Thursday, 23 December 2010

Funerals, Poems, Hymns, Jokes, Star Trek and Books

The funeral last week was a sad … moving time … but not without hope. At the beginning the 10cc song Rubber Bullets was played. The vicar is a lady … Sally knows her fairly well. Michael was well known for his love of animals … the first hymn was All things bright and beautiful. Louise, the vicar, read words from Michael’s dad, mum and sister. This was, for me, the most moving part of the day. In amongst the sadness, many happy memories were shared.

Louise spoke about Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Jesus. And especially of the words if only and Jesus wept. The futility of the if only and the specialness of the weeping. She even gave the outline of a Vicar of Dibley joke … just the outline because the whole thing wasn’t quite suited to the occasion … the one about the nun and the blind man. She said it was the only one she could remember … something that we have in common. It's really worth watching ... even if you've seen it before:

There was a poem … the text is is:

He is Gone
You can shed tears that he is gone,
Or you can smile because he lived,
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left.

Your heart can be empty because you can't see him
Or you can be full of the love that you shared,
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember him and only that he is gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on,
You can cry and close your mind be empty and turn your back,
Or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

I think that these words capture something special and positive that can be taken from death … by focusing more on life.

And the hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind … which is one that would make me cry at times - even on happy occasions. I remember the first time I heard it … in a music lesson at school when I was aged … perhaps 14 … selected by Janet Taylor as her favourite hymn when the music teacher was asking people for favourites. Janet Taylor, has, I think, had a previous mention elsewhere in this blog … she wore the shortest skirt in the class.

I still find the hymn very moving.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways.
Re-clothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives thy service find,
In deeper reverence praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard,
Beside the Syrian sea,
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
Rise up and follow thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with thee
The silence of eternity,
Interpreted by love.

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still small voice of calm.

There was also The Lord is my Shepherd.

At the end, The Eagles with Hotel California.

And then the drive to the crematorium. And back to the church for a while.

A few days ago I was watching an old episode of Star Trek – The Next Generation. It had to be an old one, I guess, since there aren’t any new ones. The title is The Bonding.and a big part of it is about coping with bereavement. This scene, in particular, is – to me at any rate – quite thought provoking:

The Bonding

The dialog between Data and Ryker is:

D: Excuse me sir, am I intruding?

R: No, sit down.

D: How well did you know Lieutenant Aster?

R: We spent some time together. Not very well. How well did you know her?

D: Why do you ask?

R: Well you just asked me.

D: But, why do you ask the question? Since her death I have been asked several times to define “How well” I knew Lieutenant Aster. And I heard you ask Wesley on the bridge “How well” he knew Jeremy. Does the question of familiarity have some bearing on death?

R: Do you remember how we all felt when Tasha died?

D: I do not sense the same feelings of absence that I associate with Lieutenant Yarr. Although I cannot say precisely why.

R: It’s just human nature, Data.

D: Human nature sir?

R: We feel a loss more intensely when it’s a friend

D: But should not the feelings run just as deep regardless of who has died?

R: Maybe they should, Data. Maybe if we felt any loss as keenly as we felt the death of one close to us human history would be a lot less bloody.

How right they are.

Today the book that Dani recommended arrived A New Kind of Christianity so I’m looking forwards to reading that over the coming days … though I think it might be a struggle to keep it away from Sally who has expressed an interest in reading it.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Pink Punters, Surrey Swans, TV Dinners, Ten Pin Bowling, Fingernails, Life, Death and Ecclesiastes

Since last writing things have been busy in a mostly nice kind of way.

Pink Punters on 4th December with Laura was a really nice evening. For a surprisingly long time we felt a little like the only TV’s in the village … but as the evening progressed more people arrived.

The photographer for the evening took these:

Laura and Andrea


And again …



The originals being here and here. And lots of the whole evening being here.

We talked a fair bit about life and the universe and things. Things that matter to us. Where we’ve come from. And the at peace kind of feeling that we have in being able to be ourselves.

It’s kind of interesting … we both see ourselves as transvestites and not transsexuals … and yet we bot feel that the girl in us is much nicer than the guy. Somehow there’s a sense of peace in Andrea that isn’t quite there in the masculine side of me.

There were no unusual incidents in the ladies.

On one trip to the dance floor a guy waved at me for some reason and we danced a little with a few of the girls there. A girl said she liked my dress a lot and asked where I’d got it … and we admired each others shoes.

A guy that had drunk rather a lot … or at least it seemed that way … came and sat beside Laura and started chatting. It wasn’t easy to make out what he was saying. After he put his hand on Laura’s leg a couple of times she explained to him he needed to keep his hands to himself. So he wandered off. No unpleasantness. And … well … Laura does have very nice legs.

We headed back to the hotel a little before 4:00 am so it was a relatively early night as nights at Pink Punters go.

The Sunday before that had been an evening at the Surrey Swans. Good to catch up a little with Billie and Kathie, Tina and Emma and others.

The Tuesday after (December 7th) was a Christmas TV dinner at Billie and Kathie’s. As always … excellent food and company. Nikki was there and had plenty to share about trips to all kinds of interesting places. It was great to see Laura, Julia, Tina and Katie as well as others. I was all red and white.. I’d borrowed a Christmas hat of Sally’s to wear so it was quite funny and sweet to see Laura wearing a very similar one. You know the kind … red with white fur trimmings and a white ball kinda thing hanging from the pointy bit. I think it was Nikki that said something about it being impolite to play with each others balls. We just smiled in an innocent girlie kind of way.

Last Saturday we were invited out to the Sunningdale Savoy Chorus Gilbert & Sullivan and Christmas Music evening by Anne and David. Two lovely people that Sally met quite a log time ago and I’ve known for quite a few years now as well. I occasionally help them out when they have computer problems and they are so sweet … they absolutely insist on making contributions to what Anne affectionately refers to as my “dresses fund”. The music was very good. The MC introduced one of the Christmas songs as being one of his favourites … In the Bleak Midwinter. This was also one of mine in days gone by. Especially the verses:

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

These days I sit and listen to songs such as this … quietly wondering.

Towards the end of the evening we sat and drank and chatted a while. David and I wondered a little about where everything came from … big bangs … infinite universes … butterfly effects. And decided that really … we have no idea. Life is such a tenuous kind of thing.

Sally and I had some difficult words. I wish I was more Andrea more of the time. Not so much in a dressed up or made up kind of sense.

Yesterday the company night out was at a bowling alley in Slough. Ten pin bowling is not good for a girls fingernails … even when the girl is a guy. But … I scored a lifetime best … and top score of the evening. But … my poor nails. 

On Thursday is the funeral of Michael. His mum is staying with us tonight and tomorrow. There are no words to say. Perhaps there is a God that can help us all make sense of it someday. Over Christmas I’ll have a chance to read the book recommended by Dani that will, perhaps, help me make some kind of sense of it.

Life is such a mixture. It reminds me of a passage in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible:

To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; 
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; 
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; 
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; 
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; 
A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; 
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; 
A time of war, and a time of peace.

Or as it is here:

Somehow though, I think the thing is to try and work out some kind of way to have some kind of inner peace in all of this. But I don’t know how to do that.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Alone or together?

This afternoon I took a late lunch break and a walk.

It’s cold here at the moment … though the term “cold” is a relative kind of one. A friend in Norway told me that it was –15 degrees C there … making here seem quite warm.

Every so often when I’m walking I wonder about things. In a kind of random way, I guess.

I still kind of struggle with the concept of God. Some of the thoughts …

What’s the point of life? Where does it come from? Does it go anywhere?

How come Paul the apostle got to have a visit from Jesus on the Damascus road whilst most people have a whole lot less evidence to base eternity upon?

How could God be aware of everyone … everywhere … all at the same time … and be interested in them?

Last night I took a look at the King James Version website guest book to see what was new there.

People concerned about the possibility of losing their salvation. Of weather a lady is allowed to wear pants. Not a million miles away from me wondering if a guy is allowed to wear lipstick and a skirt.

These are all pretty basic questions that I used to have answers to. Kind of.

I have answers to less of them now. And the answers to some are different than they used to be.

Tonight when I got home my daughter Katie broke the news that the son of a friend had been found dead today. Sally was out at the boy’s grandmothers. No one knows details of the cause yet.

A lady that used to teach Sarah and Katie died of cancer just recently.

I guess I am in a sombre mood. Not depressed. But sombre.

Last Sunday, at the Surrey Swans I was chatting with Laura and mentioned the conversation I’d had with Jan and Jan’s husband at the wedding the other week.

Laura asked me if it was the fact that I’m a TV that causes me problems with the idea of God and / or the Church.

As my friend Dani mentioned to me recently, God is not the Church and the Church is not God.

As I said to Laura, it’s not just the TV thing. There are other things as well. I think they are associated more with the Church concept of God than necessarily with God. But in lots of ways they are problems with my own concept of God based on my own beliefs when I was involved with the Church. So it’s a little mixed up.

For example. These days I don’t think that all manifestations of pornography are bad. I know that some are. But so are some cups of coffee and pairs of trainers (sneakers) when they have been made by people that are oppressed. Neither do I think all people that work within the sex industry are bad people engaged in badness. Again, I know that some are, but my guess is that people involved in the arms trade do a lot more damage to people than the average person that works in the sex industry.

In my church days pornography was bad … even though I used it. I believed that God thought it was bad. So I felt very guilty about it.

So … these days I’m not able to easily get alongside the Church and the God that I once knew.

It’s curious in a way. Over the past few years, for the first time in my life I think, I’ve learned to be happy with who I am.

Yet I feel that the God that I used to believe in wouldn’t be happy at all.

And it’s not easy for me to conjure up a God that is ok with me as I am.

So … I’m a lost kind of Andrea.

But yet, I’m not unhappy. 

For the moment my purpose in life, I think, is to be myself and to live life in all of it’s fullness … which, actually, is almost a Biblical kind of thing.

Tonight though, at this moment, I feel a great sadness for Cathy and John and Phillipa.

Maybe one day it will make some kind of sense.

A song by Julie Matthews from the CD Hitting the Ground Running (Chris While and Julie Matthews) :

Somewhere I walk alone

by Julie Matthews

Somewhere east of here

There is a storm coming down

Oh the hatches battened down

In some sleepy town

Someone’s life is shattered

Into pieces on the ground

Oh somewhere east of here

There is a storm coming down

Somewhere west of here

There is a baby still born

Oh the mother is forlorn

How to carry on

Or fill her empty arms

When all she dreamed about is gone

Oh somewhere west of here

There is a baby is still born

I could be anyone or everyone

I could be anywhere or everywhere

In this lottery of life

With all the cards we draw

Somewhere I walk beside you

Somewhere I walk alone

Somewhere north and south

There are two strangers that will meet

Somewhere in between

Fated it would seem

Drawn together here by chance

Or pulled by destiny

Oh somewhere north and south

There are two strangers that will meet

I could be anyone or everyone

I could be anywhere or everywhere

In this lottery of life

With all the cards we draw

Somewhere I walk beside you

Somewhere I walk ...

I could be anyone or everyone

I could be anywhere or everywhere

In this lottery of life

With all the cards we draw

Somewhere I walk beside you

Somewhere I walk alone

It’s curious isn’t it. I just switched on the music system … it’s playing random selections from a USB stick with over 30 CD’s on it … and it just chose this song as I pasted the lyrics into this entry.

At the concert I was at last month Julie explained a bit of where this song came from.

It reminds me a little of the concept of infinite Andrea’s.

Just a few days ago on a different walk I thought of how the seemingly trivial and unimportant things we do and decisions that we make actually change the affect the whole of our history … future. The people we meet. Marriages. Children. A butterfly effect kind of thing.

Chance and destiny.

Calvinism and Arminianism.