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Thursday, April 11, 2013

From The Wayside chapel by Graham Long

Dear Inner Circle,

In a nursing home this week, sitting next to my dear old Mum, I was singing "Daisy, Daisy" with a dozen poor old sausages in a dementia ward. One lady was getting into the swing of it, swivelling in her chair. A staff member said to her, "You're really into this music aren't you dear?" "No," she said, "I've got an itchy back!" My Mum's memory span is about 30 seconds on a good day but we had some lovely times this week. A priest said Mass yesterday in their chapel and Mum was in the front row nodding and agreeing with all that he said. At the end of the ceremony he said, "I think we might ask Joyce to play something on the organ." Mum stood and said the words of a hymn that she was about to play and then went to the organ and played it beautifully. I didn't know she could play the organ. At 88 she's still got the odd surprise for me.

Even though I've been in Adelaide, there has been plenty of Wayside moments. I generally guard my mobile phone number but it has escaped and I do get calls and texts from people at all hours. A text came last night that said, "No thx to you or stupid Wayside, I'm packing my bags and leaving town". This is from a woman who I quite like but whose mental health has deteriorated alarmingly in the past 6 months. I sent a text back saying, "Honey, you know I respect you but I'm worried for your mental health. I've watched you go down hill and I would love to see you get the right kind of help". A bit of back and forth revealed that she thought she'd made some kind of mistake while at Wayside and had upset someone. I have no idea what, if anything, is at the bottom of this but I do know that words carry unseen and powerful capacity to form or destroy. I assured the lovely old thing that I loved her and would do what I could to understand things when I returned. Her last text said, "Thnx to you and Wayside for caring about me." Apart from the indignant looks given to me for allowing my mobile to rule my life, that was a useful text conversation.

Another elderly old lady phoned last night and her first words were more of a wail, "Graham help me, help me!" Few enough people have my mobile number that I could work out the owner of the voice. I suspect this dear old sausage might be in her mid seventies. She was crying and began to tell me about sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her sister when just a little girl. She was drunk but because of the nature of what she was saying I tried to assure her that I could arrange a skilled counsellor to help her with some of these issues. "Counsellor!" she said, "I'm not seeing any counsellor! Graham, help me." Eventually I had to say to her that she was drunk and I couldn't talk to her until she was sober. The call finished with me saying, "Sober up my darling and I'll talk with you later this week." "Graham! Help me!" "Sweetheart you are so drunk, you can't hear anything I'm saying anyway." "Graham, help me!" "Call me on Thursday and we'll talk". "Graham, help me". "Good bye dear lady" Click. I'm not very good with drunk people.

Mum told me yesterday that she was really worried about something. She didn't want to tell me because she thought it was too upsetting. I assured her that I'd like to hear about anything that caused her such worry. "I haven't seen Mum for a long time". My Mum's mother would be about 120 years old if she were alive today. I told Mum that her mother had died about 40 years ago. "Are you sure dear?" she asked. "I'm sure you long for home sometimes," I said. "Yes," she said, "I really do". I told her that her Mum and home now were in heaven. We started to sing some songs together that I used to hear as a kid. The church doesn't sing such songs anymore and it seems to have moved right away from this kind of sentiment but Mum and I sang in her room, "There's going to be a meeting in the air in the sweet sweet bye and bye. I'm going to meet you meet you there in the land beyond the sky…" I can hear Mum and Dad singing that in the car as if it happened 5 minutes ago. I can hear my brothers and sister singing it in four part harmony. It was a beautiful moment and when we'd finished Mum said, "Well, I best get my shoes on and go and see Mum."

I flew back to Sydney last night and I'm back in the Wayside saddle this morning.

Thanks for being part of our inner circle,

Rev Graham Long
Pastor and CEO
The Wayside Chapel
Kings Cross

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