Posts Tagged ‘memories’

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.

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Makin’ Tracks

September 21, 2008

“Hey Dad, this time I want tracks.”

“Fantastic. Tell me what that means.”

“You know. Tracks. In my hair. On the sides. Two above each ear.”

“Tracks? Sounds like you mean GT stripes.”

“Here and here, that’s what I mean.”

“OK. Let’s do it”

That’s how it began, more or less. Tracks. In his hair. He was about eight years old.

I’d always cut his hair when he was little. Asked a hairdresser friend how to layer cut and it was all systems go from there.

A conscious decision back then was to let him have anything he wanted in the way of hairstyle. I’d learned that lesson in high school.

It was about 1963. My brother was into his hair. Kookie was on TV, always combing and flicking and grooming. My brother took on the look. And the comb, flicking his Brylcremed forelock back with style and precision. The girls formed a queue. He got out of the swimming pool one day with his hair clinging down around his head. “Dare you to come to school like that tomorrow.” It was one of the girls. Maybe it was more that one. So he did.

He was sent to the principals office – then sent home. “Don’t come back until it’s respectable.” Above the ears, short back and sides, military precision, all that stuff. Our Mum was not into foolishness. She marched him right back to the school and had it out with the principal. School was about educating her kid’s heads, not about shearing them. Mum won. Who’d have guessed it?  Suddenly the Beatles shut down the world’s barber shops and nothing was ever the same.

Fast forward to the next generation and my son wants tracks. “We can do it!” I said. So we did. After all, I was only there to learn.

He was a style-leader in a moment. A fashionista. He had a cool Dad and a cool head. Every kid in school wanted one.

Fast forward another twenty years. Eight year old boys are into tracks. It’s on again. Back in fashion. I point it out to my son. He grins. We both know. He was a fashion leader. Before his time. Going where nobody had gone before.

Everybody should have such memories.