‘Dive Down Deep’ – Song for Sam

When Sam died and we were planning the funeral I said to Danelle, ‘I’d love to call Morro and ask him to write a song.’ But it felt a little awkward as we haven’t been in each others lives a lot lately and I knew it might put him in a difficult spot. I also knew he’d capture some of the raw energy and passion that I hoped people would feel around Sam, probably better than anyone would. Not to worry…

Then over the weekend just gone I receive a text from him telling me has written a song… would I like to hear it?…

His text came in as Danelle, Ellie, Cosi and i were standing in the kitchen together. ‘Yeah… we’d love to hear it…’ We think… unsure of what it might evoke…

So I hit play and let it roll. There’s just something about music and about good songwriting that can get into your heart in a way few other things can. As he sang the last line there was a very teary group hug. He had nailed it and he had taken right into the heart of who Sam was. (Is it was or is?…)

Thank you for a beautiful gift Morro.

I asked him if I could share it as I know some of Sam’s friends would love to hear it. Morro did let me know it was a very rough recording on an iphone, but I’m sure you will be able to look past that as you immerse yourself in the music and the lyrics.

On Saturday afternoon I sat and listened to it on repeat for about 30 minutes – just remembering the courage Sam developed and being grateful for the life he lived.

(For context, Morro is an old friend from church networks, he was the West Coast Eagles for chaplain for many years and we also connected a bit when he was one of the 98.5FM brekkie show hosts. Pretty sure it was him who got me the fortnightly gig on the show!)

Here’s the link to the song and i will post the lyrics below too in case anyone would like to read them, as well as a brief intro to what was ticking around in Morro’s heart as he wrote.

Dive Down Deep
( Song for Sam)

The day after the funeral I started writing a song about Sam and about the depths of grief we go to… and somehow holding on to the fact we know God is still there in those deep dark places…

They said he was afraid
You could’ve fooled me
There was courage in his eyes
As he rippled like the sea
With the sun on his face and a smile as big as the sky

He was rocking a six pack and two loaded guns
Who can wrestle their demons and bring them undone
Without hunting them down and staring them straight in the eye

Chorus
Dive down deep
In the water and waves be embraced by the great mystery
Hold on forever like it’s your last breath
Be a friend to your fears
and stranger to death
I’m one with the silence
So stay in the wonder with me
And dive down deep

Life is for living
But how would you know
You were really alive
Till the end of the show
He was wringing it’s neck and was holding its face to the ground

Some have a passion
That leaves you in awe
Rising up like the ocean
And Its rugged and raw
With a love that is reckless and strong as it’s taking you down

Chorus

Dive down deep
In the water and waves be embraced by the great mystery
Hold on forever like it’s your last breath
Be a friend to your fears
and stranger to death
I’m one with the silence
So stay in the wonder with me
And dive down deep

Interlude
Chorus

They said he was afraid
You could’ve fooled me
There was courage in his eyes
As he rippled like the sea
With the sun on his face and a smile as big as the sky…

60 – Just a Number?

So… 40, 50 and now 60 years old… Can you tell?..

I’ve noticed that we have all these things we say as we get older that imply age is an inevitable barrier to the full experience of life. You will have heard them;

60 is just a number…

60 is the new 50…

You’re only as old as you feel

I get it. I do. But it seems part of the intent behind these hurrahs is to stave off the experience of aging with the implication that the sheer act of getting older is to be regarded as a negative thing.

I understand that with age there does come limitation and a decrease in most bodily functions. So that’s the ‘downside’ (if that is in fact a downside – maybe it’s good to slow down). But there is an upside – in fact there are many of them and I take great joy in them. For example;

Identity – I now know who I am and I am ok with me – mostly… Let’s be real – aspects of ‘me’ still need attention, but for the most part I know who I have ‘become’ and the trajectory my life is on and in that I am content. I feel like I have come to grips with the fact that my ‘one job’ in life is to keep moving, allowing myself to be formed in Chrst-likeness in all that I say and do. In one sense that is really hard as it involves a surrender of will, but in another it is equally simple if I can daily, get the ‘surrender’ part sorted. I’m getting better at that as it’s been a focus for many years now and it is coming more naturally. If I can stay on that trajectory then I don’t expect 70 or 80 to be difficult birthdays.

Contentment – Rather than moaning about the capacities I don’t have I can be appreciative of those I still do have. I can’t surf big waves any more… But I can still surf and this week 4 of us hit a little bay on the Coral Coast for a morning of fun waves and it was one of the best experiences I have had in the last little while. Lately I’ve been learning stand up paddle boarding for the first time (which is trickier than it looks…) and I’ve been hitting the local 4wd tracks on a fat wheel electric mountain bike, enjoying the seclusion and the challenge of riding random bush tracks, sometimes getting lost, occasionally getting launched over the handlebars, but mostly just enjoying the exhilaration of a new experience. I may not be able to run any more as my knees are shot, or even play veterans basketball (one groin strain = 8 weeks out) but there is still plenty I can do and that is good.

Contribution – I don’t think I have ever had as much to give as I do in this stage of life. At 60 I know stuff, I have experienced a lot and I even think I may have moments of wisdom. The challenge is to make investments of energy rather than just throwing myself at anything and everyone. I stepped back from senior leadership in our churches to allow some younger men & women to step up. I hope that more of my future will involve standing alongside younger leaders and supporting them as they figure stuff out. I’ve been listening to the Spirit for younger men who I can be praying for and available to. Each morning I pray for these blokes. It’s a somewhat random list and some of them would have no idea I pray for them. But – that’s also one of the things I can definitely do with my time – pray. It’s not sexy work – but it’s important stuff us older people can do.

Discerning Challenges – I want to both practice contentment and pursue challenge. I have seen too many people shut up shop in their later years and simply live a self centred and easy life. I remember hearing one man tell me that he turned the TV on when he got up and off when he went to bed late at night and his life revolved around this focus. I guess that’s one way to spend your twilight years…

I find enormous inspiration in what Caleb said to Joshua when he asked him for his share of the land they had taken:

“So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”” Joshua 14:10-12

The bloke is a beast! He’s 85 years old and ready for whatever life may hold.

So, I am listening for the challenges that I am to accept and pursue. There are soooo many things I could do with the time I have, but with this portion of life feeling like the ‘home stretch’ where every movement counts, I don’t want to waste valuable time and energy on things that don’t matter.

Freedom – We have had the odd discussion around getting another dog. But it’s a completely vexed conversation. Instagram and Facebook show us adorable puppies and the idea of a furry friend is wonderful… But reality is that acquiring a dog would impact significantly on the freedom we have to respond to whatever needs or opportunities we might see. You can’t just ‘lock and leave’ when a dog is involved…

I’m still used to saying ‘we have adult kids’ – even though we now only have one daughter, but she is an adult and fairly independent and (with the exception of this period) usually not so in need of our time. So we have a significant amount of freedom to pull stumps for a period and go work somewhere else. We were going to be helping out Marg River Baps over the next 6 months, but Sam’s death means we are all taking a breath and recalibrating our bearings.

But with a decreased need to earn $$ we do have a much greater degree of freedom than ever before.

Anticipation of Heaven – To be honest I hadn’t given much time or thought to what happens after this life here and now, but Sam’s death forced me to ponder it more deeply. The first thing I realised after he died was that my ‘hope’ was a deeply embedded conviction and not just a ‘theory’ I hoped might come true. I wasn’t panicked or disturbed about where Sam may now be – and while I am deeply sad at losing my son, I find myself actually looking forward to the day when we will be reunited. I find myself beginning to anticipate a form of life that at this stage I have very little clear description of what shape it will take. So my pondering around the next life has formed a much stronger anticipation of its inevitable reality – and I am really pleased at that.

So that’s just a quick list of up-sides to aging that popped into my mind while I was sitting here pondering the actual experience of ‘being 60’. If I can dodge the various health bullets that seem to take out blokes my age then I reckon there are at least 20 good years left! And after that who knows…

I’m really hoping and expecting that the best is yet to come!

Voices at The Table

In my mind there is a table

Where the Voices come to meet

To call for my attention

To contend for my heart

And my will

My future even

Some speak loud and often

They are bold and crass

Others are silent

It feels like patience

Rather than reluctance

Some are sullen and dark

Destruction and Cruelty

Devious voices

They caw in my weak moments

And gnaw at my hope

———

There are voices who appear not to speak

But rather intimidate with their presence

Confusion and Fear

Waiting to pounce

They seem to say 

‘So what now?…’

‘What’s it like to be utterly lost?’

Doubt whispers, stirs darkness,

Smirks and sneers

‘Maybe the world is not as you see it?’

‘Nothing really matters’

‘Does it?’

——–

Hope waits patiently

Smiles at Doubt, Confusion and Fear

Resolute and secure

I wish she would speak more often

But sometimes it is in the absence

Of words that her confidence and grace

Are best experienced.

I need hope to use her voice

To shape the conversation

————–

Meanwhile Determination squares his chin

As if to say

This will not end you

It may break you

Shatter you even

In time it will reform you and

Endow you with a knowledge

You may wish you never had

But it will not undo or destroy

Of that he is confident.

————

Peace observes silently

Breathing deep calm

Into everything

Because there is no rush

There is nothing to fix

Grief will set its own pace

Weave its own path

I trust that Peace is reliable

Faithful and true

An ever present friend.

————-

Trust waits quietly

She never pushes in

Or calls for my heart

She is used to being thrown off

The scapegoat for Destruction’s work

She has been here before 

And she knows the path

She gives space

—————

Love just aches 

And bleeds

Wants to repair

To rewind

For one more chance

(Just one?…)

But can only weep at what has been lost

Love speaks little but

Her sorrow is unmistakeable 

———-

And so I choose each day

Whose voice I will allow to speak

Where I will place my heart

Whose words 

Will shape my path

And my future.

Waves of Finality

I’ve heard it said that grief comes in waves. The weekend just gone was difficult as Danelle had brought home Sam’s ashes and what was left of his possessions. Several boxes of stuff – some of it sentimental/memorabilia type stuff, some practical, tools, clothes, physiotherapy instruments and the usual junk that we keep in our bedside table.

We sat down Saturday afternoon to sort – but it just felt very heavy – very much of a reminder of his non-presence any more – of the utter gone-ness of his being and the sheer finality of the whole thing.

Clothes, trinkets and some ashes  in a plastic container… with accompanying death certificate… It’s confronting to see a human body reduced to ashes. It’s unbelievably sad when it’s someone you love this much. I haven’t had too many super -sad days in the last week or two. (Of course then comes the struggle of wondering if you are a heartless bastard who has simply moved on.) I have gone back to work, kept the exercise regime up and managed to balance whatever social commitments we had without much anxiety or pain. I watched the Danelle and the girls really finding it hard over the weekend while I was doing OK. ‘Grief comparing’ – you know it’s dumb but you do it anyway.

I chose this picture to put on my phone as a lock screen. I had the other one below initially but the challenge of looking at this larger than life grin rocked my heart every time I opened it up – so I swapped it out.’

But after a week of the black and white, back view I decided to switch back. I feel like I’d rather look him in the eye and suffer the daily wrench than look at his figure from behind and maybe pretend he hasn’t really gone.

Today I was at the gym and it is amazing how much comes at you in that hour. I was listening to Greg Boyd on a podcast, while gym music played and two different tvs showed two different programs complete with subtitles. Was it any wonder I lost count of my reps! Trying to concentrate on a theology podcast with all the other noise is pretty hard. And then you add to that the ‘background background’ track that plays just reminding you that life has changed for ever.

I have used the image of having a ‘room’ in the back of my mind that opens on one side to a Narnia like place – I guess it’s heaven (however that looks) and on the other side is my consciousness. Some days I intentionally ‘open the door’ and let Sam in – I muse, feel, smile and weep. Other days I leave it shut. Then there are the days he barges in all guns blazing and I am overwhelmed and caught off guard by his presence. I haven’t ever felt like I want to ‘lock’ the door so I imagine that is a good thing.

For some reason it was the gym where a wave of grief broke today – just enough to throw me off balance and drag me under for a brief rinse. A flick thru my photos as I rode the warm down bike was enough to throw a spanner in the works.

I have kept the photos from our identification of him and from when they were returning on the boat. They are heartbreaking to look at – but somehow I feel like I want to see them every now and then to remind myself that he is not gone on a long holiday – instead he is just gone forever. It’s been the hardest part for me to grasp.

People have asked me if I’m angry, but I’m not – just deeply sad to a depth I didn’t realise was possible.. Somehow as my brain ‘does the maths’, I feel like I have no one or nothing to be angry at. I was angry at Sam initially as he had told us of close calls with blackout, but I only have to remember my own teen years to know that I did my fair share of risky stuff and just happened to get away with it.

Yeah I do sometimes wonder ‘why us?’ Why do we somehow get to bear this greatest of losses that a child seems to be? But there is no real answer to that. Those who would see it as all part of God’s plan would suggest that there is a bigger picture that we just can’t see. I guess you have to think that if you truly believe that God would engineer an event like this. I don’t mean that snidely. I just can’t conceive of God in that way.

That said, maybe one day we will find out that those folks were right… But for now that isn’t a theological position I could credibly hold. It sits too heavily at odds with the notion of a good God or even with the idea of genuine free will.

We are now 6 weeks since Sam’s death – long enough for the initial impact to have worn off most people I would imagine. And even for myself I know I am no longer reeling and disoriented. I think I am starting to accept this new reality, but conscious that waves are still breaking over the bow every now and then and either catching us off guard or at times capsizing us.

Danelle and I spoke this afternoon of possibly travelling as a ‘family’ but just the thought seems more like it would currently serve to enforce what’s not here. So the next family holiday may need to be left for a while.

Anyway just some musings 6 weeks in… Oh and you simply cannot watch the news with the same kind of detached perspective any longer. Two brothers killed in Mexico is not just very sad. It rips at your heart as you know the pain of one child dying in a relatively good way – but to have two sons shot in the head while in a foreign country and then have to go there to retrieve bodies and identify them is next level intense. So very sad for that family.

Because Faith & Discipleship can be Complex

It was my turn to teach again this week from John Ch 3 – and I focused on Jesus interaction with Nicodemus – quite an intriguing conversation on a number of levels, but in particular with regard to where Nicodemus went with faith.

We began by asking the question – imagine you had never read the Bible before and you were reading the book of John for the very first time. By ch 2 Jesus has gathered a fairly unimpressive group of followers, created a stack of wine for an already inebriated wedding party, he has kicked over tables in the temple and driven out the money changers and he is somehow related to the crazy dude John the Baptist who is going around calling people to repent.

If you were only just reading all this for the first time then I imagine that by the time ch 3 comes around Jesus would look like some kind of crazy dude. Miracles, fits of rage and associations with weirdos would leave the reader wondering ‘just who are you anyway?…’ Of course this is the point. John wants us to be inquisitive as to who this man is. Mission accomplished I’d say.

Then in ch 3 Nicodemus comes to see Jesus because he is genuinely interested in who he is and what he is doing. In fact he goes so far as to call him ‘Rabbi’s and state that it is clear ‘God is with you’ because of the miracles you have been doing. It seems he broke ranks with the other Pharisees to come and see Jesus.

But Jesus responses are anything but helpful. He calls Nicodemus to be’ born again’ – a phrase he is clearly unfamiliar with, and then he critiques him for not understanding. ‘You are Israel’s teacher and you do not understand these things?…’ Again Jesus comes across rude – abrasive even. He gives Nicodemus a couple of heads up from the OT with reference to Ezekiel 36:25-27 and to the whole ‘snake in the wilderness’ experience from Numbers 21.

Jesus goes on to challenge him, but ch 3 ends with the story taking a different direction and we don’t hear what happened to Nicodemus. Did he become a follower of Jesus or was he just offended and put off by Jesus fairly abrasive and confrontational approach? 

Well… while you can’t be sure, I get the sense that maybe Nicodemus started buying in, but couldn’t bring himself to break free from the Sanhedrin – too much to lose maybe?… In Ch 7 we see him defending Jesus and sticking up for him, but then in ch 19 is the biggest hint that maybe he is onboard. As Joseph of Arimithea goes to collect Jesus body for burial, right there with him is Nicodemus, carrying a whopping 30kg of myrrh and alloes to prepare Jesus body.

That amount of gear is the kind of extravagance reserved for a royal burial – as if Nicodemus somehow brought himself to acknowledge that Jesus was the ‘king’ – the messiah – even if he couldn’t fully break free from his place in the Sanhedrin.

So my hunch is that Nicodemus had taken significant steps towards Jesus. Maybe he wasn’t what we could call a ‘fully devoted follower’, (are any of us?…) but he was on the road and pointed in the right direction. It would have taken some courage to go and retrieve Jesus body – and all this before the resurrection. I believe ‘The Chosen’ portrays Nicodemus as wrestling with the decision to follow Jesus before choosing not to, but I am not convinced they got that quite right. 

So much of how we portray discipleship is either hot or cold – for or against – missing the nuance and challenge that often accompanies real life. Nicodemus was in a complex situation and ‘extraction’ if it even were possible would have been costly to both him and his wider family. Perhaps he was trying too live on a knife edge, trying to follow Jesus with all of his heart, but also navigating the implications of that decision on others close to him. That isn’t a bad thing is it?…

Just a thought for those who find themselves on the journey of faith, but for whom it is not simple…

All The Pretty Girls

‘Are you sick of talking about this?’

What a great question! I caught up with my old mate Scott V a few days ago and as we were having a coffee together he asked me that. I liked that he was perceptive enough to know that maybe I was repeating myself for the 78th time, and maybe it was emotionally draining, but my answer was ‘no – not yet… I guess I may do in time, but for now I’m still coming to grips with it.’

CS Lewis reckons grief feels like ‘fear’. So he says in A Grief Observed – such a Lewis style title! I don’t think fear has been among the emotions I have experienced. Certainly disorientation, confusion and overwhelm have been among the words I would use. Maybe they consolidate into fear? Hmmm… nah… I don’t know that you can describe grief to another person easily and assume that they will have a similar experience.

To be honest I feel like I’m punching out of my weight division trying to make any sense of grief. I am inclined to ‘think’ my way thru situations (INTJ style) and find solutions, remedies and fixes… whereas grief is really more of a ‘feeling’ zone where no one gets to fix anything. So being immersed in a wash of unusual and unfamiliar emotions is quite disorienting and disconcerting. That said, I do have a fairly well developed ‘don’t panic’, response, so I have been able to ride out, endure, or just cop a beating from the various moments that have transpired over the last 40 or so days since Sam died.

I must admit that this has helped me realise that in moments of deep grief for others I have really not been able to empathise much at all. In some ways we have lived a pretty fortunate life, free of any major personal traumas, so grief has always been a very foreign experience to me. I feel like a bit like a visitor to a new city, hearing the sounds, smelling the smells and encountering the newness for the first time. i remember when I first went to the Philippines, the year after the revolution and we arrived for new years eve…I was in sensory overload. I had no idea quite what I had encountered! And it has felt a bit like that these last few weeks.

When I describe what is going on, its like Sam has taken up residence in one of the back rooms of my mind and just wanders into the forefront any time i am not focused on a specific task. So when I’m at the gym or cycling and I have ‘think time’ he seems to push his way to the forefront – even if I am listening to a podcast and reasonably intent on tuning in closely. And it’s usually just a flash of a memory that pierces the focus, then explodes on impact into a thousand other thoughts and associated feelings. Mostly they culminate in one dominant motif – he’s not coming back… And that evokes some very strong emotions as i wonder why…

Honestly – you know ‘why‘ I think Sam died? I think it was simply because he didn’t come up for air at the right time. That’s spectacularly unimpressive by way of any greater meaning or purpose in his death – but I’m not sure that there is any greater meaning or purpose other than what comes from how we allow the situation to shape and form us. I have no problems believing God can work all things together for good – if we will work with him – but I certainly can’t swallow any theology that calls this ‘God’s will / God’s timing’ or some other form of divinely ordained execution.

And while we feel for ourselves I can’t help but feel for Sam who lost his own life in this tragic event. He lost the joy of living in this world and all that would have brought – marriage, family, travel, vocation… his life was just kicking off and then snap… it was over. If he had his time over again – if we were able to bring him back – I doubt he would ever take a risk like that again. Unfortunately this isn’t a mistake you ‘learn’ from.

A bit of my own sadness comes from realising that i was really looking forward to our adult-male relationship and what it would become. I have enjoyed all stages of our relationship, but this one I was really anticipating, as I knew we would have some great conversations, and he would not be afraid to challenge my thinking with a mind far sharper than my own. I was hoping he would find his way into church life and offer his left field insights to a leadership team who were willing to hear some different ways of thinking. I know he wasn’t a ‘settler’ in the status quo so he would have ruffled some feathers along the way, but in a very likeable way. I’m also sad he won’t be around in 20 years time to take back his blog post critiquing my apparently very boring life – a life where I need to make a steady income so I am committed to a job etc (partly because it costs a lot of money to raise two kids 🙂 ) I remember being utterly disappointed with my own father’s unambitious, stay in the same job your whole life approach – but then i have benefitted greatly from his stability. Stuff you learn… if you are around to do the learning…

At this distance of 40 days most of the raw shock seems to have worn off and we are now just left with daily living minus Sam – which is sometimes uneventful and other times quite difficult. Over the weekend we caught up with some of our closest friends, going right back to the late 90’s during our time at Lesmurdie and then the Upstream venture in 2003. Our kids grew up together and were best of mates (see pic above) for the first 5-10 years of their lives before jobs and circumstances took us all in different directions. The gathering was planned several months back – a grand reunion of oldest of friends (see pic below 15 years later) – and it was a great time being with those guys again for a couple of days. But the absence of that one person was painful to us all. It was beautiful to be with people who just ‘got it’ and were able to roll with wherever we were at, acknowledging Sam’s absence, but at the same time celebrating the kind of friendships that are so valuable in these times.

I have read 3 books in the last month all around this same theme, and the pick of them has been Lament For a Son, a short collection of reflections and literal laments. I read this first, within a few days of Sam dying and it felt like he was reading my mind. It is quite beautiful, poetic and piercing in its simplicity.

On a more amusing note I downloaded a collection of Sam’s playlists to my phone so I could tune into some of what he was listening to. I discovered the song ‘All the Pretty Girls’ by Kaleo at the front of a ‘Going North’ collection of songs. I started listening to this song but had to re-listen to the first line a couple of times to make sure i had heard correctly… And yeah I did hear correctly. It opens with ‘All the pretty girls like Samuel…’ I believe it was one of his favourites 🙂

How Are You Going?

‘How are you going?’

It’s a simple question, right? But the last 5 weeks it has been difficult to answer. Often I say ‘I don’t know…’ because that just feels honest. The last two weeks (apart from my first ever bout of Covid) I have felt quite stable and emotionally ok… I think… so my response has been ‘good’, or ‘fine thanks’.

And maybe that’s where it gets complicated for an INTJ… I think I feel ok. To say that actually feels callous, but if I’m honest I have been getting on with the stuff I have to do and trying not to get ‘bogged’ in grief. So while I’m deeply sad that Sam is no longer with us, I also know i can’t do anything to change that. It’s just a terrible reality of our daily lives. Much of the pain I feel now is from watching Danelle, Ellie and to a lesser extent, Cosi grappling with loss.

So I ‘think‘ that is where i am at… but perhaps I’m kidding myself? I feel like my hurt and pain is very real and raw when i choose to focus on it, or bring it into the foreground, but it also seems to be shielded from me, as if the most painful thoughts and feelings are still there, but ‘insulated’ in some way.

I intentionally chose this photo of Sam as a wallpaper on my phone – but the image I selected is one that only shows his back. There was something too disconcerting still in having a photo of Sam’s bright, energetic face lighting up at me. I simply didn’t want to look at that every time I opened my phone.

Anyway here’s a poem I wrote that speaks to some of the ‘aftershocks’ of an event like this and some of the complexity of working thru grief and pain.

Aftershocks

It has been 36 days 

Since the ground quaked beneath us

Life exploded around us

In us…

Leaving debris and destruction

Of every kind

Much that is yet to be uncovered

or discovered

But I know it is there

Lurking and waiting to pounce

Growling and snickering

A constant taunting presence

Like an angry dog, unrestrained

Free to menace at will

———-

And what is it to grieve and mourn?

By what means?

For how long?

And in which ways?

Grief has many faces

There is anger that snarls silently

Tears that invade mercilessly at any moment

The paralysis of anxious thoughts and fear

Raw, sad musings about what might have been

Had there been just one more breath…

(Really? Why not just one?…)

Then sometimes nothing…

Just once joyful memories

Seared with sadness

Leeched of emotion

Like blurred photos of an old friend

Is that kind of grief ok too?

———-

36 days ago

I could still see the reddish stubble on your unshaven face 

Your head lying on its side 

Eyes closed and small bubbles frothing from your already blue lips

We knew it was your body

The body we loved and nurtured from young

The strong, muscular body you trusted to propel you around the ocean

It was you

But not you

Life was no longer

The lights were out

And you had left.

———-

To where?

We can only speculate as to details…

Heaven? 

Well yes…

But where is this?

And what is this place we speak of so glibly?

A different dimension?

A ‘good place’?

Where you live now oblivious of us?

A holding bay until the resurrection?

When we will meet again

We will meet again – won’t we?…

(“Mummy & Daddy and Ellie and Sam 

We’re a family aren’t we eh?”)#

My deepest hope is in this reality

Of which I know so little

Because I have not needed to know

This mysterious notion imbued

With centuries of church mythology

But very few hard, undisputed facts

A genuine hope of our faith

That on one hand feels so intangible

And on the other so rich and strong

———

36 days is all it has been

(Not that anyone is counting)

A wisp of time – yet it has felt like an eternity already

The new normal of our family life

Has not yet been cast

As if we are refusing to accept the constraints of this new reality

We do not form new patterns

We wake and hope the the nightmare will end

But every morning it is the same

Aftershocks pierce deep into our hearts

And out from us

Raw pain transmitted to friends

Who embrace it beautifully

Who love and care

Sincerely and honestly

Genuine friendship is a beautiful gift

In this worst of times.

Even then

Only we can truly know the depth of those aftershocks 

———

Now when I ponder my own inevitable death

It is with a different tone

I see a hand holding those I love

Here and now

A hand that is saying ‘goodbye’

But the other hand is reaching out 

To those I love who have gone before

And yours is the face I see

The first port of call in the new realm

You’re telling me to ‘jump’ into the new reality

The kingdom of God where one day

All will be made right

All will be restored

Until then we wait and we trust

# This was a little mantra Sam started when he was about 3 years old. It still generated laughs a couple of months ago…

Just Some Reflections

Oh I am sad today.

Just sad that my son, Sam, is gone – I have been pondering permanence and finality and it just seems that the sheer unfixable nature of this one event has re-made our entire world and I feel somewhat adrift in it. None of us really have our bearings at the moment so we are just getting on, the best we can.

I wonder if my heart is possibly more fragile than I can articulate or even feel? But it also feels like there is some kind of protective layer around it preventing me from feeling the full force of Sam’s death. 

I wonder if I haven’t yet felt the full ‘wumph’ of this. Maybe I have… What would that imply?…

I seem to be able to get on with work ok and get jobs done. I can operate at a fairly healthy level (even with Covid), but the ever lurking thought that occupies my mind is ‘gone’…

Gone… for ever…

So many things in life are fixable – and that’s something I am good at – fixing broken stuff – but I can’t do anything with this situation except try to step into it and accept that this is now part of our journey in life and we will find our way… somehow. I know I want to do that well and allow it to form me in whatever ways it may. (Let’s at least get some good out of it.)

A week back in church we sang that song ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord’ iand we repeated the lines ‘you give and take away’ many times. I wonder if people really think that God gives and takes away children? I certainly don’t think God took Sam away as part of a bigger plan. I find that idea abhorrent – to think that God would actually take a life to teach a bigger lesson or to create a ‘learning opportunity’?…

Not a God I could devote my life to – that’s for sure. And perhaps I am messing with some people’s perspectives on who God is, his sovereignty and the like, but without doing any theological gymnastics whatsoever it is impossible to reconcile the God I know in Jesus, with a God who orchestrates all kinds of tragedies as part of a greater ‘grand plan’.

Whatever the theological ramifications, the simple daily reality is an acknowledgement that the man who is my son is not coming home again, ever. I feel the poem I wrote a couple of posts back articulates what I am sad about better than I can do here, but we are now a week out from the funeral, family have gone home and we have settled back into a level of normal.

Certainly on the surface my life looks quite un-rattled by everything – I have work to keep me busy, I have an exercise schedule I am trying to stick to, despite covid challenges and I naturally look ahead at what the rest of the year holds. We were going to do some interim pastoral work for Marg River Baptist, but we withdrew from that following Sam’s death. Not knowing exactly how things would play out for us it seemed unwise to take a role that involved some significant responsibility while we see how the dust settles on our life minus Sam. We hope to keep doing some teaching in the country churches as we are able, while trying to keep aware of what is happening in the grief process.

It’s a an unusually warm autumn day outside. I cut thru my work in record time this morning, so I was able to go for a SUP paddle in the most stunning blue water, before coming home for a quiet afternoon of reading or whatever I am able to do with covid. It’s hard not to feel like life is wonderful (on one hand), but then on the other it is in ruins.

That’s kinda where it’s at. We have been supported beyond what I could imagine, which has been beautiful, but we face the challenge of easing back into daily realities and discovering a ‘new normal’ for our family life.

1.00pm Sunday

1.00pm the bell tolls

the final call is made

by your empty lungs

to leave the ocean floor

ascend the 13 metres

to surface

to breathe

to live

but… 

you choose 

one more shot

one more chase

one more chance…

and it is this decision

this flash of impulse

that now separates

us from you

that rips the fabric

of our lives

that shatters our hearts

and leaves you utterly unreachable

unknowable any longer

just memories to sometimes comfort

and other times taunt 

memories that will fade

and blur as time smudges the ink

1.00pm Sunday is the time

we will always remember

when your misty head

succumbed to the lure

that maybe you were invincible 

unlike other men

when your 21 year old confidence

pushed that bit too hard

and crossed the line

into that other realm

never to return

one brief moment of 

asserting your strength 

so inconsequential to 

the rest of the world

but for you

for us

the moment that changed everything

And now we wait for 1.00pm

each Sunday as a reminder of

what could have been

what should have been

but no longer is 

or ever can be

one simple breath

the difference between life

and this death we all now endure

I Weep

I left the blinds open last night and woke to a beautiful sunrise – dusky colours over the ocean, but alongside the beauty of the new day was the dread of what this day holds.

We have had 2 weeks now to get used to the idea that Sam is dead, but I feel like it hasn’t really sunk in. And words often feel inadequate to express what is inexpressible. So maybe tears are all we have…

I Weep

I weep for the time we no longer have

For the man I will not see you become

For the world which is poorer for your leaving.

I weep for the people who will not meet you

And know simple love and acceptance in your presence

For those who others ignore, but whom you always saw

I weep for your mother who prayed so earnestly for your arrival

Who gave her life to shaping yours

And now must cope with the loss – the quiet – the family minus crazy

I weep for your sister who loved you like no other

Who is lost and bereft – bravely trying to carry on

But broken and shaken on the inside

I weep for the surfs we will no longer share

For those rich conversations we enjoyed – now no longer

The questions I will no longer ponder with you

And for the woman you left behind who was soon to be your wife

Brave and beautiful – kind and creative 

It would have been a wonderful match

I weep for our family who have already known so much loss

Another one – preventable – unnecessary – so many words…

But it is done and there are no second chances – no fix we can hack for this one

I weep for your friends – so many who loved you

Even when you struggled to see anything of worth in yourself

Those friends knew your care, your loyalty and love

I weep for the grandchildren we will not know

For the shrinking of our already tiny family

And the absence of the one who brought such joy and warmth

I weep for the church who lost a thoughtful, courageous leader

A young man with genuine, practical faith

Whose sharp mind and soft heart would have helped shape the future 

I weep for your clients who now notice your absence

Who will miss your sincere and thoughtful care

Your love for the strugglers, the odd, the outsiders

I weep for the dreams that now are no longer

The infamous troopie trips, the lap of Oz you would surely have done

The adventures you, Cosi and your tribe would have shared

I weep for the neighbourhood you would have lived in

For the people who just need a truly good man in their orbit

For the young men who will not experience your influence

I weep for the challenges and questions that will not get raised without you around

For the unwillingness to settle for trite or weak answers

For your ability to listen and then disagree – but with love

I weep for the laughter we will not share

For the pranks we will no longer hear of

The hot marketplace deals you will no longer send my way

I weep for the battles we will no longer fight with you

For the victories we would hear about

And the hope for a better future and a settled mind

I weep for us – for the men we were going to be together

For the way we were going to shape our families

Jesus at centre – our inherited dysfunctions finally put to bed

I weep for myself because I have lost my son

The curious and kind little boy 

Who became a strong and good man

I weep for the conversations we will not have

For the hugs that are now gone

And for the ever present ‘love you’ at the end of every conversation.

I weep because I have no words 

To describe the pain of touching your face that last time

The rich hope of God’s kingdom coming our only constant as we carry on