Monday, August 5, 2013

Appreciation (51) – Sail away…a part memorial
Torrey Orton
August 5, 2013

Honouring them…

 I seem assailed by death these days – five more and less close acquaintances cut down in the last month by that fate which advancing age ensures: Adele, Adrian, Alistair, Barry, and John. Their all being within 3 years of my age probably amplifies the impact. Whichever, matters of the end game are more prominent for me and us these days.  After the most recent funeral, Jane wondered if I’d like particular music at my funeral. This was not a matter I’d considered, nor have I since her question.

I replied to that effect and corralled the issue of my funeral with a lasso made of my indifference. I won’t be around to enjoy it. But then, I did the same with my 70th birthday, so maybe there’s a development opportunity in the matter of my recognising me. It just seems a bit clunky to celebrate naturally occurring events. What do I do to deserve any recognition for that?


However, at Adrian’s funeral a couple of resoundingly nice things happened in his honour, which are giving me second thoughts, since funerals are for the living of course. One was the series of slide and music presentations which supported contributions from his wife, children, and eldest grandson. These provided well shaped, recognisable chunks of his life, the multi-media offers making the impact deeper.

The other was the finale, announced by his eldest grandson and marshalled by son Casey. For each of the 150+ persons present on the day there was a helium filled balloon from a small rainbow of colours, each with a long trailing ribbon. We moved slowly out of the meeting room towards the jetty into the Barwon River, taking 10 minutes to get assembled outside in the steady 20kph breeze blowing in the midday sun. Casey came last, gathering a cluster of a dozen or so mixed balloons tied together by the ribbons wound into a single dreadlock.

He urged us all towards the end of the jetty and closed an imagined doorway from the shore with his fullest self. Suddenly he led “three cheers for Adrian” followed by us masses and then said “go” or something sufficiently to that effect that the people at the furthest distance from him began releasing their balloons, the rest of us following until only Casey was left with his. He let his go and by then there was a flurry of tail-waving balloons sailing away to the south, with Casey’s cluster more grandly pursuing them, held somewhat still by it bulk and single tail…looking more and more like a person as it receded into the distance, preceded by the bits of us that belonged to Adrian. That’s an evocation.

A different one had occurred for me at Barry’s three weeks earlier. His was a traditional (is there any such anymore?) Uniting Church service with similar numbers to Adrian’s (not a competition; a sizing) which reminded me how far I am from such connections, while at the same time reminding me of my Protestant Christian background. It was, of course, the hymns which did that, though mainly by not being church music I knew. The impact was provided by an opera quality and volume female voice in the row behind me – the kind of voice which cannot be denied: right on all musical counts, strangely placed in a pew rather than the choir its quality. The service also reminded me of a part of him I knew about but which was almost never visible in our work 40 years ago or over last 5 years on psychology committees, except as a robust ethical perception of the everyday which shaped the world around him.

1 comment:

  1. From the Australian Government Dept of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population & Communities Website-
    "Turtles, marine mammals and sea birds can be severely injured or die from entanglement in marine debris, causing restricted mobility, starvation, infection, amputation, drowning and smothering.

    Seabirds entangled in fishing lines, fragments of fishing nets, plastic packing straps or other marine debris may lose their ability to move quickly through the water, reducing their ability to catch prey and avoid predators; or they may suffer constricted circulation, leading to asphyxiation and death.

    Fishing line debris, nets and ropes cut into the skin of marine mammals or turtles, leading to infection or the amputation of flippers, tails or flukes.

    Marine species can confuse plastics including bags, rubber, balloons and confectionery wrappers with prey and swallow them. This debris can cause a blockage in the digestive system.

    Turtles are known to eat plastic bags, confusing them with jellyfish, their common prey.

    Sea birds eat polystyrene balls and plastic buoys, confusing them with fish eggs and crustaceans, and whales are also known to eat plastic debris".

    I know it sounds lovely to release balloons into the 'wild blue yonder' but it's not. As well as the balloons themselves the ribbons and the plastic sealers also turn up on beaches and in the stomachs and around the flippers, necks and feet of marine life.

    I know it's your funeral but........