Daniel Nuzum's audioboos

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Back to the farm: remembering the stories

Today I journeyed to my parents' farm where I grew up in Co Wicklow. It has been seven months since I was home and driving down the lane today brought so many memories flooding back. That lane holds the memories of so many journeys beginning and ending for me. As a schoolboy I regularly walked the lane with my siblings to catch the bus to school and then the journey downhill from the road at the end if the school day when a lovely warm dinner awaited. Today we were due at dinnertime - which is religiously 1pm- but thanks to roadworks, traffic and loo stops with children we eventually arrived at 3pm. The children were so excited as we turned into the lane and they caught sight of some cows in a field. And a digger in the distance. When we got inside it was just like a school day from 30 years ago when the 'dinner' was produced for us. 'I love granny dinners' our second eldest proclaimed!
So here we are and I hope to have the opportunity to walk the farm with the children to share with them my stories and memories of growing up here. They regularly ask 'tell me a story from when you were a little boy...'
Over the next few days I hope to share some more with them and 'walk them'.

All of this invites us to ponder and reflect on how we communicate and keep memory alive? How do we tell our important and personal stories to our children so that they have a sense of who they are and where they come from? Remembering is at the heart if the Jewish & Christian traditions. We tell the story of salvation and who we are as God's people. This is a powerful source of formation, tradition and personal and communal identity.

Which stories will I tell to my children over the next few days and what are the stories they will be weave for themselves so that they can pass them on in due course? Stories are important parts of who we are.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

From small acorns grow mighty oaks...Three years ago today

This inscription written by a midwife
gave us much hope during an
uncertain few days for Rory
Three years ago today our youngest two children, identical twin boys, were born at Cork University Maternity Hospital at 32 weeks gestation. The weeks leading up to their birth were a time of anxiety as week by week it became clearer that they would need to be delivered for their own safety. And so at 14:53 & 14:54 on Tuesday 23 October they were delivered by C- Section.

I was thinking of them a lot last night as I was back amongst former parishioners at Holy Trinity Church, Crosshaven for the dedication of their new Pipe Organ. Heather and I will never forget the extraordinary love and kindness shown to us at that time of great uncertainty for us as we spent time with our two little men in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit. (Little did I know that I would be working in this area in pastoral care a few years later!) The picture opposite shows a very thoughtful drawing on the cover of a bag of TPN (liquid intravenous food) which we were greeted with one day in the neonatal unit. It was a difficult few days where one of the boys had been very ill with septicaemia. This thoughtful gesture by Ann, one of the midwives meant so much to us and gave us an inkling that things might just be OK.

EVERY day for 6 and a half months the parishioners of Templebreedy fed us and our family. This came without asking. Every day a main meal arrived at the rectory for us.
No words can begin to describe what this meant during what was an incredibly stressful time for us as a family. We had three other children, the youngest at the time was only 13 months and they too had needs. Our families were four hours away. When the boys eventually came home I was trying to continue my work which mercifully was from home and Heather literally spent the whole time breastfeeding the boys. It was a full time occupation! Breastfeeding sick, premature twins is a vocation. Our family, friends and in this case our parish family gave us so much love and support and literally held us through the first six months as we got these little men on the path to growth and development. We also always felt that they shared in our joy. We had many dinner parties for up to 50 people (madness when we think back!) where the twins simply slept in the corner of the room or were cuddled by various people. At the end of one such gathering one of the boys had an apnoeic attack and needed to be resuscitated and brought back to hospital and ended back in the neonatal unit for another sojourn. Scary stuff!

The boys will of course never remember this part of their life and will probably never remember this role I had in the community and in the parish. I miss being around them as I work and being able to see the children at various stages during the day whether it was fleetingly as I was in school, or assembly, teaching in school or simply working from the parish office which was attached to our home. Now I go to work in the morning and return in the evening.
So last night being back in Holy Trinity Church, Crosshaven on the eve of their birthdays this all came back to me and what a testament to a hardworking, caring, faithful and inspiring parish community who gave us so much and who this weekend celebrate the completion of the restoration and conservation of their parish church and the dedication of their new pipe organ.

So to our youngest, today is a milestone we are so proud to have reached with you. You are a handful and a heartful and you have brought out the best in so many people: keep it up! To all who have given us so much: Thank you!

Making music: making history

It was a strangely emotional experience to be back in the parish this evening where I was priest from 2002-2009. During my time as rector of Holy Trinity, Crosshaven, Co. Cork the parish embarked on a very ambitious restoration and conservation programme of their beautiful church which was designed and built between 1866-1868 by the word renowned architect William Burges. This church is a gem. As part of the overall restoration of the church the parish replaced a former Pipe Organ which had reached the end of its days by commissioning a brand new mechanical action pipe organ which was built by the Dutch organ builder Henk van Eeken and installed a few weeks ago. Mark Duley, Organ Consultant for the project gave inspirational leadership to the parish throughout this project. The Bishop blessed the new organ tonight, something which I guess is a rare thing these days.
It took a long time to get to tonight and it was a sense of real sadness for me that this project was not finished by the time I felt called to pastures new in healthcare ministry in 2009. It was something that I felt I left unfinished and if i'm honest left me with a level of guilt -until tonight.

I was graciously invited to preach at the service of dedication this evening by my successor to whom great credit is due for bringing the project to its completion. I loved my time in that parish and it will forever hold special memories for me as a priest. I had profound moments in my ministry there with the most wonderful people. In the words of the Bishop "...[they] have done a beautiful thing for God..." in seeing this project through to completion. I don't think however that the locals realise yet the immense significance of this project in terms of its contribution to the musical world not just in Cork but in Ireland.  It looks stunning and is faithful to the sheer brilliance and genius of William Burges. I was immensely proud of the parishioners for having the courage to see this project through to completion and it was a real joy to be there this evening.

In my sermon I reflected on primary role of the Pipe Organ in shaping and allowing God's Spirit to infuse the beauty of worship and how it has the capacity to bring us to that deep place and experience of God. I had many such experiences in this parish and indeed in Nohoval Parish Church which is the second of the two churches which makes up the parish grouping of Templebreedy. I described the Pipe Organ as holding the breadth of the human condition within it. It brings out the very best in terms of what is possible when we work together  creating the most beautiful and rich harmony but strangely -as in life- the same processes can bring about dischord and the pain of shrill when we do not work together. Both are held together and are in many ways inseparable parts of the reality of being human.

I wish the parish of Templebreedy every blessing as they continue to make music and offer the very best of it in their worship to God week by week. They are fortunate to have such dedication in their Director of Music and their beautiful Templebreedy Children's Choir and of course their Priest Isobel Jackson. Ad multos annos.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I shared in two public ceremonies of remembrance in the last week where bereaved families came to remember their loved one. In both cases the churches were full to capacity. The first was for those who are bereaved following the death of a baby or the loss of a pregnancy and the second was for those whose loved one died in the care of our local hospice services. In a very poignant way I had a deep sense at both events that I was treading -hopefully very softly- on sacred ground. The sacred ground of hopes, dreams and memories. I was for a short time treading very gently in the land of grief where our sensitivities are heightened and our rawness very bare. Grief is a strange land.

Remembering is at the very heart of the Christian tradition. We remember every time we gather for worship. We recall the saving, generous and loving acts of God in Jesus Christ. However, it is more than simply recalling in a nostalgic sense. Rather, it is about keeping alive the bond of love and connection across time and space. It is hard to adequately express in words -which are so conditioned and limited by time and space- just what this means. How do we convey what it is to be still connected, to still have communion with those 'we love but see no longer'?

At each service of remembrance there was a sense of collective and shared experience of loss, yet, we all grieve differently. There is something very powerful when we can gather together in this way acknowledging the experience that we share yet being able to have a time where each person can be with their own grief. At each service I think this happened.

At the end of the Service for those who were grieving the death of a baby or a pregnancy there was a profound experience where the staff of the hospital each lit candles and formed a ring of candlelight around the church with parents and families each holding their own candle. The lights went down and the music faded. In that silence we were treading in a land without the limits of time and space. It was a time of deep presence and supportive love.

In the second service for our local hospice I was struck by the number of young people there. A full church of families marking the death of a loved one. A service where once again we were in a space of memory and love. Each person there with their rich memories of love and pain. Stories which were shared afterwards with me through the tears and the knowing looks as I reconnected with families I had journey with earlier this year. Young people, parents, children, grandparents, spouses, partners. As a Christian the abiding sense I had during this service was of God coming alongside each person and holding them, embracing them and loving them as if they were the only person in the world. Personal and individual love in a collective setting. To remember in this way is profound and transcends religious and faith systems.

There was no easy way to escape the painful fact that we miss the one who has died. we miss their voice, their physical presence, their smells, their habits -even the ones that annoyed us, their company, their laughter, their playfulness, their support and so the losses can go on...

Death is painful and grief is hard. None of us will escape it so why do we find it so hard to talk about it? Why do we find it so hard to reach out to someone who is bereaved? Instead we don't know what to say, so we duck into a shop to buy something we don't need rather than stop to ask a grieving friend how they are. We are afraid they might cry, that they might get upset. Yet those tears are healing. Let's be real and have the courage to come alongside those who mourn. Words are not necessary, presence is everything.

Monday, October 18, 2010

St Luke's Day 2010

I joined colleagues today who are involved in healthcare ministry for a celebration of the eucharist at St Fin Barre's Cathedral followed by lunch kindly hosted by the Dean, Nigel Dunne. It was an opportunity to take some time out to reflect on our calling as we minister amongst those who are ill. I say amongst as it is so much closer to the heart of what healthcare ministry is about for me. I cringe when I hear people refer to or pray for 'the sick'. Such a description reveals a lot about the person using it!
 'The sick' are always remote, distant and a barrier is erected between us and 'them'. Real pastoral presence for me is about coming alongside a fellow human being and being a companion on their journey for a while. It is road to Emmaus stuff. It is the art of being able to meet someone where they are in a natural, accepting and loving way. This presence allows a person to be honest about what's going on for them and to journey forward in a trusting way. If we think about it there are very few people with whom we can be fully honest without fear of judgement. In this sacred space healing is more important than 'cure'. What do you think?
For good measure here is St Luke as depicted on the pulpit in St Fin Barre's Cathedral.

3 Minute Retreat Desktop Images - Loyola Press

3 Minute Retreat Desktop Images - Loyola Press

Sunday, October 17, 2010

St Luke's Day

Tomorrow, 18 October is St Luke's Day and is a special day for those of us engaged in pastoral and healthcare ministry in the Christian tradition.
 I look forward to joining fellow chaplains at a celebration of the Eucharist at St Fin Barre's Cathedral followed by lunch.
St Luke Roundel from Sanctuary window, Holy Trinity Church, Crosshaven, Co. Cork

meaning close to home: the children...

the twins instinctively holding hands when they were back together for the first time since they were born prematurely.
I rejoice in each of my children. They are 5 in number and are aged almost 12, almost 10, 4 and identical twins about to be 3 this coming week. They are a lively bunch and keep us busy every day.  If I'm honest it is a daily struggle to keep calm as you can literally be pulled in five directions at once. Each of the children has their own unique personality and gifts and each of them brings us so much joy and delight. Equally each of them has their challenges which we navigate on a daily basis. It is easy to get frustrated with the sheer commitment and at times we loose patience. Yet, in a hospital environment things take on a new perspective. This came home to me a few days ago when I was spending time with a lady whose pregnancy did not survive and she asked me about my children. Normally I would steer the conversation away from me but in this case the person in question seemed to know that I was a parent. "What ages are they?" she asked.  At one level I almost felt guilty speaking about my 5 children when she desperately wanted to have even 1. It seems so unfair. Yet, being honest I sometimes take for granted the miracle that each of them is to us. And that's what they are: a miracle, an extraordinary gift to us. May I never forget it.

Finding meaning

Welcome to my blog. I hope to blog from time to time my musings on spirituality and health and how we find meaning in the midst of health and illness. The absence of full health brings us to various places and introduces us to various experiences in what can be a foreign land of uncertainty and fragility.