Celebrating

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 23rd, 2011 by MadDog
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Today is Eunie’s birthday. She would have been sixty-seven. That is very young according to my way of thinking and today’s standards. The significance of this day was upon our minds as we went about our tasks in Grace’s office this morning. I was playing vintage Eagles songs on Eunie’s old Toshiba laptop computer as I answered emails. Grace was cleaning out a too-full closet, surrounded by memorabilia and nearly forgotten works of art. Yesterday and this morning we had talked of making this a day to bring back sweet memories of a woman we both loved. It was to be a time of celebration.

I wanted to make this a singular day in the short, choppy history of this, my online diary. As I sat there listening to the words of Peaceful Easy Feeling Grace came to me with a small packet of greeting cards. She told me that she had been saving them until she saw Eunie again. She had sent them to Madang for Eunie’s birthday last year, but they were, for reasons known only to God and the Papua New Guinea Royal Postal Service, returned to her noted as undeliverable. One card was marked with a sticky note, “For Eunie”. Another was marked “For Arny to give to Eunie”. I did not know that my day was about to be put on hold for a while.

Grace’s message to Eunie was, “When we take time to dream we discover the many windows to our soul.” The image on the card and the message were pure Grace:

What started as a playmate relationship at the age of four grew into a friendship which was not defeated even by death. On the day after Eunie died Grace wrote on Eunie’s Facebook wall nine messages. I saw them for the first time today. I am going to write them here, because it is fitting that a lifetime of friendship be acknowledged by witnesses:

I need to say this: It took me until just before she was married to realize she was “Beautiful”. But, her incredible blue eyes could command the world. I guess I took her for granted as kids. We laughed, cried, used our imaginations and explored the truths of childhood and adolescence.

We have been woven together in Divine Sequence – in and out of experiences – loss & success, ecstasy & tragedy. She was never surprised at my worst, but knew my capacity for excellence.

She is a “woman’s woman” – nurturing, observing, listening, shaping, kind and gentle – and strong, logical, intelligent, assertive and focused.

I have always admired her ability to set a course and empower those around her to move to the task ahead, Gentle and kind, but no nonsense, with genuine appreciation for help.

She sensed which things were good for this world and those things which are not. She had the courage to act accordingly in both behavior and speech.

I share, with many, the fact that my life was and is better for knowing Eunie. I do not believe our fabric is gone, there is still more weaving to do. Just her form.

But, I will soulfully miss that form. It is not easy NOT to hear that voice and laugh and direct council.

On this earth we have lived with “Seek yea the kingdom of God” and “Love one another” as absolutes. Not a bad way to live. Maybe the only joyful way.

Let all of us who appreciate and love Eunie join hands. We can encircle this earth and encase it with much needed love.

If there is such a thing as truly unconditional love, I believe that it existed between Grace and Eunie. Each of them experienced all of the good and bad which life offers. Each of them survived and was made stronger. Neither of them allowed their friendship to succumb to the handicap of separation. Through the years I heard of Grace so often that I sometimes felt that she was a next-door neighbor. When communication became slow Eunie would worry. “I have to call Grace. Something is wrong”, she would say. I was privileged to experience a similar depth of friendship with Grace for the better part of my life. Shortly after meeting Eunie and falling in love with her I met Grace and understood why Eunie always spoke of her with affection.

Yesterday it was hotter than the hubs of Hades in Sedona. “It’s a dry heat.”, they say. Well, it is dry and HOT. I can’t say that I’m bothered by it, having lived in Madang for so long. On most days I don’t really notice it. On the way back from Cottonwood we stopped at the Javelina Leap Vineyard so that I could sample some Arizona wines. I got this lovely shot of Grace under the unusually quirky signage:

The wine was rather ordinary. The company was exceptional.

In case you’re wondering what an Arizona vineyard might look like, here is a sample:

On the way back to Grace’s house we had to contend with the pesky Sedona landscape. It’s In Your Face all the time in Sedona:

In the evening the sky lit up. Grace said that she saw an “h” up there for “heaven”. I call it a stretch, but I give her an A for imagination:

I mentioned another card in the packet. It was the one which interrupted my day. On the card marked “For Arny to give to Eunie” are these words:

You are the rhythm
In my music
You are the drumbeat
Of my heart

I came unglued. I had the healthiest cry since Eunie died.

Happy birthday, Eunie. Thank you, Grace, for a lifetime of friendship.

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Sunset – Sunrise

Posted in Mixed Nuts, On Tthe Road on September 9th, 2010 by MadDog
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Man, this is hard. I don’t know how to write this. I just have to put one word in front of another. Eunie was one of those people who you feel like will be around forever. We know it’s not true, but we don’t want to think about not having her.

Yesterday morning, after only a couple of hours of discomfort, she asked for some stronger pain relief. Shortly afterwards she fell asleep and her breathing calmed and she was peaceful. Not long after that, her spirit departed her body.

It has been only a few weeks that we have known that Eunie was seriously ill. Eunie feared few things in life. She was one the most fiercely brave people I have ever known. She did not, however, want to have anything at all to do with pain. The fact that she left us so peacefully and without pain was a blessing to us all.

So, Eunie’s sunset in now complete. The lightning in the image above represents her amazing spirit.

After every sunset, there is another sunrise. This is the way the world turns. So it is with the spirit, as I believe. If I did not believe so, I would not be able to carry on. I carry on now because of this promise and because to falter and waste away would be a dishonour to Eunie.

Eunie’s sunrise must be truly glorious.

I have no more words for now. I don’t know what the next few days will bring. Hans is going back to his family in Canada tomorrow morning. I have my remaining support team here with me – Marg and Mick Horwood tonight at their house and Val Jerram, Rich Jones and Carol Dover who will be travelling to Gympie with me to Val’s home.

Sometime next week I will return to Madang. I both long for and dread it. I’ve never felt such conflicting emotions. To those in Madang:  you are getting back a shell of a man, but I have no fear that all will be well after a while. Life for me will never be “normal” – as it seemed before. I have to hang onto the hope that there will be a new sunrise for me.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I was stunned to see that there were 28 comments waiting for me this morning. I can’t possibly answer each one, but I do read every one.

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Reflections

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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Sometimes I just want to write, to let it flow. One of the things that has to be taken into account when one keeps such a personal disclosure of one’s life open to every Tom, Dick and Harry on the web is that not everybody wants to read the same material. Most of my posts are about things which I feel might be of general interest to a large audience. I try to use the same approach which I would use if I were sitting down to write a magazine article. Foremost in my mind is, “Don’t put them into a deep slumber.” Well, this one might be a slumber number for some, but that’s okay.

I have had some thoughts ruminating in my mind for some time. They have digested now and I’m nourished enough by them to have the chutzpa  to put them forth for judgement.  So, in no particular order, here they are, some Reflections:

The World – This shot is a bridge in Florence. I chose this series of thirteen photos more or less at random because they gave me images upon which to focus. I’m a very visual person. Images help me to put my thoughts in order.  I’ve been blessed by a life situation which has made it possible for me to travel to a great many places. The scenery changes. Some of it is breathtaking, some desolate, even hopeless. What does not change, however, is that most of it is filled with people. The amazing thing about people is that most of them are very much the same. We all have largely the same concerns. Nearly all of us have the same basic values. In every place I have visited I have seen those who were reflections of myself. This is not ego talking here. It is empathy. If all of us are so fundamentally the same, how can there be such strife? As the King said in Anna and the King of Siam,  it is “A puzzlement.”

Me – This could not be a MadDog post without, in some way, featuring MadDog. Everybody knows that “blogging” (BLOG – oh, how I hate that nasty four-letter Anglo-Saxon word) is simply an exercise of ego. At least I’m honest about it. Who am I? I don’t have a clue. All that I can know is that I am the sum of everything I have ever thought, done, or hoped for. There is good and bad there in each category. I think that there are few of us who do not wish to be loved and respected. Yet we sometimes act in ways that do not generate those emotions in those with whom we interact. I like to say that I have no regrets in life. This is a lie that I tell myself. Regrets? I have many. Why do we so often act in ways that are not truly in our own self interest. Possibly it is because we don’t understand what truly is beneficial to that end. I do not believe that human beings are naturally perverse. I believe that we are filled with a capacity for love that we simply cannot comprehend. I believe that we are easily confused by what life seems  to offer. We see the lies as truth and are seduced by them. Maybe we will grow out of this in a few thousand generations.

Friends – If there’s one thing (probably one of the few things) that I’ve really learned about life it is that relationships are all that ultimately matter. Good fortune, the trappings of the material life, health and even life itself come and go in ways that puzzle us. The only things that we can really control are our relationships. We can treasure them, nurture them and make them blossom and flourish. There is nothing else in life over which we have so much control. Therefore, we must be good stewards of them. All else is like grass. (I can’t take credit for that one. It’s a Biblical reference, slightly out of context.)

That’s my good friend Ian Dosser there examining a particularly fine brew. We seldom see each other these days, but friendship knows no distance or time.

Nature – Nature, which was formerly called, in more gentle times, “Natural History”, but has largely been consumed by the word “science” has always been a comfortable subject for me, though I did not have the patience and discipline to do the math. Yes, I’m a failed scientist. How I got through a university degree in Computer Science is a study of minor miracles. Without the constant tutoring of my old friend Daryoush Khalladeh I would have never gotten through the Calculus. I forgot it all as soon as I passed the course. How, as a person of faith, can I find ease and confirmation in science? Well, it’s simple. I believe in a very, very big God. Nothing that I believe has to be true simply because I believe it. Nothing that I disbelieve must be false simply because I can’t swallow it. I’m “seeing through a glass darkly.” Nature, for me is a reflection of something so big, so profound, so otherly, that it can only remind us of how much we don’t know. This is the great adventure, the great quest for truth about our world.

Family – Having been estranged from my parents for decades and having virtually no relationship with my brother, the very notion of family never acquired its proper dimension in my mind. Eunie’s clan became my surrogate family and I was adopted by them. After reconciling with my parents, I began to realise all that I had missed. There’s an old saying, “You can choose your friends, but you’re stuck with your family”. While true, it is not an excuse for cheating yourself out of the benefits of family. I should have tried harder to be tolerant when I felt rejection. I should have been less prideful. I should have taken the lessons I learned from Eunie’s family and applied them to the situation with my own. It’s sad that I did not do better. At the same time, I’m sad that much of the family seemed as dysfunctional as I. So much sadness . . . This is the last image I have of my father.


For nearly half of my life, while I’ve lived in Madang, my friends have been my family. If a group of friends who are geographically isolated from their biological families can get into this mode of thinking, it can be very rewarding. We love and care for each other as a family. The difference is that we chose  each other!

Animals – The relationship which we humans enjoy with animals seems one of the most magical things in life. The interactions with and the emotions I feel concerning my dog, Sheba, are inexplicable. When I’m riding a well-trained horse I feel a shared experience that escapes my ability to describe it. I know that these emotions are well beyond the thinking abilities of dogs or horses. They are simply reacting in ways which are a result of their conditioning. They also have the genetic codes built into them by thousands of generations of breeding to react to us in ways which please us. They really have no choice. Therefore is is our responsibility to be kind to them and respect their nature. In a very real sense they are our  creation. They are human-designed artificial animals. They are, if you will, our children.

Fun – What can I say? What would life be with the simple pleasure of play? Often an image speaks better than I can. Here Is my wife, Eunie, surprising our good friend Trevor Hatterrsley with a turn-around shoulder rub. Trevor is famous for his shoulder rubs. Note the hat. It is the same hat that is featured on my noggin in the side bar. Sometimes we have Silly Hat parties. Everyone is required to bring a silly hat or choose one from our growing collection. Enough said.

Moderation – The older I get, the more I think that excesses of nearly every kind, except those regarding love and kindness, are probably bad for me. We have so many gifts from which to choose. All of the good tangible things in life are available to us fortunate ones who live lives of relative comfort and financial security. Learning to partake of this plenty in ways that do not ultimately reduce the quality of my life has sometimes provided hard lessons for me. Another aspect of this is moderation of thought. My first impulse, upon seeing this image was to speak of the balance between optimism and pessimism – the old “half-empty half-full” quandary. This is yet another aspect of moderation. My attitude concerning how life is treating me needs to be balanced between hope and despair. I spent most of my life swinging wildly between the two. I’m blessed now that the swings are less jarring, less disruptive.

Beauty – Ah, beauty. It is no accident that the word came to mind when my eyes were scanning about 2,000 images while I was considering my thoughts for this post. Karen Simmons is a good friend, a lovely lady and the wife of Trevor Hattersley. I had the pleasure of presiding as the Celebrant at their wedding. It was one of the happiest days of my life. This image, though technically imperfect, is one of my all-time favourites and illustrates one small aspect of my concept of beauty. I can’t possibly explain all of the things that fit into the ideal of beauty for me. Certainly, much of the natural world is beautiful. Humans are beautiful – the human form has been celebrated as a focus of beauty since cave men carved Venus figures from stone. As a believer, it is only natural that I find the human form beautiful. Surely the “image of God” creation is not to be taken literally, but why should not the physical form reflect some tiny hint of the magnificence of the maker?

Home – The concept of home is another which came to me late in life. When I was a child, we lived in a house. When school was over for the day, we came “home”. However, to me the concept was ephemeral. I had no attachment to any particular place. Indianapolis, when I was growing up, was a hideous, coal-stinking, socially desolate place. It was highly segregated and racial tensions simmered always just under the lid. Coming to Madang nearly three decades ago modified my concept of home. I have a genuine attachment to a place. Madang feels like home, smells like home, tastes like home. Home is where my woman is. Home is where my friends are. Home is where my nest is made.

Tolerance – If I could pick one trait to erase from the human character, or at least tone it way down, it would be intolerance. I make no secret of my beliefs as a Christian. However, I don’t shove them down your throat either. It may seem odd that I chose this image of a fat-bellied, smiling Buddha half seen through the window of a Vietnamese restaurant in Honolulu with reflections of a hair salon across the hall to illustrate my premise. My babbling on about the evils of intolerance and the suffering which it causes would be not only pointless, but boring. Look at the world around us. How much grief is caused simply because we can’t stand the idea that somebody else has a different view of life or different opinion about some issue than our own? What if we could simply respect each other and focus on the issues on which we agree? The more we can find in common with each other, the easier it becomes to reason concerning our differences.

Everlasting Love – Yes, kiddies, it does exist. I could not possibly wrap up this pathetically sentimental collection of random thoughts without including this image. Keeping love alive for decades is sometimes hard work. But the payoff . . . Wow! There is simply no way you can appreciate the value of it when you’re starting out. Learning so many skills takes a while. Giving in when you know you are right. Forgiving mistakes that break your heart. Accepting forgiveness when you feel you don’t deserve it. Remembering that kindness and love are living, growing things which need constant nourishment. Learning to share, in the depths of the soul, the joys and  the despairs of your mate. Much of this does not come naturally to the human heart. It is learned behaviour.

To this list I would add a healthy dose of grim determination.  Sometimes the only thing that helps is to remember that a promise is a promise. There is a certain dignity and satisfaction that comes from deciding that you are simply not going to give up. No matter what. Not ever.

And that’s when you know that you are really in love.

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The New Big Cheese

Posted in Mixed Nuts on February 1st, 2010 by MadDog
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This a straight rip from our other site at Messersmith News. I’m posting it here because I know that many of you do not visit that site, but I want you to see this highly amusing and intensely gratifying news:

At the Annual General Meeting of The Pioneer Bible Translators Association of Papua New Guinea, Incorporated my wife, Eunice Messersmith was unanimously elected as the Director of the association.

Eunice has been my boss at the office for many years, since she was elected as the Director of Support Services a long time ago. As for who is boss at home, I’ll just say that we don’t have one. It’s been a partnership for forty-five years and that’s not going to change.

Eunice now holds three positions in the organization: Administrator of Finance, Director of Support Services and Director. She seems somehow to be able to juggle all of that, especially as she is learning that she can’t do it all herself and needs to delegate many tasks to others. This goes a little against her grain, but it leverages her management skills perfectly.

I can’t let this go without making a couple of personal remarks.

First, I wish that I could sit down and have a conversation with all of the people, mostly financial supporters, who have told us that we’re getting too old and need to “come home and retire”. Here in Papua New Guinea we live in a culture in which age is greatly respected and many people don’t really hit their peaks until they are well into their seventies and eighties. My question has always been, “Retire to do what?” Eunice and I have never been in better health, both mentally and physically. She does a gruelling aquarobics routine three day a week. I go SCUBA diving every Saturday and get plenty of exercise during the week. We are both working at least two jobs. Our lives are full, productive and interesting. Why should we possibly want to retire?

Second, who gets to control when you want to stop working, if you’re financially able to do so? I’ve seen too many people killed by retirement. Our culture here in PNG is a much better atmosphere for promoting a long, healthy and productive life.

Please, stop telling us to quit when we’re just hitting our stride.

God will tell us when it’s time. Some people may not want to spend their mission dollars to keep “old people” productive, but I’ve got news for them. God hasn’t told us to quit yet and we like what we’re doing. We’ll make it somehow, with God’s help, if even some no longer appreciate our contributions to the work.

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Cute

Posted in Humor, Mixed Nuts on October 27th, 2008 by MadDog
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You know those cute kitten websites where you can find sickeningly cute photos of baby cats by the thousands. People print them and hang them up next to their desk at their offices to lighten the load.

I can’t stand them – the cute kitten photos, not the people who hang them.

But, I’m feeling less cranky and irrationally opinionated for some reason this morning, so I’ll offer my own cute photos.

Want a cute cat? Here’s Fanci:

Fanci the cat

We came home from holiday one time to find that Juli, our haus meri had decided that she needed a cat. We’ve always had cats around. I like them and they keep the rats down to an acceptable level.

I like the way Fanci’s tongue is rolled up in a little “O” beneath her pink nose. That seems to pass for cute, eh?

Did you know that some people can do that and others absolutely cannot? I can do it, but it makes my tongue hurt. I read somewhere that it’s genetic. If you can’t do it, it’s not your fault – it’s in your genes. How nice. With all the horrible stuff toward which your genes can predispose you, there’s one that’s absolutely harmless. You’ll probably never suffer because you didn’t get the “Roll My Tongue Into an O ” gene.

I feel a little more sentimental about the next shot. It is, of course, our good friend and long-time dive buddy Carol. With Carol is Bunny2 (we called her Bunny for short):

Bunny2 and Carol

Sadly, Bunny2 made it only to about six months before falling victim to Parvovirus. We had given her all of the injections to prevent it. Not a single one of her litter survived longer. I hate Parvovirus.

We had a beautiful, sweet-natured dog named Bunny for thirteen years. It was hard when we lost her. Here’s a photo of Bunny the first towing a friend at Kranket Island beach:

Bunny the first and Britta

It looks cruel, but she loved it.

I used to think it was silly the way people who had no children at home would treat a pet almost as if it were their child. That was when I wasn’t in my 60’s and my son wasn’t half a world away.

Okay, dogs and cats are sometimes very cute. I admit it.

Babes are cute too. Here’s a couple of cute babes.

Meet the Eunice Messersmiths.

Confused?

Well, that’s not surprising. They are both named Eunice Messersmith:

Eunice Messersmith and Eunice Messersmith

It seems so odd that I sometimes think of this baby as my first great-grandchild. You see, Juli has been very much like a daughter to us. She raised her own children in our house, we paid their school fees (there is no free education in Papua New Guinea), and we’ve gone through all the trials and tribulations of raising children – for the second time – as a family of sorts. So when Juli’s daughter had this baby, I felt like a great-granddad.

I won’t have any trouble remembering her name.

Isn’t life funny?

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Triple Christening at the Beach

Posted in Madang Happenings on March 18th, 2008 by MadDog
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On Sunday, the 16th of March, we had a great family happening up at Blueblood. It seems a small mob of Cassell kids were in need of Christening.  Having the appropriate garb close at hand, Eunice and I trekked up the coast for the festivities.

Here we have (right to left) Daniel Cassell, Godfather to Charlotte Kate Cassell, James Cassell, Godfather to Nina Sue Cassell, William John Cassell, Jaculin Cassell (mother of the children), Charlotte Kate Cassell, Ben Cassell (father of the children), Nina Sue Cassell, and Mary-Jane Cassell, Godmother to Nina Sue Cassell. I’m on the far left.

Tripple Christening at Blueblood

Here’s Eunice and Di Cassell during the Christening. Di is holding her granddaughter, Natasha. Eunice is reading a poem written by Vanessa and Steve Ballard, Godparents to Nina and Charlotte.

Eunice, Di Cassell and Natasha

Here’s the some of the Cassell Clan with me after the Christening.

Cassell Clan and Pastor

I couldn’t pass up this one of Grandpa Mike (Pa) and grandson William.

Pa Mike and William Cassell

The usual mob of suspects were also present.  Here’s Ken McArthur looking so fine as he shows off his magnificent Pig Torture Device. What a clever mechanic. It all depends on an old washing machine motor.

Ken McArthur and his Pig Torture Device

Master Porcine Chef Trevor Hattersley was up at 4:00 AM with Pascal Michon to get the pig feeling nice and toasty warm.

Chef Trevor tending Porky’s firey demise

Our special guest, Porky, was so knackered by the time lunch came around that we decided to let him rest for a while with a good, cheap cigar and a beer.  CHEERS!

Porky Pig relaxing

Eunie and I want to thank Clan Cassell for the honour of participating in this wonderful family celebration of life.

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CWA Melbourne Cup Festivities 2007

Posted in CWA, Madang Happenings, Parties on November 7th, 2007 by MadDog
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This from Jan Messersmith:

We’ll do without all the jibber-jabber and get right to the pictures.  (It was a fun afternoon and was certainly much better than working.)

Getting straight to the winners, we have your humble webmaster as best-dressed man (no, I did not steal those clothes).  Next we have Maureen Hill with the best colour-coordinated outfit.  Then comes Daphne Mari with the best Classic Melbourne Cup hat.  Finally we see Kath Créne with her Best Local Style hat.

The winners

Speaking of hats, Eunice Messersmith did not win a prize, but it was noted that she brought her entire garden on her head.

Eunice’s Garden

Karen Simmons, our visitor all the way from Jolly Old England, presents us with a stunning example of un chapeau le plus formidable. (Okay, my French stinks.  You should hear my German – Ich spreche Deutsches, als ob ich eine Gans war.)

Stunning

Of course, we have to have the obligatory group photo:

Melbourne Cup Group

Finally, let’s pay tribute to the CWA staff, without whose cheerful help the party would have been scratched (and not because of equine flu).

CWA Staff

If you were wondering if anybody had a nice afternoon . . .  These two did!

Two Hats

CWA, thanks for a good time!

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