Posts Tagged ‘death’

That Life and Death Thing

October 21, 2008

I’ve been thinking about my friend Rob, the one who died last week. And that means I’ve also been thinking a bit about death, and life.

Rob was a priest of the Anglican Church of Australia, as am I. He worked in parishes for his whole ministry, I have worked in chaplaincies for much of mine. There was a time when I was doing some chaplaincy training in a hospital. It was a children’s hospital, one of Australia’s finest. The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

Things did now always go well. After all, it was a place of life and death. There was a little boy, about seven or eight years old. He had a brain tumour that started at the base of his brain and was working its way down his spinal column. Perhaps these days things are different, but in 1981 it was inoperable.

The boy was going to die. He was going to die the night I was called to his bedside. His parents could not face it, that final breath, and had disappeared. It was December and Christmas was looming. Nobody knew where they were and I was called to sit with the boy.

I held his hand. Almost lifeless. Both of us. His skin was grey, the colour of the water in the school paint jar. He didn’t move, didn’t open his eyes, didn’t acknowlege my presence, he only breathed, and that seemed so shallow as to be incapable of supporting life. And that is what it proved to be.

I have tears yet for that little boy.

It is twenty seven years since, and I still wonder how his parents are getting on. I never met them but for a moment I took their place, the place of comfort I hope, being mother and father to a tiny stranger.

My friend Rob had much life yet to live. That is our declaration. But what of this little boy and the many others like him who die before their time?

There’s a phrase that goes through my mind – “Our only legacy is the love we leave behind.” An older person has so much more opportunity to plant that legacy and see it growing before his death. But the little boy?

Perhaps it’s time I thought a bit more about that phrase. Perhaps it’s the love we have received that becomes our legacy, as much as the love we have given. There was a moment, a few hours at the end of a boy’s life, that I was able to give some comforting love in the place of those he loved.

Whatever his family might have of him in their memories, he still lives in mine.

Rob Dies

October 18, 2008

Rob is a long time friend. We go back twenty five years, and our families have often gone on camping holidays together. Six weeks ago we learned he was ill and the prognosis was not good. Today the news came of his death.

It takes a while for this kind of news to sink in. Rob was a kindly man with a personality that was soft on others. He engaged well and he affirmed everyone who came within his reach. Many people have been touched over the years by that engagement and affirmation. Such a person does not die away from our hearts easily.

He leaves a wife and three adult children. The youngest child, in his twenties, has Down Syndrome. He and Rob had a very special relationship and I am very sad for this particular son.

I gave the news to my wife and we shared the shock.

“He was our age,” she said.

“I guess we are getting to the age where people our age get sick and die,” I replied.

He was one year older than my wife and me. It’s still too young. There’s this thing about three score years and ten and he was many years within that horizon. And life expectancy is rising for our generation.

Sadly, life expectancy is not rising for the generation below us. The lifestyle of indulgence that surrounds young adults these days robs them of their years. The generation that includes Rob’s children will probably die at an even younger age than he.

Sadness today, and sadness tomorrow.

Farewell old friend. You have left much love behind, there is no greater legacy.