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.

 

What shall I bring?

What shall I bring?

The Shepherds sought the baby in the manger.
The Wise Men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Over the years …
Artists have contributed paintings, poems, sculptures;
Families have brought their children to hear the story
and Individuals have served food to the hungry.

This year, what will I bring?

++

What shall I bring?

If I bring myself …
to this story,
to this scene,
to these characters,
sitting here quietly for 5 minutes …

How might this change me?
What questions or responses does this story invite in my heart?

++

What shall I bring?

Born in a stable, in a little town that was not his home,
Jesus came into this world homeless, in poverty,
and soon became a refugee because his birth was a threat to a leader.

What does this story, told today,
tell me about what God is prepared to do to love us?

I look at the manger scene;
I look at my hands.

What can I learn about love in this world?
What shall I bring?

Joyful Presence

Today I choose to express
Joy.
In bucketfuls.

In a shot glass or a demitasse
there is but a taste.

Joy served in a teacup is nice
and civilised
and polite.

Joy served in a mug
lasts just long enough for curiosity,
but it will only dampen the grumps
(And to be honest, it’s a bit selfish!)

But in a bucket?
There’s way too much for me to drink alone
– I’d have to share and share.
Pouring it out for others;
Looking out for those frowns and downturned mouths and turned up noses.
For Joyful presence isn’t about
Me.
Nor is it about the division of difference in
us or them.
But
us for them.

THAT’s good news for the poor
the broken-hearted
the oppressed
those who mourn.

An abundant, generous Joyful presence.

I heard it in the shopping center today: “Joy to the world”
And then I looked at the faces.
Some were smiling and content and laughing.
But too many were grumpy. Too much to do, and way too much frustration.

Written for Advent 3, 2016.  Rev Nigel Hanscamp

A Hope-Filled space

When I hope,
I’m not wishing.
For I can live without my wish.
But if I am deprived of hope,
I have nothing to live for.

Hope-full
or hope-empty?
It is not a trivial thing to have hope
or to lose it.

Hope lost or held
lost and found.
They tell us that in
war, or concentration camps
in cancer and in unemployment
hope makes the ultimate difference.
For despair is the ultimate killer.

But a hope-filled space
That is a space for a spark
or a roaring fire
or a single candle flame like this one.

You.
You have something the human race needs.
No, not your money, or your status.
It’s your hope.
Enough. hope.
Just enough.

Is that a wish?

– no. Far from it.

It is space for hope.