26. The death code and life formula
My Dutch friend John’s 15-year-marriage had ended rather sadly. He was not allowed to see his two children. His wife did not want any more dealings with him. As if this was not enough to ruin a man he was given the bad news of having cancer with only 6-8 months to live. There was not much anyone could do for John, except pray and feel sorry for him. I did both.
Towards the end of 2001 John deteriorated rapidly. The diagnosis of terminal cancer was only 6 weeks old. He had no relatives in Australia. On Saturday 5th Jan. two of his sisters and his stepfather arrived from Holland. Jetlagged they went straight to the hospital where John was dying. They sat with their dying brother and stepson all day. Isobel and I went to see them at the hospital in the afternoon. We communicated with the visitors partly in English, partly in German. John was in a coma incapable to hold any kind of conversation.
On the Sunday we had a surprise visit from Germany ourselves so were unable to see John in hospital until the evening. There was not much change in his condition. It was the visitors that looked well worn, still recovering from a long flight. One comment made by one of John’s sisters made me wonder: “Tomorrow doctor come”. There was a kind of optimism in her voice as if the doctor could work a miracle. It was now a matter of time, a week, a few days or only hours, before John’s passing. I still prayed for a miracle.
The news came the next morning, Monday at 11.15 am. Strange, I thought, if the doctor came that morning, it must have been not long after that John passed away? What a co-incident! Or was it? Another co-incident as if by a twist of fate: the second half of John’s Dutch surname (I won’t name it for privacy reasons), means “slain”. In our country it is illegal to assist death. In between grieving for my friend I kept pondering and thinking…
One night I was bursting to talk to someone about it. I phoned radio station 5 AA, the only one I knew which runs an all night talk-back show. I explained what happened to John and his timely death. I got very emotional. The confusion of past events plus the knowledge that John had possibly been illegally put to sleep overwhelmed me. Why did I take notice? Who was I to play the judge?
John was always full of fun - passed away 07/01/02
Two weeks later I drove to the hospital and took the lift to the ward where John had died. The nurse remembered John immediately. I asked her straight out: “How did John die?” “Who are you?” she asked looking at me quizzically before answering: “He died very peacefully”. I knew what she meant. I bet he did, I thought to myself. Our German visitor we had staying with us was a nurse. When I emailed and explained the co-incidental passing of John, she said it was common practice in Germany too; no questions are asked.
On Wed. 9th January (at that time we did not have the paper home-delivered yet) I had to buy a newspaper to check where and when John’s funeral was to be held. From previous experience when I read the paper it leads to some adventure. This time it was no exception. There were a number of articles which stimulated my inquisitive brain. Why and how I cannot tell. All I know is the printed words hit my brain and made up a message, a coded message just for me.
One article I identified with was about a couple named Hank and Mandy who were ignored and left off a list of invited guests. How many times had I been left out of social gatherings? I looked across the page to another piece of writing and noticed that it began with Thank God. The letter T was real tall, which left hank standing all by itself next to God. So if Hank was God in the article who was Mandy, his partner? It took me two days to crack the code. It came on the way to a driving lesson. Mandy could also be pronounced, Man die! Of course! Did I not call the man who died on a cross a great winner, when everyone else thought he’d lost it? Hank and Mandy were God and Jesus his son.
The third article linked with this coded message was a call for ex-employees of the famous Adelaide riverboats Popeye to come to a party. The skipper’s name was Mr. Altmann, a name I immediately identified with. He wanted to celebrate his retirement after 40 years operating the boat service by throwing a party on Friday, March 8th. All ex-employees who wanted an invitation, or knew of someone who would like one were asked to write to the Post Office in Oaklands Park. To a driving instructor this suburb immediately means something; a large road safety facility is situated in that suburb.
There were a couple of other articles I linked and included in my invitation letter. One mentioned about a “Korean bath”. I had no idea what that meant. The other featured rather prominently the kid’s TV program “Bob the builder”. I posted the following letter to a Helen E. (I loved the letters L & N in that name) to the Post Office in Oaklands Park:
Helen E. Friday 10th Jan. 2002
c/Oaklands Park Post Office Mandy Allwill
24 Goodall Road
Para Hills SA 5096
Oakland Park SA 5046
I am writing to you on behalf of my friend Hank. He would really love an invite to the party on March 8th. Trouble is he suffered badly from rejection when he was younger. People misunderstood the real motives for his sometimes strange actions.
He wanted to help people, but he always got a rough deal. When he was a cabbie, some women thought he took them for a ride and were overcharged. They accused him of fondling. He had no money for them lawyers, so he spent time in the klink for nothing.
The party would do him really good. If I’m allowed to come with him, I make sure he behaves. He has a habit of spinning yarns (all true ones), a left-over from his days on the water. Before the event I will give him a Korean Bath. You won’t regret inviting a guy like Hank.
PS. Bob wants me to ask if Carol Altmann is a relation of yours.
The name Mandy Allwill rearranged form the phrase: All man will die, which I hoped would not be taken as prophesy of an imminent catastrophe, but a sombre reminder that no one lives forever (on this earth).
As was my custom I just did what I believed was the right thing to do. If I had made a big fool of myself, so be it. I left the results of my strange actions to God. Only the recipient of this letter, Helen E. in this case, knows what went on behind the scenes. To my knowledge there was nothing about a party on March 8th reported in the press.
Early in 2002 as I read my “Low-risk driving, a skill for life” book a thought dropped into my spirit. It would not let me go saying: The six attitudes on road safety are very versatile. They can be applied to all situations in life, even our spiritual life. When I finally sat down to formulate them the inspiration just flowed:.
1. Set a good example. A Christian's way of life, the selfless giving of love and care has profound impact on those around us. Our conduct speaks louder than our most eloquent words.
2. Safe driving is rewarding: Godly living is immensely rewarding. On the road as in life, what we sow is what we reap.
3. Allow for others' mistakes: When we acknowledge our fellow man's weaknesses, we find it easier to forgive. After all, we are not perfect
4. Give up your rights: In life as well as on the road many relationships suffer if one person insists on their rights. Christ had ultimate power. He surrendered all his rights to die an innocent death.
5. Don't become complacent: Low-risk drivers constantly improve their skills and work at crash avoidance. Without regular prayer, bible study and contact with fellow believers, it is easy to fall when problems arise.
6. It can happen to anyone: Many drivers think they never have a crash, until it happens. Some people find it hard to picture themselves following Christ. They feel unworthy because of their past, their failures, their guilt. Christ welcomes all. His grace is available to anyone.
Within the next few months I uploaded a couple of additional thoughts as my own personal witness to the world:
MORE GOOD NEWS
The law is brutal. If we exceed the speed limit by only 3 or 4 km/h we are guilty of breaking the law. If we roll through a stop sign, without the wheels coming to a halt, we are guilty. Luckily we get away with most minor (and many major) infringements of the law, because no police sees us.
But God sees all our infringements of HIS law; our bad thoughts, our unloving attitudes, our pride. How many demerit points have you and I accumulated to deserve punishment? Humanity fights an endless struggle to be liberated from guilt and shame and to escape damnation. This is why there are so many religious convictions.
No one ever kept God's law, but Christ. HE instituted a new law, one of love and peace. Once you trust Christ that HE was nailed to the cross because you can't keep God's law, you will find a tremendous liberty in your life. Stop struggling and start trusting!
I don't feel terrified any more when the speedometer shows 4 km/h above the limit. The Traffic-Pharisees may point the finger at me. But I know the policeman still loves me.
On a walk one morning a thought fell into place. It is so easy to exceed the speed limit. If people read and understand this little comparison, they may think of God’s love, despite their failure. With a smile on my face I said to God: “In that case, Lord, there will be many motorists thinking about you every day all day’. God is a God of humour. He loves fun.
There were a few times when I thought people were blessed by my writing. A comment in the paper or even on television would strike a cord. As example: someone was interviewed on a Michael Parkinson’s UK TV show. He answered the question, if he had been bullied as a child in school. The person being interviewed used the words: “It was brutal.” He was rather emotional about it.
Here is the third part of my writing, the motivation behind my passion.
Why I love and serve Christ
A wealthy landowner regularly went to the slave-market and bought slaves. He did not agree with the awful system, so instead of taking them home as servants, he set them free.
One day a Negro slave, who cost him a lot of money, would not go away. The landowner tried to explain to him that he now was free to go.
The negro-slave knelt before the farmer and said: "I have nowhere to go. You have bought me. Please let me serve you."
Christ gave his life 2000 years ago on a piece if timber shaped like a crossroad. He paid a big price and granted me freedom. How could I not love and serve HIM with joy?
These three articles were on my family page together with a brief summary of my family history and the move to Australia. In addition to this I have written numerous articles, mostly fact but also some humour. My outlet was my monthly newsletter to driving instructors, called “Outside the Square”. The most entertaining or interesting articles I uploaded on my driving-school website.
I recognized the internet long ago as a unique means to bring life into the world, to spread the Good News. A scripture comes to mind, where it says, where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. How I wish this to be the case for the internet: God’s grace shining brightly amongst the darkness of this world!
1. More in number 2. A sound mind 3. Now I'm found 4. Candle and the Wind
5. Realm of Nature 6. All in his Hand 7. The Wonder of it All 8. To Think God loves