I've spent quite a bit of time this week preparing a power point presentation for a talk I gave this afternoon. Tess Ward, the chaplain at the Nuffield Hospital in Oxford, had invited me to take part in an afternoon for wannabe vicars about disability and terminal illness. The Nuffield is transformed since we lived in Oxford - presumably a result of public/private money being poured in...
But I must say the parking is a lot better; and the facilities are nice. There were twenty students there from the three Anglican training colleges in Oxford. We met in the OT kitchen. I thought I'd better start with a joke, and happily a friend of Jane, Sally, had sent me just the story I needed: "A vicar entered his donkey in a race and it won. The vicar was so pleased with the donkey that he entered it in the race again, and it won again. The local paper read: VICAR'S ASS OUT IN FRONT. The Bishop was so upset with this kind of publicity that he ordered the vicar not to enter the donkey in another race. The next day, the local paper headline read: BISHOP SCRATCHES VICAR'S ASS.
"This was too much for the bishop, so he ordered the vicar to get rid of the donkey. The vicar decided to give it to a nun in a nearby convent. The local paper, hearing of the news, posted the following headline the next day: NUN HAS BEST ASS IN TOWN. The bishop fainted. He informed the nun that she would have to get rid of the donkey. So she sold it to a farmer for £10. The next day the paper read: NUN SELLS ASS FOR £10.
"This was too much for the bishop, and so he order the nun to buy back the donkey and lead it to the common so it could run wild. The next day the newspaper headlines read: NUN ANNOUNCES HER ASS IS WILD AND FREE.
"The bishop was buried the next day."
The moral is actually very relevant for would-be vicars, as the pressure to please various parties in your church is huge: "The moral of the story is... being concerned about public opinion can bring you much grief and misery... even shorten your life. So be yourself and enjoy life. Stop worrying about everyone else's ass and you'll be a lot happier and live longer!"
I put the story on the screen, having warned people about my tendency to guffaw or weep. There was no way I could have told the story. As it was, of course, I did cry in my talk, but they didn't seem to mind too much. At least they saw MND in action and quite a number said it had been helpful. I found Rachael Marsden's talk about the psychology of loss helpful. She's the specialist MND nurse and coordinator of the Oxford MND Centre. She talked about the acceptance phase of loss, and said being 'void of emotion' was characteristic. I've occasionally wondered why I sometimes feel like that. One of the students gave us a verse, which I looked up when we got home. Then I remembered why I used to enjoy my job!
Zephaniah 3.17 The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.