Love Never Ends

This will be my first Mother’s day without you. The last time I held you, you died as we tried to save you.   Today I can’t call you to wish you happy mothers day, but I have the memory of all those times I did – and when you called for birthdays, special days, and ‘I miss you’ days.

‘Love never ends’: You loved us every day of our entire lives. You taught us to love – to love God, each other, our neighbours (you could – and would – talk to anyone in the street, supermarket, cafe …). You taught us –  we love because you loved.

I don’t love as you did: when it comes to loving I have an exception list.  But every time I talked to you about someone I struggled to love, my exception list grew shorter.  You made me see people differently.

Yes, there are some things we never understood about each other – we both changed and grew: Never apart, just differently.  When I was a child, I learned from you; as I grew up, I used that knowledge to make my own way in life.  And so it was love that held us together when I joined the Methodist Church, when you went overseas following Dad, when our family moved to Auckland and then on to Melbourne.

Like trying to fix your hair when the mirror is always fogging up, we don’t  always see clearly, we don’t always understand.  I suspect that you can see clearly now; knowing and being known fully, completely now that your race has been run. Or walked, in your case.

I can’t forget that last night I held you, Mum, as we tried to breathe life into your dying body.  But there is So Much More that you have given me to live, love and believe.

‘And now faith, hope, and love are alive; and the greatest of these is love.’

With a nod to 1 Corinthians 13.8-13

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transformed christmas

Her wrinkled hands touched the tree
lovingly
as though she held eighty Christmases in a touch.
And then she turned to us and smiled
joyfully
and thanked us that she was here now,
celebrating with us the birth of her Lord.
Turning again to the tree, she drew from her bag
carefully
the gifts that she offered,
and bending slightly, she placed them under the tree.
No gold, no frankincense, no myrrh
were greater gifts than hers
who gave all that she had
in celebration of his birth.*

*“In Celebration of his birth” Ann Weems Kneeling in Bethlehem.

1200px-Nativity_tree2011
This Christmas there will be a photo of my parents near our Christmas tree. We had hoped to be together this year, but they are instead with the Lord they loved and served for so many years. Their deaths have completely changed Christmas for me this year, as I reflect on becoming (in a very real sense) an orphan. So the table will be smaller, we will miss Mum’s homeliness in her kitchen, and Dad’s silly antics (and his monobrow!) There will be moments of pause and sadness and tears. I won’t deny that a deep sadness will accompany me this Christmas.

The four advent themes of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love are important in their essence because they touch our hearts at times when we are hope-less, rest-less, sad, and without love. Their importance is raised off the pages of a book or liturgy precisely when they are most desperately needed. Christmas is one of those times.

So will that grief be the only story in my Christmas? I hope not. Because Christmas is not primarily about my happiness, nor is its purpose to fulfil my needs. Family is important at Christmas, but Christmas is not ‘about family’. While children bring delight and wonder and boundless joy, Christmas is not ‘for children’. Christmas is not only to be observed when my world is complete enough, I am worthy enough or when I feel like it.

The Christmas story urges us to take a moment to lift our gaze off ourselves. Whether we look the baby in the face with the shepherds, or follow the wise men and generously give something of value to another, or gaze in stunned wonder with Mary and Joseph at the scene of millions of people at worship … the Christmas story does not seek to deny my grief, but to touch its reality with hope, peace, joy and love.

Can I allow the Christmas story to transform my story – like the woman in Ann Weems’ poem who lovingly, joyfully and carefully participated in Christmas for others, and for One Other?

I hope that this year, The One who gave everything might meet your gaze or your grief or your doubt with hope, peace, joy and love.

living in exile

To the exiled children of God,
who feel there is something wrong in this world,
Beloved, Sons and Daughters of the living God
Welcome home.

171126 jesus-in-the-breadline

To those who struggle to find place for their faith
among so many unanswered questions –
When the God we were promised doesn’t deliver what
we expect
Welcome home.

To those who struggle with life
living with broken lives and families
and when all you expected of life
is torn away from you.
Welcome home.

This may not be the world you expected
or wanted
Beloved, Daughters and Sons of the living God.
But with God’s love,
and a community of grace
together, we can make it
Home.

with a nod to a prophet called Jeremiah who offered hope to people forcefully removed to a new home (Jeremiah 29:4-7, the bible)

a thin silence

in this Silence
 
you might hear a pin drop,
or you might hear God
You might hear your breathing
or you may hear the Spirit
You may hear your neighbour
or you may hear Christ.
You may hear a magpie
and you may hear the Creator
 
You who are Beloved of Christ,
these are the sounds of God
inviting us into a deeper encounter
with God in a thin silence.
 
Will I pause … to notice them?
Might I stop.     To hear them?
Could I be still,
 
to listen to them?
 
And might I invite them into the deepest parts of my soul,
just as they invite me into encounter with the Divine?
 
This is the invitation:
to participate in silence, stillness, listening,
 
that we too might hear the sound
of God in a thin silence.
(with a tip of the hat to a bloke called Elijah in 1 Kings 19.12 in the Bible)

The End came.

After a short struggle with cancer, Dad (Peter Hanscamp) went to be with the Lord, and with Mum, this morning at about 9am.

We have so much to say about our wonderful Dad and Opa – but struggle to find words at this time. For now we want to say how privileged we were to be his children and grandchildren. We also honour Dad for his faith which was deep and shared widely, and his testimony to God’s faithfulness over many years.

We have been deeply grateful for all the love, support and prayers offered during these weeks.

Renata, Nigel & Rebecca, Letitia and Jacinta

Out of Control but fully human to the end

(A conversation with myself during the red-eye shift with Dad in hospice)

Young hand holding old hand

1.

If I were in control of this, it would not be this hard.
People wouldn’t have to watch this.
And there wouldn’t be long nights of watching, listening, wondering if this breath is the last.

2.

If I were in control, dying would not …

Would not what?
Be so final?
So hard?
So uncomfortable?
Like the homeless people I want off the street, so I don’t have to see another human being’s reality?
Like the schizophrenic woman who had an episode in the shop yesterday (‘they’ shouldn’t be in the community)?
Like the images of Syrian refugees carrying their belongings for miles or on boats, that make me want to change channels?

Dying is hard, and its part of being human.
Deeply, personally, sobbing-in-the-middle-of-the-night human.

Human to the core. Human to the … to the end.

3.

If I were in control …
But isn’t that the point (if there needs to be a point)?
I’m not (in control)
Dying is the ultimate in being out of control.

4.

If I were in control, I wouldn’t get a chance to say the words of love, to do the acts of care, to cry the tears of grief over and over and over.
If I were in control I would not have spent most of last night listening to the breathing of the man who taught me
how precious life and living is.
If I were in control,
I would not be here, learning to let go.

5.

If I were in control … I would miss this part of being fully human,

to the end.

 

Daffodils, a clock and Dad

From where I sit, I can see daffodils in a vase on the table.
On the wall is a clock in brass and walnut.
Between them is Dad – resting with the help of medication pumped into his body, a body riddled with cancer and grief.
Daffodils
There are daffodils in a vase on the table.
Like Dad, they
    Speak life and delight to many people
    A sign of spring and new life
    A pointer to hope and a Maker who uses vibrant colours
    (“Consider the daffodils”, to paraphrase a wise man)
.
On the wall is a clock in brass and walnut.
It’s a Family Heirloom which speaks of generations and history.
Dad’s story will soon become part of the story of the clock
    Moments in history.
    Hours in study and prayer.
    Days working to provide for a family.
    Years of proving (again and again) the faithfulness of the One present in all time.
.
Daffodils, a clock and Dad.
Kairos and Chronos in the picture:
Time in minutes, a life time of moments.