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25 October 2016


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The late Nenk Pasul MBE, the first Member of Parliament for Kandep, had sent word for me to go and pick him up from Mt Hagen so he could say his last words to all of us, his tribesman, before he died.

Nenk was looked after by wantoks in town to get easy treatment at the Mt Hagen hospital. Nenk had realised his time for departure was near.

My boss, the late James Sikin, had forgotten to pass the message to me. He apologised after two weeks when we heard of Nenk’s death.

When I went to collect his body, wantoks had already hired another vehicle and were bringing it home. I met them at Minamb in Wapenamanda.

When I climbed onto the other vehicle to cry over the coffin, a light drizzle suddenly fell from an otherwise clear sky. I couldn’t explain that but elders said later that Nenk’s spirit had either cried with me or expressing his sadness/anger for not picking him up when he was still alive so he could say farewell to all of us.

'Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day.......'

Thus wrote our alcoholic Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. So it was better to read of Fr Garry's old folks of the Highlands who quietly accepted their imminent demise.

Death is one of the two thing Benjamin Franklin noted in one of his letters. The other was taxes!

I noted a new trend on my last trip home to Lavongai Island. Several old men - it is always seems to be men perhaps because the women are too busy toiling to start a new tradition - made their relatives prepare a huge funeral feast in which the dying man could perhaps eat his last bit of pork.

Another spread the news of his death while still alive. I had spoken with him on a Friday morning so was very surprised and sad when one of his sons flew over from working in Moresby to Kavieng and arrived by dinghy in the darkness on Saturday night.

I opened my tiny store for him and his relatives to buy bags of rice etc for the funeral meal.

You can imagine my surprise a few days later when the same family called in for fuel to get back to town. I commiserated with them but the son exclaimed, “He's still alive though not well, but he just wanted to see us before he dies.”

During my National Service I liked the motto of the 8th Company Welsh Guards which, translated from the Welsh, says: 'Feared be he who fears not death.'

I thought it apparently very fitting for a soldier but later found out it is not in line with the view of 'Blood & Guts Patton' who in WW2 asked a group of soldiers for any who were not afraid to die for their country to indicate by raising their hands.

Knowing his reputation all signalled they had no fear of death. Patton was annoyed and told them, “A soldier fights better if he is afraid to die!”

At present too many sons of Islam claim to be very happy to die for their faith perhaps because of the sexual blessings they receive after death.

Similarly Christians often proclaim their wishes to 'To depart this evil world to Be with the Lord'.

Ironically an article in Christianity Today reported that a survey, possibly by Pew Research, discovered the biggest spenders per head on medical care were evangelical Christians trying to hold onto life as long as possible.

Having got past the biblical promise of 'three score years and ten' now, I'm no better and would like to get my centennial birthday card from Missus Queen.

Toward the light....

Michael Pebena (Wanumba lain?), thank you for your kind comments.

Old Kuruba from Gumats/Kaiwe also told his people he would be dying soon. They asked him to wait until after their planned moka sing-sing. This was shortly after Ross had died in May 1973.

Kuruba told his people that he would not wait because Fr Ross had died and he wanted to follow him. Kuruba died in September 1973 and the sing-sing was held some months later.

I do remember also deaths of Elpa and Nindipa from Mokei Kiminka Romndimp clan.

I like this article, Garry....very interesting. The stories remind me of some of our 'lapuns' who passed away peacefully many years ago. Thank you.

They are indeed heartwarming stories Garry, of the kind I like to read.

Fr Garry, ange mam. Thank you for these beautiful stories. I am a relative of some of those you wrote about and it was happy reading for me to learn of their virtues.

We are only told stories about our old people and I have found no written literature about them. At least now we have these little pieces of articles on each of them.

If these articles plus any of the many other articles you post on this blog are part of a book you are writing then, though a lot of work, I say God bless you and I look forward to such.

Thus, cheers, ange mam ( thank you very much) and happy to know you're still healthy and working.

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