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

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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.

 

a paradox in grief: reflections on the last few weeks

Single Rose

“The scan indicates that the melanoma has spread to Dad’s brain and lungs. He has been given months to live.” This was the news I received on 24th August.   7 days later Rebecca and I were on a plane to spend Father’s day with Mum and Dad. We arrived at the family home at 6pm for dinner, wide and varied conversation, and beginning to understand what exactly was going on with Dad’s health. Dad was already talking about his funeral.

We were headed for bed around 10pm when Mum collapsed with a heart attack. As hard as we tried, and then the ambulance crews, she could not be revived.

My sister was on a plane from the Netherlands within hours, and our daughters flew from Melbourne the next day. We were, and still are, in shock.

Comfort and support came to us in many ways … family who turned up with food and made coffee while we made phone calls and funeral plans; friends who phoned; many gifts of food; visits to offer comfort; cards, flowers, emails, Facebook messages … and the faithful prayers of God’s people around the world.

On Sunday we attended the Anglican church where Mum and Dad had found a church home for the past few years. Through tears we sang words penned by faithful people – and when we could not sing for the sobs, the voices of God’s people carried faith to our hearts. Church is one of those rare places where the raw emotions of life are (or should be) allowed to be brought with honesty and without judgement. The liturgy reminded us that our faith is wider, bigger, older and deeper than this moment in our lives. In that moment and place, we felt like we were held securely and gently by this congregation, our HUC family, and our praying friends around the world.

A Celebration of God’s Faithfulness in Mum’s life was held on Wednesday 6th September. Dad had estimated 50-60 people, and my sister and I had planned for 150. In the end 240 people were there to celebrate a woman who had touched many lives with her love and faith. Once again “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and “When Peace like a River” gave a space to allow our grief and lament, sobs and deep sighs to be expressed in the company of friends, family and faith.

Over the next 7 days we had a whirlwind of dealing with oncologists, hospice, doctors and Dad’s first immunotherapy. Dad still has stage 4 melanoma, and we expect that the treatments and multiple painkillers will only make his last months (how many?) more comfortable.

Back in Melbourne I can catch my breath for a short while. 3 weeks ago we went to NZ to be with Dad for Father’s day and to say goodbye to him. We came back with deeper grief and greater gifts of love and support than I’ve known before.

It’s strange to say that we were in the right place at the right time – but we know we were. It’s odd to express lament and grief while the faith of the church is sung with gusto – but it was. It’s puzzling to experience comfort through “I don’t know what to say …” or “I don’t have the words for this …”, but we did. And I’m coming to realise that Dad’s bold pronouncements of God’s faithfulness and contentedness that Mum is with the Lord and didn’t need to see Dad suffer, … all that can sit in the same lounge as my struggling lament and confusion; that doesn’t make his faith untrue or my expression invalid.

At the moment everything takes longer – getting up in the morning, writing, listening. One moment I’m happy and patient, the next I’m anxious or easily upset – or just plain exhausted. I still sometimes wake in the night in tears or with images in my mind of that night, while at other times I’m deeply caught by the joy of a new baby or running or the love of friends and family.

All this may be a paradox of grief, or it may simply be the diverse and rich reality of human experience.

 

Made in the image of God?

14249760_10153785383611727_3671532520954113621_o

Made in the image of God? (You, God?)
The Powerful,
strong,
confident with words and money and decisions.

In the image of God? (You God?)
The Broken,
limping,
stuttering,
poor.
Unable to put bread on the table
or string a sentence together
or look you in the eye because she has lost…
Everything and Everyone.

In the image of God?
Born right here!
born over there …
Knowing father, knowing mother.
knowing neither – nor when you were born.

In the image of God?
We breathe the same air
as friends, family and enemies;
They share the same oxygen
as plants, animals and presidents.
You use the same atmosphere
as christians, muslims, Trump and
Bruce who does not know
boundaries or cleanliness
But knows a friendly face,
who did it for the least of these.
In the image of God.

So in silence, breathe a prayer of gratitude
for the God who breathes life into each of us,
and for the air that we all share,
and for all who share that air.
The greatest and

the least of these …

Breathe a prayer of gratitude
for those who serve in our community
those who serve on our committee
those who serve on our behalf ..

those we love, and those we are learning to love.

In the image of God.

Amen

(A reflective prayer to open the 2016 AGM of the Heathmont InterChurch Help – a group of volunteers who feed and clothe “the least” in Outer Eastern Melbourne; with inspiration from @nakedpastor and some bible stuff in Genesis and Matthew’s gospel)

Hands On! Doing, Making, … and Being

“Go to Vision Australia if you need a piano tuner. Blind people are the best.” I must have blinked in surprise, because the aged care hostel manager told me the story of the blind piano tuner who came on the train from Diggers Rest, with his dog and his bag of tools – and when he left both of their pianos were at perfect pitch!

Street art

Street art

“Everyone is called to be an artist”, says Eric Gill in A Holy Tradition of Working (1983) (even blind piano tuners!) I wondered at the universal nature of this declaration as I considered those whom I know (myself included) for whom art is something to be marvelled at, not done.  Gill’s hypothesis is that modern workplace expectations have “dismembered a crucial distinction between making and doing”. If all of life is about what we do (measured by the number of things produced and their monetary value), then the craft of making something gets lost, says Gill. The exercise of workmanship (art), and pride in what we make is lost – to a task list, 15 minute segments on a calendar, and productivity which values quantity over quality and efficiency over craftsmanship.

Wendell Berry’s book Bringing it to the table (2008) uses this argument exquisitely as he describes the farmer as an artist, a maker, a person who “learns to give love to the work of their hands”. Honing the craft of making pavlova, of knitting, of gardening is no different (for Gill and Berry), from the painter, the sculptor or the wood turner. The Artist is a person who makes stuff with their hands, and who grows and shares the skill of that making with others. The Artist’s ‘Making’ is therefore not just about a skill, but the way in which that skill is used to invite delight or change in others. This would be an interesting discussion to extend over coffee with a friend … “What skills have you intentionally honed over your lifetime? How do you use that to offer beauty or challenge to others?”

holding-handsBut if ‘value’ is only attached to what one does or makes, then a person’s identity has little value – and we lapse back into valuing people only for their abilities (what they are capable of doing or making). This is an issue for pastoral care, and of valuing the humanity of individuals in our community.

So indulge me as I take this one step closer – from doing and making to being. In pastoral care and visiting we often talk about ‘being present’ with someone. This isn’t about sitting in the same room as someone else, watching TV or swapping photos of cats on FaceBook. ‘Being Present’ has a connotation of giving attention to the other person by listening to words and meaning, of paying attention to body language and subtle changes in emotions expressed by eyes or words. ‘Being present’ is about valuing the worth and dignity of the individuals, beyond what they can do or make.

We can extend the concept of ‘doing, making, being’ into our pastoral and personal relationships. For example, when someone is battling cancer or a broken relationship, we often struggle to know how to respond. “I don’t know what to say!” is a normal reaction. But what if ‘saying something’ isn’t the only, or even the best, response? In a Pastoral sense, Words can be to ‘doing’ what delivering a meal can be to ‘making’; and sitting together – simply ‘being present’ – may be the best way to say ‘I care’.

I wonder … could we discover an art of ‘being present’? In this way we could all be artists and makers!