Friday, July 27, 2018

A Dog's Eye: The measure of a good man part 1

Death seems to make saints of so many sinners. When somebody dies, there is very rarely a bad word spoken about them because it is generally accepted that one should not speak ill of the dead, particularly the recently departed.

Does that mean it is okay to criticize and belittle people, to speak hateful, spiteful words, and to highlight someone's faults while they are alive, but when they die they become untouchable? It seems sometimes only death allows a person to be fully forgiven for the wrongs they have committed in life. People are judged much more harshly during their lifetime than at their death. Although the deceased's enemies would no doubt say what a bad person they were, and happily point out their failings and "sins", no one wants to hear that. It makes us all feel much better if the goodness of the person is emphasized.

Friends say it is bad that a good person has died, while enemies say it is good that a bad person has died, and they could be talking about the same person. Both are expressing opinions. Everybody can be good or bad because it depends on a personal point of view. A person's goodness or badness is entirely relative. When you listen to people talk about others, their comments are usually based on what that person has done for them, or for someone they know.

Here's an example: Bill is talking to Fred about George who is a mechanic at a local garage. Bill says that George is a good bloke because he helped Bill's sister when her car broke down and he didn't charge her anything. Fred does not like George because George gave him an outrageously high quote for some repair work, and then became angry when Fred wanted to get another quote. Bill says George is a good man, but Fred says he is a bad man. Both are making judgments solely on their experience of George. If the two men were talking to you about George, how would you judge him? Regardless of what you think, what is the true ,objective measure of a good man?

I will attempt to answer that question in the next installment. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

A Dog's Eye: to say goodbye

My Nana died on June 11 aged 96. Last Wednesday, July 4, the funeral was held at Woronora Cemetery, followed by a wake at The Bridge restaurant on Woronora River. The funeral was delayed to allow for family members who were overseas, like myself, to be there to say goodbye to a woman who lived a life few of us who remain could imagine.

I belong to a wonderful extended family and for this I am truly grateful to God who holds all of our lives in his mighty hand.

Here is the speech I delivered at the service* on behalf of my cousins. It was bookended by a terrific eulogy by my mum, and a speech by my son on behalf of the great grandchildren.

How do you encapsulate a life in a few moments. And such a long life as Nana had. The bible says we are given three score and ten years, but he granted Nana nearly five score. Wow. 96 years. How do you summarise such a long and amazing life. Well, I think Mum did a great job in her eulogy.

Think of your own life, the highs and the lows but in between so much of the mundane. What can I say about Nana? I can really only speak about the impact she had on my life, and to a lesser, more general extent, about the impact she had on the lives of my cousins. Imagine living to see your grandchildren grow up and have their own children. Think about what Nana saw, what she experienced in her 96 years. I remember speaking at her 70th birthday party about historical events which occurred in the year she was born: 1922. Think of how she saw the world change so dramatically.

For most of the major moments in our lives, she was there. She lived, she loved and she reveled in the achievements of her grandchildren. I remember the sparkle in her eyes, and her undivided attention when I spoke with her and told her all about what was going on in my life from time time to time. I remember how she filled me in on details from the rest of the family. How she remembered stuff, and how proud she was of all of us. I remember how baffled she sometimes was as well, not because there was anything wrong with her mind, but simply from astonishment I guess. Amazed at what we were doing and what we achieved. How we travelled the world, for example, as though it were nothing more than a family camping trip down to Cudmirrah. How great were those family holidays!

I felt especially close to Nana and Grandad particularly during and as a result of the time I lived with them in Oatley when I started high school. During a tumultuous time for me, I remember Oatley as being a safe place. I remember the peace and the quiet. I remember developing a love for dark chocolate which we ate after dinner while watching TV together. For those six months Nana and Grandad were my parents. When I think of Nana, I think of intelligent and wide ranging conversations about books and politics and life in general. I think about playing Scrabble and cups of tea and bikkies.

We'll all treasure our memories of Nana. What a blessed life we have had and how wonderful that we got to share so much of it with her. Sure, we're sad, but i think most of all we feel grateful. We honour the dead by how we continue to live and live well. There is a saying that while there is life there is hope. Nana is dead, but I think hope is eternal. It goes beyond the grave. Jesus Christ is our eternal hope, and I'm looking forward to seeing Nana again one day.

Rest in peace, Eileen Rayner. We love you and we'll miss you Nana.

*I wrote out the speech, but left it in my pocket as I spoke. Consequently I added and deleted some things. The words above are the best my memory can do to recall what I actually said. It was such an emotional day, but so great.