Posts tagged with "death"
Working more than eight hours in a day is hard. I get compensated today with a comfortable bed, a good meal, nice wine.
Today I know two women were buried. One, I never knew. The friend of a friend, she was known in some way to many. A life extinguished prematurely, a person who is clearly missed. I see my friends' pain, and understand a little of what I have been like in the past, when I could not share something that hurt so.
The other was a friend. I have lost friends before, but I have never been able to imagine this. She was murdered, apparently by the man who was supposed to have been her lover, the one person who, of his own free choice, was meant to protect her from harm.
I can't understand. I can believe that she is gone in my head, but in my heart she is still somewhere there, complaining about work, looking forward to a holiday, wanting to do something and instead putting it off for some obligation, writing quietly, thinking about tomorrow or last week.
I can't find it in me to forgive and forget. I simply do not care what happens to him. I don't want him to die, or be killed, because that cannot bring her back, cannot take away the pain of the people who love her. I think I hope he lives a long time, and knows what he has done. Maybe he will realise, maybe he will one day understand and learn something. What other good can come of such a tragedy, such a waste of a life, the loss of a friend, a sister, a daughter, a loving person loved, with hopes and dreams and ideas and life?
As long as one person remembers her smile, the way she opened the door or shrugged her shoulders or disappeared into her thoughts, she is still with us. Her body lies with her grandmother in a place I may never go, but her memory is free to visit.
Words can only reflect the emptiness inside. We can do no more than go on loving, caring for ourselves, our lives, and the people around, those who have graced our lives with a moment, with years of their life.
And if anyone has any say in it, I would like to have a week of good news please.
The history is a mess. Established through terrorism, colonialism, the legitimate desire of people who lived in the area or emigrated there encouraged by the Balfour declaration, guilt over the Holocaust and anti-semitism being fairly prevalent where many jews actually lived, more or less a democracy in a sea of countries often ruled by guns, the state of Israel isn't really a model citizen. Nor does it live in a nice neighbourhood.
Under attack, either officially or unofficially, for almost its entire existence, an occupying power for just as long, it is one of the places I have felt most uncomfortable. When I was there, there were threats of major attacks on Tel Aviv. I drove through the West Bank with an Israeli, and again with a Palestinian. I saw a wall that haunts my memories, although it was still just slabs of concrete under construction. I heard of a devastating bombing attack the morning I was due to leave. It took place in Madrid.
Everyone I met knew people who had died in violence. Everyone I met was unhappy with the situation, unhappy with the way their own respective leaders were handling it. Everyone I met also had clear and tangible concerns about their safety and their ability to live some kind of life that made sense.
So how is it that 3 years later, there are more people dying, more bombs being tossed back and forth as though they are playthings, more people seeing the towns they have built and the trees they have grown once again being ripped apart and torn up? Don't we learn?
Maybe not. On the weekend I kept my housemates awake far too late as I sat around with friends talking and drinking. Isn't that the same lack of neighbourly behaviour? Maybe there is no difference between my insisting on a particular sentence or approach in a standard, and Hamas insisting on holding onto the eventual destruction of Israel as a stated goal, or Olmert insisting on his right to build that wall of my nightmares.
It's a depressing thought. I hope I missed something obvious.
Still, I didn't play music at my housemates. Not my guitar, no CD, nor my bodhran, neither trumpet nor bombs. Small mercies are somnething I guess. Are they enough to save people?
Afterwards I will get to see a new country - we have planned to spend a couple of days in Talinn, Estonia, to make up for our lost weekend. So I should find some time to resurrect my SVG map that let you interactively say where you have been. (The code is the easy part. The hard bit is gettting the data in the first place).
At some point I am also going to visit a friend's grave in Finland. It's not quite so much fun as geeking out and having drinks with people, but it is important to me (and some other close friends of his who are going). I don't go to a lot of graves or anything, although cemeteries are pretty relaxing places. But this involves some important unfinished business.
Anyway, if you're passing through Helsinki at that time and interested in the gathering, come and say hello (Opera is a sponsor and will have a stand, so we should be easy enough to find). Likewise if you're interested in a chat over a beer in Talinn on the 7th or 8th of August, or have a recommendation for where to do that, please let me know (search engines know my email address). I have never been there before, so I am looking forward to it.
My Granny, who is in her 90s, is not well, having been quite sprightly until recently. I thought that she would no longer be with us last weekend, and was glad to be in Australia and able to see her. She is still in hospital, and at any time her condition can only be described as unstable. I can't predict the future any more than the next person - she may get better, and live to be 105, or 125. She may not. It depends on many things, including whether she really wants to.
Perhaps all of these things are twice my current lifetime away from me. Perhaps not. We lose people from time to time. An ex-colleague passed away very recently, somewhat unexpectedly and apparently peacefully, at an age between Granny's and mine, leaving a number of people dealing with their first experience of losing a colleague at work. Others have dealt with it many times over.
Life is a gift. The lives of those who pass through our own, and our own life, are a short time we have. But if I could, as Woody Allen said, achieve immortality not through my work, but by not dying, would I? I don't know. Every new day is a gift, and people are precious in part because you never know how long they will be there. (In larger part, the people who are really precious to me are so because of the particular person they are...)
So how should I be passing my days? How should I note the accumulating years? I guess I will finish my life, some time, having left undone things I wanted to do and things I really should have done. There are times when I should have stopped, looked around, sat down in the grass and done nothing, instead of obsessively reading mail (or writing my blog ) or running off on some very-important-at-the-time errand or crusade. There are other times when I should have got off my backside and done something.
I didn't make it to see Granny in hospital today. I hope she's OK. I'll go see her tomorrow. She doesn't want to be there. I don't like being in hospital either.
Happy birthday to me. I guess Timboctou was out of the question this year. Still. I get to go to the Gathering, and do some cooking. That will be fun (and a little cold in medieval clothes). If I see you somewhere, ask and I might bake you a cake In the meantime it is one of those moments when I should do something. Make dinner, in particular.
It is difficult to lose a friend, someone who has shared a struggle, a moment of triumph, or even a defeat or a setback. It is far more difficult when they are gone forever than when they just went away somewhere, or you haven't spoken in a while.
Being sad is natural, and reasonable. Wallowing in misery for a while is (at least for me) tempting. But it is later, when I think of what I have lost after some time of not having it, that I am really sad. And happy, often. The bittersweet nature of life is that in sadness I realise how lucky I have been to have had such a friend. How sorry I am for the things I left undone, unsaid, for what we never tried, and how glad I am for the things we did. In happiness, I occasionally think with tinges of regret how much I want to share an achievement with someone who is not there to enjoy it with me.
All of this ends up giving me comfort. The beauty of humanity is that people are so fragile, are subject to the inexorable law that our time is limited, and that we never know how much is left. We hurt each other, we forget each other, we don't make enough time for each other. We can be selfish, or busy, or just elsewhere. And at the same time we are capable of loving and caring about people, of thinking of them in moments we can never collect and share.
So I assume that people think, from time to time, of things they don't say. I know that I will never tell everything I want to everyone I want (this blog is in some ways an attempt to do a little more than I used to, but will never achieve the goal entirely). I am sorry to have lost friends, to have neglected friends, to have lost contact with people.
But I am glad to have the friends I have, to have had the friends I have had. People are great. They make life worthwhile.
At 10am On Sunday morning I was flying past Gippsland - the forests to the east of Melbourne, the 90-mile beach, looking at the Victorian Alps. A few logging coupes leaving scars on the ground, but forests, sea, beach, Australia. Dry, and hot. At 11am, when I landed, it was 36ºC.
Many trees were lying around torn from the ground, or broken in two, by a storm that had apparently ripped through while I was in the air. The temperature rose, as my brain slowed to a crawl numbed with fatigue and jetlag and the heat shift. It was 43º, and there were fires breaking out.
By the middle of the night, many areas I had flown over, many places I have been, were on fire. 10000 people were out fighting them - paid firefighters and the volunteers who are the backbone of firefighting in any large-scale emergency. I was in the centre of Melbourne, the temperature already falling, listening to the radio, going home from a quiet pint and a sing-along at the Dan.
I was struck by the differences between the radio now, and listening to it on "Ash Wednesday" - 16 February 1983, the last massively murderous fires that killed dozens and dozens of people. That night, a schoolboy, I also sat up and listened to the radio. Earlier that day a smoke cloud had come over the school, plunging it into red-orange near-darkness and setting off every fire alarm. I didn't know it, but friends were losing their houses, as I listened to tales of chaos. Mobile phones were unknown, the last fires so serious had been 40 years eaerlier, and while the firefighters were organising, doing their best, there seemed much less in the way of formal coordination with the ordinary community. The radio was providing information from all over the place, willy-nilly.
The fires this week were much smaller, although they closed many major roads and approached a number of towns. People seemed better prepared. Information was more systematic, clearer.
An adult and a child died, when their car crashed and left them trapped in the way of a forest fire. A volunteer fireman was killed when his truck rolled, halfway across the state from home. People lost houses, stock, fought fires that were detroying their homes, or came back to see ash and destruction trying to take over.
Sometimes life is filled with little annoying inconveniences. Sometimes I am miserable, wailing about the "unfairness" of people who are treating me badly, or the difficulties of doing something important. But life is beautiful really. Mine is filled with luck, with loving friends and happy times. It's surprising how easy it is to forget, to stop thinking of the people around me when I am feeling hard done by and focus on myself and my pain.
It is real. Everybody suffers sometimes, everybody cries. The lucky ones are those who can enjy the other times.
Lakka for remembrance day. Vale?
(This is delayed...)
It's bad that this happens. And it's bad that it isn't really something far away in a strange place, but something that happens everywhere. It might be generally considered unacceptable in Norway, or Australia. A lot of people do consider it unacceptable even in the deepest darkest reaches of the wide world, but how to react to it is a different question. It makes me uncomfortable, because I am not sure what I can do, but I am sure that whatever I do will be not quite right, will miss part of the problem, and will probably salve my conscience long before I have done as much as I can. It makes me uncomfortable because it should force me to consider how I behave, and do better. The fact that I don't hit people, let alone put them in hospital, is nice, but there are many things I do that are probably not that nice.
Rania al-Baz, I admire you for speaking out. A virtual support hug from a total stranger seems odd, but sometimes knowing that people believe in something you do is good whoever they are. I hope that you can encourage other people to speak a bit louder when things are wrong. Loud enough that people listen, and think about what they are doing, and do better. It will be nice if the problem is solved right now. History suggests that it won't be, but every time this doesn't happen is a little step towards a better world, and some progress on the long path is a start.
Maybe the people who want blogging to change the world are right, that it will. I think it might be able to help us to change ourselves, at least. Changing me for the better is a good thing. There ought to be more of it. (I realise that I am the one who ought to be doing more of it...)
Jock died at home, talking to his wife. 82 years old, he had run away to sea as a child of 14, been a sailor and a soldier, had a family in the country, and grown old. When the end finally came it is hard to know if it would have been a relief, or if he was still worried about his family and how they would be when he was gone.
He had children and grandchildren of whom he was immensely proud, he had mates in the Caledoniand Society, in the Masonic Lodge, in the RSL (Returned Services League). Often they were the same people.
So when the old men lined up to farewell a comrade-in-arms, it was something that was important to those who shared it, and something only they really shared. He never really talked about being in a war, about being sunk 3 times, being in advance of major landings, being a soldier in some particularly bloody conflicts. A group of old men stood in line to place a hero's ribbon and a poppy on a little wooden box, and remember things taht had happened. I heard snippets of stories from people who will soon not be around to tell them - about a shell that carried away the bloke next to him, or about a bomb that threw him into the air as he ran across a miniefield to man an anti-aircraft gun.
Those were things that he never shared with anyone who didn't have to go there. And although it was his job, and it was his job to prepare more people to go there, when his own son was in line to be drafted, it seems he was mighty relieved that a government he could never support stopped sending soldiers to a war that wasn't being won.
The man I knew wasn't a soldier. He was a bloke with a sly "who me?" grin as he fed the dog a few scraps from his plate, a man immensely proud of his children and grandchildren, fiercely loyal to his wife, and an outgoing, social, bon vivant who quietly lived out his time.
The only war story he ever told me was the first story I understood through his accent. He was in New York for the first time, and he and his mates were accused of being in the english navy. Prouder than they were strictly truthful, they pointed out that they were scots, and were therefore logically in the scots navy. And they were served something that claimed to be tea, although it was made with little bags sitting in cups. They had to teach the folks at the café how to put leaves in a pot, and make tea like it was meant to be.
The one vision I had of his presence at the funeral was during teh singing of the first hymn. It was Amazing grace, with none of the jazzy sound that he would have put into it. And I could see him just quietly tapping away with a couple of brushes and the "what, me?" look that he would have hadd if caught drumming in a church.
As I write this, I am sitting in the seat where he used to take his tea and a biscuit, and then another one (which would usually end p inside the dog). I think he had a life well lived, with great joy as well as hardship, and that he went quietly, as he would have chosen to go.
Funerals should all be filled with old mates, people who are no longer steady on their feet or clear in their eyesight.
Vale Jock. I think I'll have a cup of tea.
Widgets and things
Twitter, blogs, comments...
Twitter is quick, but not always great. I always wanted a blog made up of comments - and this link category is a step in making one :)
WYSIWYG Editors and HTML
Response to well-written blog explaining why "WYSIWYG Editors hate HTML5". I agree there are problems, I think there are solutions available.
WYSIWYG Editors and HTML, pt 2
Further exploration of how things really are and what can usefully be done.
JAWS got it wrong. Just handing over the keyboard is stupid - even if the role itself is not.
Entrevista con Jan Standal
Respuestas a los comentarios sobre una entrevista de Jan Standal (de Opera).
Opera Brasil na Noruega
Fotos que quero (e não)
(Muchos comentarios, un articulo)
Una conversación sobre la Web Móvil
Improving accessibility - what do we need?
It's not about one magic solution - this is a complex problem and lots of things need to be done.
Unite geolocation app
Cool ways to manage your own location data
Código abierto y Opera
Porque ser abierto no es la diferencía entre exito y la muerte.
HTML - a new standard
CSSquirrel suggests that listening to more people would make HTML better. I agree, but there are people who already influence HTML and should think about how they can do it better.
Walking in an exoskeleton, and why it isn't necessary
There is a big difference between (disabled) people achieving something, and expecting that everyone should do things "like us".