Something about getting in a boat

Something about getting in a boat

Everyone who knows me knows that I’m totally up for a fad addiction. When I love something, you’re gonna hear about it. A sample, inexhaustive list would include 1950’s crockery, succulents, Liberty™ fabric, Ottelenghi recipes, amethyst glassware, preserved lemon, sourdough starter and vintage doily bunting.

I feel quite smug about having sipped a few turmeric lattes this year (how very 2016?) but when I start talking about my recent discovery of podcasts, I can be a bit embarrassing. I’m fully aware I’m not a pioneer of any technological frontier, but my evangelistic zeal is not embarrassed by that. Podcasts! How great are they?

I will always find an avenue in a conversation to mention a podcast, refer to a podcast or send a digital link to a podcast. Sometimes I get a reaction from people intimating they are too busy to listen to podcasts. I don’t buy that one. That’s like saying you’re too tired to drink coffee.

Relationships with my favourite podcasters have become so enmeshed that I find I’m calling them by their first name in conversations with real-life friends. I know what Leigh cooked for dinner last week and what books are on Annabel’s bedside table.

In another of my favourite podcasts, Richard (his real name) was talking to Graham (also his real name) about the sudden and tragic death of his adult son. A cerebral haemorrhage gave his 30-year-old son no time to exit this world with any wrap-ups. The grieving father wore his son’s watch every day until the battery ran out…at one minute to midnight. Rather than replacing the battery, he started wearing two watches.

In the interview, Graham reflected that “the strongest sense I have [after his death] is that you only live for five minutes and I’ve only got one minute left. One watch tells me the time, and the other watch is accurate.”

In the weeks following his son’s death, a most unlikely companion joined him on his painful walk. Many people genuinely offered him the ‘if there’s anything I can do’ line and others were completely lost for words. Bless them all.

I know what he’s talking about. My brother died five years ago. In that week leading up to Friday the 19th, we knew there was 1 minute left. My grief was so thick that every breath took concentration. It’s like being alone in a little row boat, buoyed by the love of many with waves of support lapping against the vessel. I felt upheld but isolated.

There was one unexpected person that day who sat in my boat. She quietly got in. I didn’t ask her to. She didn’t rock. She tendered to the necessary boat hand duties (kettles, kids, etc.). Of course, we wept.

My podcast friend Graham reckons, “The miracle is if someone can be with you.” In the weeks following his son’s passing there were times he was having a quiet weep, only to notice his ‘deckhand’ weeping too. In that holy moment, he thought “What a miracle we’re together. He’s with me, this man.”

I have an aunty who recently got given an “exit ticket” from her oncologist. He can’t predict when she’ll need to use it, but her minute-to-midnight watch is the only one she looks at right now. I got in her boat to record some of her stories, make chicken sandwiches, write significant memories down, and sit in the shadow of death.

It’s a holy place where heaven opens to give both passengers a sense of the hope of glory. It’s a location for offering the gift of your presence. It’s not a space reserved solely for clergy, grief counsellors and people who know what to say. If it’s a position that opens itself to you, go with God’s leading to the place of miracles.

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    Rosemary Harris

    Oh Rach – so painfully poignant. But yes! it does open up to that place of miracles and glorious hope. Your expression of it brings another measure of healing. Treasured.

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