Miracle Meal – Christmas 2020

December 2019 began with a fresh “life-limiting” cancer diagnosis.

Over the previous few months my ability to eat became increasingly compromised, and I started December 2019 unable to eat more than the tiniest portions at a time. I couldn’t swallow, and found it difficult to get any food down. And usually what was swallowed came up again.

Gloria and I weren’t looking forward to Christmas when it would be impossible to enjoy even a basic Christmas meal.

December 9th 2019 my appetite and eating ability was completely restored, an enjoyable Christmas meal a couple of weeks later became possible again.

Today (25 December 2020) I was able to eat another post-diagnosis Christmas dinner, and enjoyed every mouthful, and MANY mouthfuls were served up in this delicious, tasty chicken and veggie meal, with many of the vegetables grown in our own garden. Last year we hadn’t bothered to plant anything.

Before
After

The Good, the Sad and … (November in review part 1)

The Good: November 20th was the anniversary of being given a death sentence by the medical profession. That sparked the most spiritually productive year of my Christian life. I documented my first few months of personal, spiritual discovery elsewhere on this blog. During this year I’ve probably read more scripture and prayed more consistently than I’d done in the whole of the previous decade.

The Sad: November 21st my dad died. He’d been in a nursing home for about six weeks after spending the previous two months in hospital waiting for a nursing home placement.

Around 14 years ago a heart specialist gave him only 6-9 months to live. While he had a few bad days during those 14 years, he was mostly quite well, although limited in mobility. Then this year he lost his sight, became depressed and contracted pneumonia twice. The second case led to his permanent departure from home. In hospital he dropped 20kgs in a few weeks and lost muscle mass, making him completely dependent and unable to return home.

On Saturday at 5.30am, attended by my mum and sister, he stopped breathing. He was 87 and just a few months short of my parents’ 65th wedding anniversary.

He was always resistant to the gospel, but I continued to pray for him. A few months ago he was ‘visited’, in a dream or in his mind, by a man who said “people think I’m dead, but I’m really alive”. My mum asked who it was and my dad didn’t know. His ‘visitor’ came back later, my dad asked his name and got the reply “Jesus Christ”.

For most of the past months he lived in a world of dreams and darkness (due to his blindness) within his own mind and thoughts. I trust the Lord continued to visit, but ultimately what dad did in response to those visits will remain a mystery until I eventually go to be with Him myself.

Because of distance, covid restrictions and chemo, I hadn’t been able to see him for almost a year.

Eye Level

A long time ago in a city far, far away…

…the sound of a bell would signal time to begin the school day. Later, a bell would signal the time to return to class after recess and lunch breaks.

In primary school that bell used to be handheld, either rung by a staff member, or by a favoured student. In High School, technology took over and a wall mounted bell would be activated, presumably by a timer.

Gloria’s experience was much the same, despite living in a small, far western NSW town.

The primary school up the road from our current home does things differently. Whenever I’ve been home during school weeks, at regular times throughout the day, a familiar tune could be heard coming from the school which is about 800 metres away. We deduced that the tune was the school’s alternative to a bell, summoning children in to class.

But despite the familiarity, I couldn’t think of the name of the tune. Out of frustration I sometimes considered phoning the school to ask what it was, I never got a round to doing it.

Gloria and I are avid viewers of a BBC game show, Bargain Hunt. Two teams are given an amount of money, and one hour to spend it in an antique centre or fair. The items they purchase are then sold at auction. They get to keep any profit made. Profits are rare, so the winner is usually the team with the smallest loss.

Last week one of the contestants was introduced as someone who had had a number one hit in the music charts. A brief clip of him performing on Top of the Pops was shown, dating back to 1973. It was the theme of a TV show of that time, and a much younger version of the contestant was conducting an orchestra playing that theme.

Mystery solved!

It was the same tune played by the local school throughout the day, every school day. It’s called Eye Level, and was the theme of a show called Vandervalk.

Mother’s Love

Today (Sunday 13th May) is celebrated as Mother’s Day in Australia.

It seems appropriate to share this photo of a rose that Gloria picked from our garden, three blooms on one stem.

It’s called Mother’s Love.

Mothers Love

do not worry about your life…

Yesterday I was told that a significant part of my job will be reallocated to someone else in one of the city offices. I asked whether I could expect a generous redundancy payout to be coming my way. The laughter that came in response seemed to indicate no.

 

If I can only survive here until March next year I’ll beat my previous longest term with an employer. Until now 9 years 11 months is the best. That was the job I had prior to starting university in 1990.

My next longest was around 8 1/2 years in the position I had prior to leaving Sydney to move to this country town.

I’m not sure what options there will be after leaving this job. There aren’t many new openings around for people of my age.

 

Prior to working here I had no concerns about finding enough work to keep the bills paid. I believed something would always come along, and that belief was always realised. More than once I was offered work without actively looking for it, including my current position.
I received an unsolicited phone call offering me five weeks work, relieving someone who was on 5 week’s leave and I’m still here almost ten years later, never having applied for my position, or being interviewed for it.
The main administrative change was being made a permanent employee at the same casual pay rate I’d previously been receiving. (Casual employees are usually paid a higher rate because they don’t have leave entitlements – I was given leave entitlements as well as keeping the higher pay rate).

 

It’s probably much easier to trust the Lord to provide when there’s no other option. Having something secure has its benefits, but it’s easy to become dependent on that security instead of trusting God.

 

I remember a friend of mine once received one of those Reader’s Digest sweepstakes mail outs to say he was in a draw to win a large amount of money. He prayed earnestly to win it and thereby solve his financial problems. I gave it little thought at the time but later realised that receiving a large pay out like that would have done nothing for his ongoing faith in God.
Rather than trust God for a one time answer to a life time of problems, we need to trust Him day by day by day … continuing throughout the rest of our lives.

 

While the future of my job may not be as secure as it once was, I need to be confident in trusting the Lord instead of relying on the security given by an employer.

 

 

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Military Service Records.

Almost three weeks ago I stopped procrastinating and started the process of applying for the military service records of Horace and Albert, my cousins killed in WWII.

I’ve written about them on a few occasions, when I’ve new information about them, or most recently, on the anniversaries of their deaths.

Each application costs 30 pounds sterling, and I had to order bank drafts in sterling from my bank. That itself was an ongoing experience, taking more than a week for the bank to work out some kind of internal glitch that prevented the cheques from being validated. However the problem turned into a blessing when the bank refunded their fees because of the inconvenience.

I posted the forms and cheques, and this morning I received emails to confirm the applications had been received by the appropriate people and they were being processed.
Sadly a lot of information won’t be accessible to me, because I’m not the next of kin, and I don’t have the approval of the next of kin. I don’t know who the legal “next of kin” would be. As far as I’m aware, neither of the two married or had children, so the role of “next of kin” would probably have gone through one of their surviving siblings then from generation to generation over the years since the war.
Both time and distance makes identification of that person impossible.

I can only hope that the information I DO get will be worth the wait and the expense. I’d like to be able to write some kind of “detailed” tribute of the two brothers in time for next year’s 75th anniversary of their deaths.

A year or two ago I applied for the Australian service records of Gloria’s dad who served in the RAAF in Borneo towards the end of WWII.
That was much easier. Even though I wasn’t a blood relation, I was able to submit the request myself. I was able to pay by credit card on line – no need for difficult bank transactions, or to mail a physical application form.
It took a few months to come through, but Gloria received a sizable collection of documents, all copied in a way to resemble the originals. I later found that my application also released the file to be accessible on line through the National Archives website.

Australian military records are far easier to access than the British equivalent. I’ve copied several WWI records from the National Archives site for people of interest.
We tried to get the same kind of information related to Gloria’s grandfather who served in the British Army during WWI (Royal West Kent) but apparently a large percentage of British WWI records were destroyed during the blitz. His records seem to have been among those lost.

Depending on the quality of the records I get of Horace and Albert’s service, I’ll consider getting records for my own Grandfather who was a Sergeant in the Royal artillery, stationed at various places on the south coast of England during WWII.

In Memory of Another Cousin (Who I Never Got to Know)

On 9th July 1943, aged 21, Horace Smith became a casualty during Operation Ladbroke, a glider mission intended to start the Allied invasion of Sicily. It was almost exactly two months after his brother’s death in North Africa.

Horace was aboard Glider no. 70, one of almost 150 gliders being towed to Sicily.

Like so many others, glider 70 didn’t make it, being released too far from land it crashed into the sea and Horace was one of six from the glider listed as missing.

Details of his final moments can be found here:
http://www.operation-ladbroke.com/waco-glider-70-disaster-border-medics-operation-ladbroke-sicily/

After being in the sea for about half an hour, we heard three people crying for help. Two of the voices were recognised as Pte. Smith’s and Pte. Kennedy’s. We shouted and flashed a torch but they were unable to reach us owing to the roughness of the sea. They continued to cry for help, but then we heard a choking noise, and the cries ceased.

Having no known grave, Horace’s name is listed on the Cassino Memorial at the Cassino War Cemetery in Italy.

___________________________________

Previous post about Horace

This is part of my militaria collection related to Horace. His photo. A beret of the type he is wearing in he photo, complete with RAMC cap badge. Five service medals (I assume) he would have been awarded. (1939-45 Star, Africa Star, Italy Star*, Defence medal, War Medal 1939-45)

A photo of the type of glider that took him to his death. A small map of the glider route. RAMC collar badge. A small copy of the Commonwealth War Graves document at the top of this post. I also have a plastic model of the glider waiting to be assembled.

The medals on the right and the small badge leaning against the glider photo aren’t related to Horace.

*I included the Italy Star among Horace’s medals, but it’s possible he wouldn’t have been awarded this one considering he lost his life on the way to the Sicily campaign and never made it to Italian territory. It’s something I can only confirm by obtaining his military service record.

I have now found that Horace arrived in Africa a month too late to have been eligible for the Africa Star. I’ve now moved the medal (seen in the photo) to another part of the cabinet with a few items related to Albert, Horace’s younger brother.

Albert Smith
Albert’s Grave

In Memory of a Cousin (who I never got to know)

On 11th May 1943, Albert Smith, aged 19, “died of wounds” at Oued Athmenia in Algeria, he was buried there and later reinterred in La Reunion War Cemetery.

His regiment was serving around Bou Arada in Tunisia. It is most likely that his wounds were received there requiring his evacuation to the 31 British General Hospital in Oued Athmenia.

From the war diary of Albert’s regiment, the following entry for 9th May possibly refers to the cause of Albert’s fatal wounds:

1 O.R. (other ranks) wounded by landmine.

I’m intending to apply for a copy of Albert’s service record which will hopefully confirm (or otherwise) whether that diary entry is referring to Albert.
Initially I was a little doubtful considering the distance between the mine incident and the place Albert died, but I later found that medical evacuations in that area were quite efficient around that time.