Dear Inner Circle,
Sadly, there seem to be a spate of funerals and memorials to organise these days. They seem to come in runs. A brave woman entered the chapel clutching a fist full of pictures of her beloved brother when he was a little boy, his cherub-face full of life and vitality. The photo of him in flannel shorts and hat, laughing with a tennis ball in hand, in front of his dad’s brown 1974 Holden Kingswood, the photo taken from a patio covered in pebble mix, couldn’t have been more iconic. If the picture came with a soundtrack, I imagine it would be playing “C’mon on Aussie, C’mon!”
She cried as she spoke of their sibling love and rivalry until one day, in her words, “He just wandered away.” She dried her eyes and thanked Wayside for “…seeing my brother, and not his problems. He was so much more than that, and I am glad you saw that side of him, he loved it here.” There could be no higher expression of love. A love that knows the dark space between memory and history, a love that learns to let go of what once was, and appreciates what became, despite the grief. We held hands and continued to look through the old photos and chuckled through her memories of splinters from climbing backyard fences, and swinging on washing lines, and laughing till their stomachs hurt. We honoured that little boy, so full of life, and celebrated the man he became, who had to walk away from a world not yet ready to speak of mental health. I take comfort in the great distances we have come on that front, even if we still have a way to go yet.
As she left, someone else was waiting to see me. He sat down in great pain, but still managed to crack a few jokes. Recently he’s made the brave decision to try and face life without the drugs he has used to escape the trauma of his childhood. He was abandoned by his foster family as he lay in a hospital bed because, “I wasn’t what they had wanted.” He is a big, muscly type but underneath that is a little boy, yearning for love. He’d recently been broken into by a friend, and he placed his enormous hands on his face to hide his tears. “I would normally find them and smash them but I don’t want to do that because I will fall back into hating myself, and then I know what happens next.” Facing life unaffected is an act of sheer bravery precisely because it is an act of pure vulnerability. The feelings that many men fear, wash in and reveal broken hearts. In fact, most of what men think of as anger is really just sadness that has been covered for too many years. He wept silently but allowed me to place an arm over his shoulder.
As he left, someone rushed up to me in the cafe with a complaint. They must have seen the expression on my face because they immediately stopped themselves, and gave me a big hug, “You look like you could use a cuppa and bowl of pudding, my shout.” Little acts of kindness like that possess a profound ability to reach into the depths of every heart. They remind us that beyond any facade lies a heart that might be hurting, and that sometimes needs a milky tea with five sugars, a large bowl of custard, and a laugh. Even though I am lactose intolerant, I ate it all up.
Thank you for being part of our Inner Circle.
Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor