoslavia.

How did I end up studying Slovene?  Lots of reasons.

  • It was a final-year option on my degree course (BA Russian Studies, University of Nottingham).
  • It saved me having to take a literature option.
  • I thought it would be easy to learn, having done Russian and Serbo-Croat
    • It was not to be.  I kept on using words from Russian and “naš jezik”, much to the annoyance of our Slovene lectrice…

Then today I read a very thought-provoking article on the BBC News website, all about graduates coping after they finished university.  It drew for me comparisons with service personnel leaving HM Forces.  My Dad’s words after he left the employment of the Queen after 22 years were:

I felt like a fish out of water.

That’s how I felt in the summer of 1993.  After nearly two decades in education, including kindergarten, here I was at the Job Centre.

  • What career did I want?
    • No idea.  I just wanted a job, just to pay the bills.
  • Where did I want to be?
    • No idea.  Ideally back at university, studying, but I needed to get a job and like the ex-HMF people, get used to Civvy Street.
  • What next?
    • There was no daddy to speak to one his mates to get me an internship or job in his firm.  There were no graduates in my family to help guide me.  Just armchair experts.

Twenty-five years later, here I am in Germany.  In life the journey is the destination.

Have a careerist day, won’t you!

 

 

What is Love?

I cannot say what love is.  I can say what love is not.  It’s not about violently assaulting the woman you claim to love.  You may remember me blogging some months ago about my ex-room-mate from university days.  He was convicted of murder in 1991, and was released in 2003, having served a life sentence in various English prisons.

I even appeared on local TV news in 1991 and a documentary in 2004 to provide a character reference along the lines of:

He seemed a likeable bloke, quite charming and charismatic.

After his sentence he moved back to New Zealand, working as a personal trainer and then as a baker.  (He had been studying Classics at university.)

Last night I found out he had this month been convicted of violently assaulting his current girlfriend, expressing little or no remorse.

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/sunday-feature-kiwi-murdered-girlfriend-in-uk-now-nz-jail-after-new-assaults

Newspaper report

My feelings?  Stunned.  I was expecting him after all these years to have calmed down, having learnt his lesson in prison and after fifteen years’ life back in normal society.

But no.

He can’t control his anger.

Horse feathers.  He won’t control his anger.

Murderers in English prisons attend courses to address their underlying issues such as anger management.  They aren’t released until the psychologist consider them no longer to be a threat to society.  It looks to me like he managed to hoodwink the psychologists.

Maybe this prison sentence will make him stop and think.  There again.  Maybe not.

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Have a loving day, won’t you!