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Friday, March 14, 2014

Ongoing Reflections and Ruminations

The last month has been a solemn reminder that time waits for no one.

For many years I have been very friendly with an elderly couple. With two of my friends, we would visit them for tea several times a year. About a year ago it was no longer possible for them to come to church as their health and physical fitness began to deteriorate. Eric had severe emphysema and  needed oxygen most of the time and Joy had a severely handicapped hip which required her to wear a brace that gave her a lot of pain. This past January they left the home where they had brought up two lovely sons and went into a very nice retirement home. Within weeks Joy health and well-being had deteriorated to the extent that it was necessary to move her into an intensive care nursing home. She died less than a week later. Her funeral was scheduled for last Friday.

The Wednesday after Joy died a very close friend and I visited Eric. He was very realistic, but sad -- and spoke about how much he dreaded the funeral that was to come. On Saturday Eric had a massive heart attack and died in the same hospital as his beloved Joy. They were born 8 days apart 90 years ago and died 10 days apart. Last Friday there was a double memorial service to celebrate their lives. And a beautiful service it was, too.

While all this was happening I was trying to find an affordable flight for me to go to the States once again to help my mother celebrate her 95th birthday. I have a favourite flight that takes me from Manchester to Hartford, Connecticut in a reasonable number of hours both to-ing and fro-ing but it takes patience and nerves of steel waiting and hoping that the price will go down -- which it did when the calendar went from February to March! While there I will be making another trip to Raleigh with my sister to see my ailing brother, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson's dementia and who is now living in a nursing home near to his son. Two days ago he turned 64, which from my point of view is 'young'! He has, however, aged considerably since last August when his life turned upside down... (see here)

Until I got older I did not appreciate how death and illness would gradually become more and more part and parcel of daily life. I have become aware that the world has been taken over by the 'young' and 'young' is now defined for me as anyone under 60... Today one of my favourite public characters, Tony Benn, died. I didn't agree with his political views exactly, but I appreciated his integrity and niceness. And I so liked the fact that he 'was' and that his beliefs were so incorruptible.

This excerpt from Choruses from the Rock, 1934 by TS Eliot was read at Eric and Joy's service and it seems very appropriate:

In our rhythm of earthly life we tire of light
We are glad when the day ends, when the play ends;
     and ecstasy is too much pain.
We are children quickly tired:
     children who are up in the night
     and fall asleep as the rocket is fired;
     and the day is long for work or play.
We tire of distraction or concentration,
     we sleep and are glad to sleep,
Controlled by the rhythm of blood and the day
     and the  night and the seasons.
And we must extinguish the candle,
     put out the light and relight it;
Forever must quench, forever relight the flame.
Therefore we thank Thee for our little light,
     that is dappled with shadow.
We thank Thee who has moved us to building, to finding,
     to forming at the ends of our fingers
          and beams of our eyes.
And when we have built an altar to the Invisible Light,
     we may set thereon the little lights
          for which our bodily vision is made.
And we thank Thee that darkness reminds us of light.
O Light Invisible, we give The thanks for Thy great glory!












28 comments:

  1. I am so sorry to hear of the lovely couple, but it seems to happen often that one will pass away and the other follows soon after. Pete Seeger was married to his partner for fifty years or so and died just a year after she did.

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    1. All of us felt that it was very sad and yet for the best...

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  2. How sad for us to read that TS Elliot and feel what it says.
    Your friends did it well.

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  3. It sounds like your friends lived a good life. It is interesting how the soul gives in with the loss of their love so they can move on also.

    As for the world being for the young, well, we will just have to take it back.

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    1. Eric was ill for a long time and I tend to think that he held on for the sake of Joy. When she died he was free to let go...

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  4. I love T.S. Eliot and these words were a wonderful send off for your two friends. So sorry for your loss.

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    1. Eric was always fascinated by 'light' and was forever exploring different aspects of the ways it affected the world. The poem was chosen because he had used it at the completion of one of his most enduring projects...

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  5. How wonderful for those two dear people that they died so close together so neither would suffer the loss of the other one for very long. I am not sure of the world being for the young though. I am still full of life and energy, and seem to have more pep and vim than most of the younger people I know! (I will be 67 soon, and am amazed that I have got this far!)

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    1. You are a very amazing person, Vera! I don't think in my whole life I've had as much energy as you have now!

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  6. Wow, it took forever to get to the comment box. Probably my machine, overloaded! Enjoyed reading about your friends. SO sorry to see them pass away. I love the company of elderly friends. They're so much wiser than I and so appreciative of company to visit. You're a good friend to have visited them. Many of my elderly friends have passed and I don't have anyone currently to visit. I always thought I was helping to take muffins or some treat to them.
    Thanks for reminding us to take time out of our busy schedules to serve other. Blessings.

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    1. For me it was always a joy to visit them both.

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  7. What a dear couple -- and how blessed they were to age so gracefully and to pass away quickly and close together. I'm so sorry about your brother. My father had Parkinson's related dementia at about the same age and it was so sad to see. It really is a time of life when one is ever more aware of the fragility of life.

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    1. The situation with my brother is very sad for all of us. I must say that his son and daughter-in-law have been wonderful. They have both taken the responsibility for his care and well-being with great love and sensitivity. I am really looking forward to seeing them both.

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  8. A sad post, with much to think about how one would cope,but also how to best lend support.

    Tony Benn was a conviction politician with great integrity and a brilliant mind. He didn't play political games. I have read some of his diaries and will look out more.

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    1. The thing about Tony Benn for me is that he always sounded so reasonable -- even when what he was saying was absolutely nonsensical! But he always made you think...

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  9. So very touching. Thank you so much for sharing. Greetings from Montreal, Canada.

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    1. And greetings to you Linda! Thanks for stopping by...

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  10. So much food for thought here. I'm glad you have the company of your sister in visiting your brother and I hope you find your mother well. You'll be flying in to my neck of the woods here in Western Mass; Bradley is our local airport. Have a good flight!

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    1. Now I'm wondering just where in Western Massachusetts you are! My Mom lives in Canaan which is right on the Massachusetts border... I've enjoyed exploring your blog and though I wanted to become a follower, have not be 'able' due to a problem with Blogger, I guess...

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  11. Dear Broad, this is such a poignant posting and as I read it, I felt a sense of the mortality that is part of life. Years ago in the convent, the nuns used to say, "Sister Innocence, pray for good health." And I thought, "What a foolish thing to pray for. There are so many things more important." But I was young and callow and eager to taste all of life. Now, almost twenty years older than your magical 60, I know how important health is.

    I know also from my father's death, that a person can will himself/herself to die when life seems too hard a journey and the longing comes to be with someone cherished in marriage.

    The poem speaks so beautifully of the light that our lives can be. Thank you for sharing it, Broad. I suspect you are so grateful that you got to see Eric once more before he died. And I'm grateful that you are coming back here this year and will see your mother, sister, and brother again. Peace.

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    1. I am very happy I shall be able to be with my mother on her 95th birthday. In addition many other relatives will be joining us for a special dinner in her honour. How lucky we all are that she lives in a place that is happy to provide a beautiful dining room for such celebrations.

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  12. I always t ake the view that we are lucky, lucky people not to have death and disease among us from the earliest times of our lives. This has been the lot of most people in the history of the world. We have managed to push it further and further away.

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    1. For sure there have been a lot of improvements in the quality and quantity of life and even the quality has improved in just my lifetime.

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  13. What an absolutely lovely poem. I'd never seen that before.

    Pearl

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  14. I was not familiar with this poem. Thanks for printing it here.

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  15. I'm sorry you have lost two treasured friends, Broad, but glad for them that they didn't have to suffer too much longer, nor live without each other after such a long and happy marriage. Death can be kind sometimes.

    I'm glad you've managed to book your plane ticket at a reasonable price and can imagine how much you're looking forward to your trip.

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