Saturday, 23 July 2011

Au revoir

I'm off on my jolly holidays, mes amis, to relax, re-charge and drink a cocktail or three. Look forward to catching up with you all again in a few weeks. In the meantime, enjoy the heatwave which is bound to hit the shores of the UK the minute I depart...

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Fast cars and fairways

Last week I watched a really good BBC tribute to golfer Seve Ballesteros, who died of brain cancer earlier this year at the age of 54. I'm not a fan of golf, but I was a fan of Seve. There is no doubt he had the skill, dedication and passion to become one of the biggest names in the game, but it was his charisma, flair, exuberance, charm and strength of character that made him a cut above. And, may I add, his Latino good looks.
In addition to footage of his greatest golfing triumphs, Seve talks about his cancer. There is a beautiful moment towards the end of the programme – and his life – where he says, in that wonderful Span-glish accent he had, "I don't want you to feel sorry for me. I have been the luckiest person in the world. I have so much luck... and this thing that has happened to me is a little thing compared to other people who have tougher times, and don't have the opportunity to feel life as I did." What courage... You can still see Seve: The Legend on BBC i-player until 11.24pm on Sunday.
At the opposite end of the sporting spectrum to golf is Formula One. And, while Seve strolled the fairways, another young man with as much passion, flair, skill and Latino va-va-voom was proving to be the fastest man to ever sit behind the wheel of a racing car – Ayrton Senna. And last night I went to see an incredible docu-film about him called Senna.
Seve and Senna were both teenage prodigies who burst into the sporting spotlight bearing the love, hope and adoration of their countrymen and women. They were both out-spoken, enchanting, individual forces of nature. And both died young. But while Seve's death was un-related to his sport – his cancer one of life's 'unlucky' twists of fate – Senna's luck ran out on the race track, as he lead the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
Senna was the last driver to die at the wheel of a Formula One car. Seve was not the last man to die of cancer. Similar beginnings, different endings, but both inspirational in their own way.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Honest to goodness

When someone you love has died from an illness – one which you, and they, know will only end with their ending – it is often too painful to begin to imagine what they must be thinking or feeling. Partly because, unless you are the one staring death in the face, you can never really understand how that feels, and also if you let you mind wander in the direction of their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pain, your sorrow will overwhelm you.
So when I visit a family to arrange a funeral service, I always tread carefully when it comes to discussing how death occurred. While it's not necessary to share details with everyone on the day of the funeral, it does help me to understand how the family are feeling and what their loved one went through, and it's crucial in helping me provide the most relevant words of comfort for them during the ceremony. There are also times when a few words about the cruelty of dementia or the speed of cancer bring a reality to proceedings and a relevance for others attending, which I, personally, think is a good thing. As long as the family are OK with that, of course.
I went to visit a young woman recently who was in her 20's. Her father had died of cancer and, with her parents divorced some years earlier and no siblings, she was left to arrange the funeral. In my capacity as a celebrant, I was, understandably, concerned about how our meeting would go. At such a young age, would she be able to cope with talking about her dad, his funeral, and be able to make the necessary, emotional decisions? But, I was in for a surprise. And this was all due to the honesty with which she approached and talked about her father's illness. I won't go into details, but what stayed with me most about our conversation was the fact that she said "Dad was frightened". It was so heart-wrenchingly frank. I felt terribly sorry for him, and for his daughter, but also admired her for being able to get those three words out without falling to pieces in front of my eyes, which, under the circumstances, she had every reason to do so.
I'm not making any judgements with this post, as there is no right or wrong way to discuss such a sensitive issue. Some will tell you how their loved-ones coped, others won't. And that is absolutely fine. But those words stayed with me for quite some time.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Moving on

We have arrived – safe, sound and fully techno functional – in our new home. Hoo-ray! It's been sunny every day since we moved in, so much so that we're wondering if we haven't stumbled across a unique ecosystem. Perhaps Mother Nature has simply decided to display a sky that's as blue as the language which preceded the move we thought would never happen. Either way, it is a joy. And we're happy.
Interestingly, the emotion I felt on leaving our old home rather took me by surprise. It shouldn't have done, as it is a loss of a sort. But we'd only been there for four years, and, while it had been a happy four years, I wasn't particularly sad to be leaving. But that all changed after THE longed-for phone call came through to say the monies had cleared and you can now pick up/drop off the keys. Things went from calm to anxious as we hurried to pack the last few remaining essentials (kettle and milk) before dashing out of the front door behind the removal men. Just as I was turning the key in the lock, my other half said "this is it then" and I suddenly felt this huge wave of sadness, and horror that I was about to just run out of the door without some sort of meaningful leave-taking. I opened the front door again and stood in the hallway, taking in one last look around. So we said "goodbye" to the house, thanked it for all the good times, and left...
As I drove away I thought about the sense of panic I felt at not having said goodbye. I did think to myself, if I feel like this over a house, how does it feel to hear a loved-one has suddenly and unexpectedly gone forever? Forgive me for making the comparison between a house and a life. But loss is loss. Some losses are immense, and some are momentary. This was momentary but it made its point.