25. Highest name
One of the biggest mysteries in my journey was my attending a stranger's funeral. On Tuesday 15/02/05 I found myself again doing just that. A prominent Adelaide business man and his wife had lost their lives in a small-plane crash in New Zealand. My sensitive spirit had given me an alert signal, when I first saw the Television News report 10 days or so earlier. My research on the internet left some unanswered emails, where I had asked why-questions.
I only found out about this service while having a soft-serve at McDonalds one evening during a bike ride and glanced over the day's newspaper: A memorial service for the two victims was to be held at The Dome, a Basketball Stadium in Beverley, in Adelaide's Western suburbs. I received quiet marching orders, my mind registering the event and saying - you'll be there. No doubt, the date and time of the event, the 15th at 3pm, had helped register this event in my brain.
What ever the reason, as soon as I arrived at the Basketball Stadium, I knew I was meant to be there. At exactly the same time as my arrival, a van parked right beside me. The sign writing made sense: L & T, phone number 315 ( with a number of zeros in between) plus their slogan – ' always present'.
Indeed, I had been present at that venue one evening before, when my son Jon and I attended a fundraising event organized by Radio Station ABC 891 and the Adelaide United Football Club. I remembered clearly, sitting at seat Number C 57 by fluke and it meant something special at the time.
Around the time when the number 57 was prominent in my story, I took this photo. It was not long after I had finished the 55th chapters of my second book. (The first has 77 chapters).
What do people who develop photographs think, when a beauty like this rolls through? Were there any that pumped the adrenalin more than two stacks of 5 & 7 pallets.
I was early at the funeral service, which was unusual for me. The Dome looked strange occupied by men in dark suits, accompanied by well-dressed ladies. Because I had been there before, I wanted to sit in the same seat as before, just for a lark. But my spot in row C was occupied. Rowe D, for some reason, had been removed altogether. So I settled to sit at Rowe F, which was otherwise completely empty, despite all seats around it being full. Was there a 3/5 message somewhere?
Was a funeral a good time to play games? I was to discover more of this numbers game shortly.
There was no communal singing, but …
May I interrupt my writing with another one of those co-incidences - The announcer on the radio station I am listening to just now (“Drive” on 891 Adelaide, 15/3/05 – 4.20pm) is urging listeners to phone in after 5pm with their favourite song, they like played at their funeral. (I am glad he didn’t say ‘listen to’ at your funeral – why am I saying this? Read on).
... the professional rendition of the male singer, who sang Louis Armstrong’s What a wonderful world, plus The power of Love, plus Love changes everything, by Andrew Lloyd Webber brought tears to everyone's eyes. The two coffins on display at the front didn't stir my emotions at all, because I didn't know the deceased. And to be totally honest with you, my readers, I had doubts about what really was inside the coffins.
But this is part of the mystery, why I was there in the first place. It was not the first funeral I had been to, where I had suspected that the coffin was empty. (At the time I had left for home, while they sang the song Always look on the bright side of life).
During this hour long service I noticed another strange seating arrangement, apart from me being the only person sitting in row F (seat 57) and D having disappeared. While most people sat in the arena in U-formation, another group of mourners was seated on the actual playing field inside the U, as it were. Among them I spotted Bob Francis ….
(Now I get it! – How eerie! I just had another thought, as I was writing, about a man named Francis. He died very suddenly in Nov. 03 aged 34 years, while playing football. It was a shock to all. At the time certain things had me thinking, but I didn't know, why I thought that way. There were more deaths since, which put me in a raised state of mind, but I have no explanation for this mystery).
Bob Francis was a well-known radio host. He himself had been bereaved not long prior, after his wife lost a battle with cancer. As I looked at the seating arrangement in the centre on chairs on the basketball court, something clicked. Out of curiosity (or boredom) I counted the chairs. Have a look at my original diary entry, what I wrote about my count and the subsequent observations:
What was I excited about?
I wondered, why divide 12 rows of chairs into two sections, but split them 5 and 7? Did this have anything to do with my seat number, the seat number of my previous visit or even those 132 chapters I had written in Book 1 & 2?
The total number of people seated in the centre (12 rows of 24 seats each) added to 288. Yes, I am throwing around numbers like a basketball, but friends, in the end it all added up and worked out for the best, like Verse 28 of Romans 8 predicted.
How did I cope with all these figures and facts circulating in my brain and not go crazy again? Keeping a diary really helped me. Fortunately, I had the time to write it all down and rethink prayerfully, what was taking place. On many occasions as I wrote down my experiences, I had to admit that I did not always understand everything that was taking place. Yet I had an assurance deep inside that God was in control. I was simply the stenographer.
The second way I coped was with was humour. I refrained from making fun out of death, of course. However, that day I made some real fun out of ‘Life’. Let me explain: On the same day as the memorial service at Beverley I had picked up a peculiar, short segment on the radio. A US program reported that people were traveling outside the USA to receive elective surgery, due to the high medical costs in the USA. (Don’t I know it?).
This in itself was not doubtful or funny …
At the time of writing, the Drive program is up to the segment of songs played at funerals. Always look at the bright side of death, they just sang – and here it is – Frank Sinatra’s “My way” – Don’t I know that song well).
…what was funny was that the word ‘life’, for whatever reason, was blanked out, just like the f… word used to be. This was enough of a trigger to email the program in the US to tell them that I reacted to 'life' and liked having some fun.
Email to NPR dated 15/2/05 – Subject: Life
Your report on elective surgery overseas was very interesting. This new branch of tourism could be called medico-tourism.
Take a holiday in Malaysia or Mexico and have heart-by-pass surgery or a hip replacement while you're there.
For a joke I have heard of a sign advertising: Ears pierced while you wait. In Malaysia they may be advertising -
Heart-by-pass surgery - while you wait! In Mexico it may even include: Drive-in-heart-by-pass-surgery. Mexico is within driving distance, isn't it?
Dieter R. Fischer
PS If you think, I'm thinking too much again, relax. My name is on the waiting list for brain-by-pass surgery. North Korea has them on special next month.
… just then I had a break and watched the 6pm News on TV Channel Seven. For whatever reason today’s theme on radio, and now on TV, seems death. One phrase by a reporter made me laugh out loud - “…the stress of overcrowded cemeteries in Adelaide”. He went on to interview a politician, Bob, the Member for Fisher. Such is death, sorry - life.
A further good way of coping with my active mind was going for long walks with Becky. But this in itself brought on a dilemma – I would see bottles and cans (plenty of Johnny Walker and Bourbons) or bits of paper etc. and the old brain cells would fire up and play another round. (Is there an opposite to dementia? If so I must be suffering from it).
On the evening after I had been to ' The Dome memorial service' I was taking Becky for a walk as most evenings. Not looking for anything I couldn’t help seeing and picking up this token on the footpath. It was about the size of a 10 cent coin.
Another glance at my diary: The token on the left lay exactly opposite to a parked Ford Station Wagon. The rego number I read as '153 ND won'. It was too obvious to ignore. What will my grandkids think of all that?
The Adelaide Advertiser - front page 16/2/05 - How many rounds were there?
A new law was being considered making learner drivers practice for a minimum of 50 hours, before being eligible for a driver's licence. Therefore the red P.
I also liked the number 135 and read part of the headline as 'nd won'. Why not?
Friends, my mind may be overactive, but I am sure God is only allowing me to see, what I can cope with. The mystery of certain people's deaths, which had occurred over the past few years, I am obviously not ready to digest. I could name a few more names of reported deaths, where I had struggled on hearing the news. (Hookes and Reeve are only two, which come to mind). I shall not speculate or try to fabricate any theory. Let the mystery remain a mystery.
One day, as we seek the heart and mind of God, all will be revealed. What is being whispered now in secret, will be shouted from the rooftops. In the meantime let’s turn to HIM who holds the key, Jesus Christ.
This morning I woke just after 4am. I was unusually alert. I rose and read my regular scripture from Luke, Chapter 22. It was the story of Jesus’ disciples arguing, who would be the most important among them. Jesus told them straight – to be the greatest, become everyone's servant. We need more servants in this world.
A little later I spotted a red book looking at me amongst the papers and debris of what I call my office. It was the Redemption Hymnal, song book I had used for many years, ever since the days I first played the trumpet.
Something prompted me to look up hymn No. 153, because the date was 15.3. I opened it and thought – what a perfect match to today’s reading:
Name of Jesus – highest Name.
"Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given HIM the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2, 9-11).