Category: Uncategorized

Jan
29

The New Year Begins

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So many of our families will have endured a tough milestone – Christmas with a loved one missing from the table. We spent some time thinking of those families who have entrusted us with the care of someone they love, and who will have been keenly feeling a loss. We hope that those families were being loved and supported, and lighting a candle for the one who is not with them this year.

It is a good reminder to all of us to reach out at these significant times of the year, to make sure nobody is feeling too alone or without friendship and care.

 


Jan
28

You just have to love Anne Lamott

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We often come across beautifully written pieces that we feel may helpful for our families as they deal with loss and grief. Anne Lamott just always seems to know what to say. We really enjoyed this very personal writing from her own experience…

Anne Lamott
16 January at 07:06 ·
When people we can’t live without die, everyone likes to quote John Donne, “Death be not proud.” Yeah yeah yeah, thank you for sharing. My father died of brain cancer when he was seven years younger than I am now. He was my closest person. I did not love it. My best friend died years ago, leaving behind an 18 month old daughter. She was my closest person. I did not love it, or agree to it, and just barely survived it.

My darling friend Ann Brebner passed away early Friday. (You were so incredibly generous to donate to the fund for her home-care. Your generosity has given me such huge abiding hope in Goodness and miracles. We were down to almost no money. She accidentally spent her life creating and directing plays, loving us crazily, laughing and listening to music, giving to charity, instead of investing.)

Maybe this passing seems less death-y, as she was 93. But believe me, she had done the dying part, the closing-up-shop part, the leaving-us part, just like everyone has to do. It’s death 101 for everyone here on the incarnational side of things: we do it with no owner’s manual (Death for Dummies?) , and at the end, alone. If I were God’s West Coast representative, I would have a different system in place, i.e. less mysterioso Ouija board enigma. More grok-able My grandson stood nearby her at church as she sometimes painstakingly got out of our car. He always called her Ann Brevner, one word. “Hi, Annbrevner!” I told him Friday night that she had passed, and his mouth dropped open. “AnnBREVNER died?” he asked. Then, “I wonder what that’s like? Dying?”

So I thought I would tell you what I know, because this thing, this aspect of reality, this weird scary aspect of life, can just wreck everything if you don’t figure out at some point that it is what makes life so profound, meaningful, rich, complex, wild. If you try to outrun this existential truth, with manic achievement and people-pleasing and exotic distractions, it begins to argue a wasted life. Everyone we love–and I am just going to add, in a whisper, even our children and nieces and nephews–will die. They will no longer be here, on this side of eternity. We Christians see death as just being a fairly significant change of address, but still, our most cherished people will no longer be here, to have and to hold, or reach by phone.

This can kind of ruin everything. When my son was little, he asked if we would die at the exact same moment. When I said, No, probably not, he wept, and then said, “If I had known that, I wouldn’t have agreed to be born.”

Do you want to have instant meaning and incentive and almost heartbreaking appreciation in your life? Live, starting now–as if you have three months left. At some point, this will true. Tick tock.

But won’t death be scary? Annbrevner’s wasn’t. Just weird. Her death, like every passing I have witnessed, was beautiful, gentle, sometimes hard and confusing, and completely doable. At some point, for almost everyone, it is like being in labor. Especially if, like me, dilated 7 centimeters after 24 hours of labor, you realized you didn’t like children. But in both cases, birth and death, something beautiful is coming. Ram Dass said death would be like FINALLY getting to take off the too-small shoes we had been wearing our entire lives. Think of that. Getting to rub those sore arches and wiggle those baby toes, after all these year feeling cramped, like Chinese foot bound women, tiptoeing to minimize the pain.

But back to my grandson’s question, of what dying will be like, and why, I don’t think you need to be afraid:

So many people will surround you, your dearest family and friends, both the quick and the death–Ann’s father, who died fifty years ago was with her; her son who died last year was with her. And we were with her, encouraging and allowing her to be real, to share her deepest thoughts and and fears about what was happening to her, and how annoying liFe (and we) could be. The most important you can do if someone is dying? Show up; listen; nod.

And maybe even more important, we shared with each other our worries, memories, sorrow, impatience, and anxiety about the process, how much more, and much sooner, we could have done this or that. We showed up, we listened to each other, we told others how much we hated everything, and how much we loved each other, we listened some more, we nodded, and put the kettle on for tea.

We let each other complain and not know what we were doing. We tried to remember what we DID know: that the great cosmic Something had always been there before. That the Divine It had brought us and our beloved ones through ghastly loss, disappointment, and failure, against all odds. That crying and grieving heal us, cleanse us, baptize us, moisturize us, water the seeds hidden deep in the ground at our feet.

Our pastor came to anoint her the day before she died, not knowing if Ann’s home-going was an hour or a month away. Hospice was on hand to help with the pain. (If you know your person is dying, call Hospice. Once Hospice is on board, almost everything will sort itself out, I promise you–everything. Secret of life.

Every single person I have loved and lost had us around–their most beloved–and had Hospice, had the richest most astonishing love and sense of safety at the end. They had peace, like a river. Even if their death was sudden, Grace always bats last. They got to take off the tight shoes. They got their Get Out of Jail Free card.

And after they died, stopped breathing and grew cold, we were there, to tend to their bodies in the holy sacrament of bathing and dressing them. Don’t rush any of this. Stay with the body so you can see that it no longer holds them, their life, spirit, soul, breath: now eternity does. Choose the perfect socks for those feet that carried them through their astonishing, hard, weird, precious lives.

Death? Be as proud as you want: bore me later, because Love is sovereign here. Life never ends. Joy comes in the morning. Glory hallelujah. And let it be so.


Jan
19

Welcome Halcyon!

We are so very happy to introduce the lovely Halcyon Saxby to State of Grace!
Halcyon is a warm, friendly, compassionate and all round gorgeous person with a background in palliative care. She is a proud mum of three grown up boys and also a Grandmother (believe it or not!)
We are very happy to have you on our team Halcyon!


Jan
01

Cemetery-envy in Tonga

A recent trip to Tonga, and we stumbled across this beautiful little cemetery in a local village. So peaceful, immaculately kept, prettily decorated, frequently visited.
Just reminded us that it is not necessary to spend a lot of money in order to have a gorgeous and sacred resting place for our loved ones. And how lucky are they, the cemetery is just part of the village and so easily accessible for those times that a little chat with those we love can happen.


Mar
30

Suggestions of support/interest groups?

We have had a few phone calls here at State of Grace that have promoted me to take action of behalf of our families who are left feeling that they now have too much time on their hands since their husband/wife/partner has died. It is tough facing a future alone, and in the last week I have spoken to three of our families who have someone needing a bit of help with how to fill their day.

We would welcome suggestions of interesting groups/ organisations and fulfilling things for people to put their energy into. Some of our families have joined choirs, bowls, CAB,  and we would love to know what other meaningful and satisfying opportunities there are out there for us to pass on.

So – if you know of any groups requiring volunteers, or any other helpful suggestions – please let us know.


tamara-spa
Sep
13

Massages….mmmmm

We recently organised a massage for a family member who was at the end of her tether, and she reported that is was so beneficial and allowed her to really be present at the funeral, rather than completely lost in her grief. This got us thinking about how we could support other families in this way. So, we put the call out on our Facebook page (have you been there and ‘liked’ us yet?), asking for recommendations of massage therapists.

The first people to offer us something were the lovely people from Tamara Spa (www.tamaraspa.co.nz). They have offered us as many vouchers as we need for $50 off any treatment. We are grateful to them for their kindness and will encourage families to take time out for a bit of body work to help them through.

We have had other people give us the contacts for their favourite massage people, and will add them after we have collected their information and costs etc and put them on this blog.


Aug
31

Almost got to the fashion show…..

We have had such a busy week – five funerals – really pushes us to capacity. So Fran and I were very excited about our invitation to the Starfish fashion show at Fashion week. We were fellow contenders for the Emerging Business at the Sustainable Business Awards a few years ago, and they won! No hard feelings from us, they have such beautiful clothes and committed to sustainability. Check them out at www.starfish.co.nz

 Fran and I were going to the show straight from a funeral so taking the hearse for a city outing, dressed to the nines of course.  It was with some disappointment therefore when I chatted with a friend earlier today ton find that she had thoroughly enjoyed the Starfish show LAST NIGHT! I got the date wrong……. I forced her to give me the details of the goodie bag which made things worse.  Fran says it is because I am old, but I know it is because we are so busy!

We took ourselves off to Villa Maria for lunch instead, and ended up investigating it as a potential venue for funerals  – an amazing big space called the Barrel Room which would be perfect for up to 300 people,and a great finger food menu. Really beautiful and peaceful surroundings. We will add it to our venue page soon.


armband-vase
Aug
30

We were lucky

We were lucky enough to get a few minutes on the Afternoons with Jim  Mora show on National Radio – a wonderful opportunity to talk about our work. Have a listen here if you have a few spare minutes:

National Radio interview

 


threshold-choir
Aug
30

Here is a group

Here is a group whose service really impressed us. We mentioned them on our Facebook page and now it seems that a local group is forming to offer this service right here in Auckland.

www.thresholdchoir.org

The all-women Threshold Choirs honor the ancient tradition of singing at the bedsides of people who are struggling: some with living, some with dying. The voice, as the original human instrument, is a true and gracious vehicle for compassion and comfort.

The group offers its service at no charge, and relies on donations.


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May
08

Welcome to our blog!

Welcome to our blog.

We will use this page to bring you news, interesting little bits and pieces that we think you may be interested in, and generally give ourselves an opportunity to communicate with you on issues, events and information.

The same information can be found on our Facebook page – State of Grace Funerals – so do go and have a look there and become a fan!

We have found a couple of stunning books that we wanted you to know about, in fact we have ordered them ourselves to have at work.

The first is a beautiful, poignant photo essay made by a son of his father in the latter stages of the father’s life. Such a moving and loving tribute to his Dad and well worth ordering from your local library.

The book is called Days With My Father, and there is a website to preview the book:

www.dayswithmyfather.com

Phillip and Edward Toledano: Days with My Father 005

The other book we want you to know about is called Grace Before Dying.

It is a photo-essay as well, of a group of Death Row inmates who have been trained to care for fellow inmates who have terminal illness.

The hospice volunteers must go through a difficult process to bury their own regrets and fears, and unearth their capacity to love. Grace Before Dying looks at how, through hospice, inmates assert and affirm their humanity in an environment designed to isolate and punish.