Sympathy and Remembrance

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I have been feeling as if I have been concentrating here a great deal on current events concerning Eunie’s passing and neglecting to feed myself and my readers with enough variety of ideas and images to keep us all distracted. After all, aside from being a personal journal, Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  is intended to be a minor but useful distraction from the vagaries and vicissitudes of the daily grind. However, as I look back over the last couple of weeks, I see that there is still some variety there and I may not have strayed as far into my navel as I had thought. Pardon the existentialist humour.

So, as I have not completely disappeared into that dark, furry place (though it was a close call), I’ll tell you what happened on Saturday.

As those who have been reading MPBM and holding my hand on this journey will already know, this is the second Memorial Service for Eunie. The first was held in Gympie, Australia. Having survived that one, I felt reasonably confident that I would make it through once again. It is so strange just how much one can exaggerate, as such an event approaches, the magnitude of the suffering which will be on offer. I imagined having a stroke and falling down dead, an idea which leaves me thinking, “Eh! What would be so bad about that?”, aside from the horrible mess it would leave behind for my friends. And then I think, “Remember what a Drama Queen you are, stupid!”

The sad part of this is that I get so caught up in self-pity (not for the first time in my life) that I completely miss the point of what’s going on. Well, that wasn’t the case on Saturday or at least I think it wasn’t. I’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s lighten this up a little. I need to let the sad face rest for a bit.

It my entire long and mysterious life, I do not recall ever having anything at all to do with a mayor. This seems a little odd. One would think that it would require active avoidance to have escaped the attention of or never have had the need to interact with a mayor. But not me. I take the road less travelled. Until now:

What you are looking at is a Sympathy card from the Mayor of Gympie, Australia and his good wife. This arrived in my mailbox one day and caused me to scratch my head. Does the funeral director notify the mayor’s office when someone is processed through on the way to the final destination? Does someone in the mayorial chain of command read the death notices? Or, as I suspect, did my friend Val Jerram have something to do with this? Hmmm . . . Busy, busy, busy.

Okay, here is another puzzle:

I believe that, by any standard, this could be called an incomplete address. The town name is implied, providing you know the geography of Papua New Guinea, as is, of course, the country. However there is no street address or P. O. Box. Di Cassell is well known, but not that  well known. When Di gave it to me, we both engaged in a little head scratching. We agreed that it was worthy of a slot in a post on MPBM. I’d say that someone at Australia Post was really on his toes that day. [Please excuse the use of the masculine pronoun to cover all of those Postmen and Postettes. English sadly lacks multi-gender pronouns. His/her, just doesn’t cut it.]

On Saturday, the crowd was not as large as we thought it might be. That was neither a disappointment nor a source of concern. Every person who needed to be there was there. It’s just the way it played out. I don’t estimate very well, so I won’t bother saying how many. Here’s a shot that includes most of the group which came to, as the expression goes, pay their respects:

Early in the service a group of ladies from our office and from the Country Women’s Association sang Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross,  one of Eunie’s favourites. For the first time since I returned from Australia, I dissolved in a flood of tears. I had been waiting for that. It was good:

The group included our haus meri,  Juli, who has been managing our household for twenty-seven years, freeing Eunie to concentrate on her work. I also invited Sisilia, our next-door neighbour, to sing with the ladies.

When William Butler, one of the senior members of our organisation and a friend who knew Eunie far better than most rose to speak about Eunie’s work, I fell apart again as he began to read John 3:16  in Waran, the language in which he has been working for over thirty years. I can not imagine a more fitting way to represent the focus of all of Eunie’s efforts, bringing the message of the Gospel to the people of Papua New Guinea in their heart languages.

William was his usual eloquent self. Through my sobs I heard him speak with admirable skill and the great passion of a true friend. When he was finished I was exhausted for the moment and feeling very grateful to him for such a beautiful tribute to my wife.

I wish that I had an image of Mike Cassell delivering the eulogy which he wrote for Eunie. A great number of the Madang “family” were present on Saturday. I know that all who were there appreciated Mike’s honest and loving portrayal of Eunie’s life and her many contributions to the welfare and happiness of the community. Again, I was overcome.

Paradoxically, some good things are made more powerful and meaningful because they are hard to endure. Saturday was a hard day for me, and for my friends. It freshened the wound of our loss and brought back anew the sadness we feel when denial is subdued and we realise once again that we will never again see the radiant smile and hear the joyous laughter of our Eunie. And yet, there was benefit for all of us. We had our opportunity to collectively remember and celebrate a life well lived. We could pool our grief and leave some of it in that place, ready to proceed with our lives while carrying Eunie home in our memories.

It was a good day.

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16 Responses to “Sympathy and Remembrance”

  1. Nancy McDonald Says:

    Uncle Arnie the service sounded like it went beautifully. Yes it was a good day and we will all with you keep her close in our hearts. Her beautiful smile and infectious laugh can not be forgotten. You posted earlier about Neil Diamond. Gina(my friend)and I saw him at the IL State Fair along time ago with Aunt Eunie, Mom and Dad and Mary and Uncle Jim. I still remember how excited she was and happy she was just watching him come out on the Rhine Stone covered horse. They are wonderful memories and I will never forget them. Take Care Love and hugs

  2. Jim Davis Says:

    Jan, you don’t know how much I wanted to be there with you all. Not that my being there would have in any way lessened the grief, but I wanted to grieve with you, my friend. My heart was there, and is still, grieving and also joyous for a life well lived…a life that was a blessing to many. We may make it back one day, and I know it just won’t be the same…Blessings to you. Jim

  3. MadDog Says:

    Wow, Nancy, I remember Eunie talking about that night many times. She had such a wonderful time. Thanks for bringing up that memory for me. I’m having a hard time reaching them now. I know that they will come to me someday. Thanks for the hugs.

  4. kristy Says:

    Jan, thank you again for your open and honest writing. Know that you more than likely had many people there in heart rather than presence. It is a weird thing to say, but I am glad that your grief is finding a physical release.
    Your eloquent words and photos are a wonderful lesson in love, joy, and grief. Thank you again for being so open, here on your blog.

  5. ZydecoDoug Says:

    Jan, I hope you know and realize just how many of us were there in spirit on Saturday from half a world away, since we couldn’t be there in person. Awesome doesn’t even begin to convey our shared feelings of loss, sympathy and admiration.

    In so many ways, earthly and beyond, let’s not forget that we’ve all gained an angel whose wings are wide and proud, and, well, full of life.

    But, of course, you already knew that, sir.

    Blessed are those who have been blessed by the truly blessed.

  6. Sharon Peaker Says:

    How amazing! You mention your Haus Meri, Juli. I imagine it is the same lady who worked for me at the Lutheran Compound during our time in Madang. She found the trek to the compound a little wearing and quit but not before bringing a very good substitute in Sabet who worked for us until we left for the highlands. A very strong and capable woman is Juli. Please pass on my greetings to her.

  7. Madcap Maven Says:

    Jan, you are so expressive, and you honor both God and Eunie with the words you use. And while admired from afar, you two ARE admired, and even more so because of a life well lived. There were many hearts present that were not seen, many eulogies delivered that were not heard by those in attendance; and at such a time as we are all together, we may be amazed all over again at how much “touch” we’ve each had in life. Appreciating your touch through your words. I’m big on hugs, so feel them coming your way.

  8. Bill Spinks Says:

    ….I echo Madcap Maven, and others. Just feeling really privileged to have made your virtual acquaintance.

  9. MadDog Says:

    Sharon, I’ll have to ask Juli if she worked in your home. She certainly remembers you. When I mentioned that Eunie’s memorial marker would be on Kranket Island next to Bob, she knew exactly what I was talking about.

  10. MadDog Says:

    Doug, I am realising more and more how many people, many of whom I have never met but who read my journal, are following events and walking down this bumpy road with me for a way. It is something completely beyond my experience. Your words are quite eloquent. I’m picturing Eunie as an angel. It’s not very difficult.

  11. MadDog Says:

    Madcap, I have enjoyed so many virtual hugs lately (and not-so-virtual) that my virtual arms are aching. It’s a wonderful ache.

    I find it very easy, once I’m on a roll, to express my feelings via the written word. It sometimes reads corny to me, but that’s okay, because I’m a reductionist and I don’t care much about making things more complicated than they absolutely must be. This is something which came to me only later in my life, with the aid of much practice. Perhaps it arrives as part of the blessing of lowered testosterone levels; I don’t know. Whatever facilitated it, I’m glad for it. I have found that writing down what I feel and exposing it freely to others allows me to more carefully define exactly what it is that I do feel. It is much the same with the less emotional ruminations. Writing down what I think about a subject helps me to figure out what what I actually do think or believe. Much of it does, after all is said and done, turn out to be belief instead of fact, so it may as well be presented that way.

    The presence of “many hearts” and the quiet delivery of “many eulogies” is a very interesting way of describing the phenomenon of Eunie’s second memorial service. I was very much aware that many people gave some thought to that event, something that might not ordinarily have happened, except for the open way in which I have presented the events of the last few months. As I think of this I wonder how many unseen spirits were there.

  12. MadDog Says:

    Well, Bill, you can be forgiven for tagging along with Madcap, given the wonderful, thoughtful remarks you have left for us to savour in the past. Sometimes brevity and a simple “Amen, Sister!” is more than sufficient.

    I’ve thought a lot about “virtual friendships” in the two years or so since I signed on to Facebook. I did so on a lark and didn’t think that I’d hang around. Now that I’ve been here for a while, I’m finding myself very appreciative of it. I have met a few Facebook friends and looked into their eyes and felt their touch. I have not been disappointed. Possibly some people are more honest and open with virtual friends than they are with flesh and blood.

    Why should this be? Maybe it has to do with less exposure to hurt, betrayal or loss; I don’t know. It’s interesting to think about, anyway.

  13. Steven Says:

    Hey Jan. What a lovely, moving post. As hard as it was, I think you were given a wonderful opportunity to work through your grief and be loved by others, and that is indeed a great gift. Big love and metta to you, and Sarah sends her love too.


  14. MadDog Says:

    Steven, it’s a good thing for me that I have had so much support of my friends. I was surrounded by people who love me. Comforting hands reached out to touch me. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been without that love.

  15. Ahna Says:

    I wish we could have been there. I know the family here was wondering if there was a church you all were still affiliated with that would have a service for Eunie. We wanted so bad to have one but did not know how or what to do. So we all remembered her in our own way.

  16. MadDog Says:

    Ahna, the Chapel at Divine Word University was the only place in town which was appropriate for the service. The University was very gracious in allowing it use and preparing everything for the service. We had no luck in finding a church here which we enjoy attending.

    I got messages from many people who could not come but told me that they would remember Eunie as we were conducting the service.