Tuesday, April 22, 2008

the carbon footprint

I received my gas bill today.

I was somewhat bemused to note that during the past 63 days, I have used a mere 81c worth of gas.

Of course, the total bill comes to much more than that, as there is a supply charge of just over $20 for this billing period, which means that approximately 96% of my bill is due to supply charge, and only 4% is actual energy usage.

This seemingly ludicrous situation comes about because the only gas appliances I have are my stove and heater. Since I haven't used the heater in the past 2 months, this means I have done 81c worth of cooking in the past 2 months,... although the percentages will change very soon, as the weather gets chilly, and I start to use the heater again.

Unfortunately, my electricity bills are not quite in the same ball park as my gas bills (if only! :-)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The year of firsts...

Chronologically, today is halfway through the first year after Dad's death.

As far as the Year of Firsts goes, we have been through the First:

  • Christmas (25 Dec)
  • My birthday (31 Dec)
  • New year (1 Jan)
  • Wedding Anniversary (26 Jan)
  • Easter
  • Dad's birthday (4 April)

Still to come, is the First:

  • Mum's birthday (22 May)
  • Father's Day (7 Sept)
  • Anniversary of Dad's death (16 Oct)
  • Anniversary of Dad's funeral (23 Oct)

Liturgy for the Scattering of Ashes

This is the liturgy I used for the ritual when we scattered Dad's ashes.

Ceremony for the
Scattering of Ashes
4th April 2008

We Are Here

Neville always said that he didn’t want a fancy funeral, but wanted to meet his end floating down the creek in a cardboard box. This ritual today is our way of honouring his wish as best we can.

We are here because this is a special place for us,

a place which will always carry for us memories of Neville,

the one we loved.
Let us remember him.
(a silence is kept as people remember, or brief memories about the place and its connection with Neville are shared)

Today we will make this a place which will always be sacred for us
because it holds the ashes of our family member and friend.
This will be part of our farewell

and a sign of the setting free of Neville to leave us,

and enter into his next journey,

whatever that may be.

Scattering the Ashes

Let us look at the beauty of this place

which will today receive Neville’s ashes.
It waits to receive them as a gift for its future life.
It will be the joining of this one life with the life of the universe.
We will scatter these ashes as those

who are now prepared to let Neville go

even as we still grieve.

Before we do that, let us pray:
Loving God, today our minds are filled with memories of Neville.

So much of the life we shared together has come flooding back,
and the pain of separation is reawakened.
On this day, his birthday, when the feeling of loss is so acute,

may our sense of your loving care be very strong.

We thank you that the shared experiences that grew out of our life with
Neville are still enriching our relationships with others,

and pray that this simple ceremony will help us all

on our own journeys of grieving and healing.

The Scattering

We will scatter these ashes

as those who are now prepared to let Neville go,

even as we grieve.
We will let him go, so that he will return to us in a new way;

as gentle memory… as unexpected presence…

as love and laughter in many forms.
(a silence is kept)

We will now scatter these ashes

and send Neville on the great journey into universal life,

life which is as free as these ashes floating in the air,

one with the turbulent waters of the creek, and as light as sunshine.
We now send Neville into life

which is as strong as our hopes

and as lively and as wide as the sea.

Our love gathers around these ashes as they go,

not because they could ever hold the whole being of Neville,

whose life and spirit

could never be contained in a few small ashes,

but because they are small echoes of the one we have loved

and go on loving.

I now invite you all to take a handfull of ashes and scatter them

into the creek and over the surrounding bush.
(the ashes are scattered. After everyone has scattered a handfull, Isobel scatters the remaining ashes to empty the container)

Travel safely and well, Neville.

We will follow you with the flowers that you loved so much,

to go with you on your way

and in celebration of our love for you

and who you will always be for us.
(orchids are thrown into the creek, after which people move up to the garage workshop)

The Sending Out

From now on, when we see this plaque in this place,

may it be a reminder to us of this ceremony,

and the sacredness of this place,
and the creek where we scattered Neville's ashes.

May the gentle rain visit this place with its greening of life,

may the winds of freedom move in delight among the trees around it

and connect its breathing and growing with the spirit of Neville.
May the sun on the water be bright with hopes for all that is to come

and the calm moon cherish all life with gentleness.
May the waters of the creek flow along their course

with love every day,

just as we have loved our husband, father and friend,
and as he has loved us.

Let us go in peace.

(Based on a liturgy in Rituals for Life, Love & Loss by Dorothy McRae-McMahon.
Prayer adapted from Uniting In Worship)

6 month anniversary

I have been feeling a little guilty about the fact I have been neglecting my blog... mainly because I'm kind of busy with reading for study and other stuff, (so maybe I shouldn't feel all that guilty after all).

Today is a good day to revisit and resume my writing, as it is the six-month anniversary of my father's death. Six months. So hard to believe. At one level, the time has flown so quickly that it's hard to believe we are already half way through the "Year of Firsts", but at another level, life has been pretty full and busy, so it also feels like there is quite a bit of distance from the month I spent in Sydney when Dad died.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I would write about my time in Sydney, so I guess now is as good a time as any to do that. I went to Sydney after class on Wed 2nd April, and returned on the afternoon of Mon 7th. During my time there, I went with Mum to visit the solicitor in the city, as she had drafted a new will, and had also arranged documents to give me power of attorney and guardianship, so that I will be able to look after both her financial needs and general health and wellbeing if she is ever unable to do that for herself in the future.

On Friday 4th April (Dad's birthday), we had a ceremony to scatter Dad's ashes. There were 10 of us present in total (both pairs of next-door neighbours, my aunt and cousin from Newcastle and Dad's cousin and her husband, all of whom are beautiful people who have been very close to Mum and supportive of her since Dad died, so it was nice to share this special time with them).

I led the ceremony, using a liturgy I modified for the occasion from Dorothy McRae-McMahon's book of Rituals for Life, Love and Loss. I'll post the liturgy in another blog entry later. There were a couple of moments when I almost lost the plot and burst into tears, but on the whole I managed to keep things together, and those present said they appreciated the meaningfulness of the ritual.

After we scattered the ashes in the creek at the bottom of the back yard, we followed them with some orchids, Dad's favourite flower. Mum got enough for us each to have a spray of small white orchids, which we cast into the water of the creek.

After the ritual, we all shared a lunch of various finger food and cake, as a low-intensity way to spend some time together to 'come back to earth' after the emotion of the ritual.

I was exhausted, and was dozing at the table, so Mum instructed me to lie down, which I did on the lounge, and was out to it for an hour or two. I hadn't realised how physically exhausting the emotional intensity of the occasion would be. But overall, it was a good time, and an important next step for us all in the process of grieving Dad's loss, and remembering him.

My aunt and cousin from Newcastle stayed with us Thurs and Friday nights, and it was nice to spend some time catching up with them both during that time. I also had the chance to catch up with a friend and her family (and go to church with her) on Sunday, which was also an enjoyable occasion (even though our lunch was a little surreal, as we had to dine by candlelight, as the cafe, and the whole shopping centre surrounding it, were in the midst of a power failure. But despite this, the cafe proprietors were going out of their way to still provide service to customers... lucky their fryer and grill were powered by gas! :-)

So, overall, my trip to Sydney was brief, emotional, but satisfying, and I'm glad I went, and that Mum and I decided to hold the ceremony on Dad's birthday. Using that date helped to add some depth to the ritual, and to provide some extra salve for what would have been a pretty sad day for us anyway.

It was interesting, tonight, I was involved in a Bible study group at church, and we talked (among many things) about death, and how our society seems to be afraid of death. Many people just don't want to talk about the fact that someone close to them has died, and there is an avoidance thing happening.

I suppose that I'm one of the lucky ones, who had a good and healthy relationship with my Dad, and so whilst his death was painful, and it's sad and hard that he's not around any more, I really have no regrets. There were no things left unsaid, or unresolved between us, and I saw him only a month before he died, when I visited Sydney during the mid-semester break last September (and he was quite his normal self then). When he was dying, I also arrived in time to see him whilst he was still conscious and lucid, and aware that I was there. So, as far as such things go, I feel pretty fortunate, but that doesn't mean I don't cry (and in fact am crying now as I write this)... but it's all good and healthy, and a natural part of my ongoing grieving process.

I'm grateful that there are people in
both my life, and in Mum's who are not afraid of tears, and understand that it's OK for us to still cry a bit when we think of Dad, because it's a natural and healthy part of our ongoing grief, which will be with us both for some time yet.