Hospice Hero’s – Thank You

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Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen

A NYC Taxi driver wrote:

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked.. ‘Just a minute’, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

‘Would you carry my bag out to the car?’ she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.

She kept thanking me for my kindness. ‘It’s nothing’, I told her.. ‘I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.’

‘Oh, you’re such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, ‘Could you drive
through downtown?’

‘It’s not the shortest way,’ I answered quickly..

‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she said. ‘I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘I don’t have any family left,’ she continued in a soft voice. ‘The doctor says I don’t have very long.’ I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

‘What route would you like me to take?’ I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.

We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, ‘I’m tired. Let’s go now’.

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move.
They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

‘How much do I owe you?’ She asked, reaching into her purse.

‘Nothing,’ I said

‘You have to make a living,’ she answered.

‘There are other passengers,’ I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

‘You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,’ she said. ‘Thank you.’

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life..

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.

But great moments often catch us unaware – beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

 Tonight, when you leave this hall, you will have the opportunity to drop a donation into a box at the door – to give a note to St Francis Hospice.

 Remember: that small moment in your life is a great moment in the lives of 600 odd people who live with life-limiting illnesses here in Port Elizabeth and are cared for by St Francis Hospice.

 I know that it’s a great moment because I am one of those people. I live, albeit for a while longer, with corticalbasal degeneration, a degenerative brain disease.

 My name is Ed Lunnon.

 On behalf of my fellow patients, I wish to thank Richard Cock and his musicians for the entertainment; St Francis Hospice for the caring, and you, the audience, for turning small moments into great ones today.


The End of an Era

Monday 16 August 2010: 3 years 11 months on …

Pussy Cat Pussy Cat

Where have you been?

I’ve been to London

To see the Queen

Londres is my favourite city in all the world.

Ironically, my surname LUNNON was originally a habitation name for someone who came from London or a nickname for one who had made a trip to London or had some other connection with the City.


In my case, I first got the name and was then so fortunate to have visited there no less than seven times – the first time in January 1976 when, aged 19, I was returning from my year in the USA.


Then I went back in June 1981 on my student tour of Europe, in June 1985 on the Grey Cricket Tour of UK and Holland, in December 1987 en route to the USA, in June 1999 on holiday in the UK with Pera, in October 2001 with Pera, Sean and Phillip on returning from the USA and in November 2008 when I was in the UK thanks to my matric class of 1984.   


It was only on the last visit that I got to see the Queen – up close and personal – on her way in her horse-drawn carriage to officially open Parliament at Westminster.


But then I have also seen the diminutive Queen Elizabeth – up close and personal – in Port Elizabeth when she visited here in 1995. (And, despite the utterances of some politicians of the present day, there is no connection between the Elizabeth as in the Queen and the Elizabeth as in the Port – the latter being Elizabeth Donkin, the wife of Sir Rufane Donkin, who named this seaport in 1820 after his then late wife who had passed away in 1818 at the age of 27).


Like it or not, we just don’t seem to be able to get away from our Colonial English roots.


And so, this past weekend saw us leaving Port Elizabeth for London again – only this time it was East London, just 300 km east up the N2 in the area that is known as The Border. In the 18th and 19th centuries, this area was the war-torn border between the arriving white European settlers from the west and the migrating black Xhosa tribes from the east.


The tourist signs along the N2 refer to Frontier Land, and, on Friday morning, with Sean at the wheel, we passed a number of these signs as we headed east this time and passed through Grahamstown, Peddie and King William’s Town en route to East London – now also referred to as Buffalo City.


East London had a particular attraction for my late father, Herbert Louis Lunnon. When I was ten, our family went on a rare holiday – a unique caravan tour through South Africa. I remember our caravan parked in the East London caravan park on a site high up on the terraces facing the Indian Ocean somewhere behind where the Holiday Inn (Garden Court) is today.


Mom and Dad loved the place and Dad always wanted to retire there. Sadly, Dad never retired because just two years later, in 1969, at the age of 52, he suffered a debilitating stroke that left him totally paralysed and speechless until he passed away in 1976.


In 1977, I recall my Mom, Doris, bringing Ingrid, June and I on a return visit to East London. We stayed in the Bliss Holiday Flats on the beachfront – they are still there today!


I recall being quite scared in King William’s Town, where we were caught up in masses, if not millions, of Black people who were attending the funeral of Black Consciousness leader, Steve Biko who had died (committed suicide, read as murdered!) in police custody some days earlier.  


Sadly, Mom, too, never retired. She died at the early age of 55 in 1986 – my third year of teaching at Grey.


I also got to enjoy East London during my business career. Almost weekly visits led me to have an almost permanent apartment, C3, at the Blue Lagoon. The Highlander brings back fond memories. I know Slummies (or Slumtown as some prefer to call it) like the back of my hand. It was said that there are four women for every one man in Slummies!


But, on to the next generation and last weekend: This time, Sean, Phillip and I passed through King uneventfully. The only excitement there was when we stopped at the Buffalo Wimpy in order to have a wee.


As I walked into the cloakroom, I heard Lance Du Plessis behind me. (Lance is my interviewer on AlgoaFM: Ed is in Wed and after 5 months of interviews, I’d recognise that voice anywhere! As I spun around to say hello, I became aware that he was not there – only his voice on the radio that was broadcasting on the loudspeakers in the cloakroom!


I suddenly realised the power of radio, all the strange places that it was to be heard and the impact that our radio programme was having. (Wherever we went in East London over the weekend, I was known or introduced as the “Ed from the Radio”!) Once again, I have been humbled by the opportunity to raise awareness of CBD that is being afforded me by AlgoaFM and Lance!


Phillip and Sean were playing rugby against Selborne College on Saturday morning. But Sean had to be at the school at 11h30 to set up for a music evening. The Grey Symphonic Winds, The Grey Voices, The Grey Strings and The Grey Orchestra were scheduled to entertain us, together with the Selborne Military Band, on Friday evening.


This was it!


It would be Sean’s last appearance as a schoolboy trombonist in the Grey Orchestra. It would also be his last appearance on Saturday morning playing rugby for his school in the Reds – Grey’s Third rugby team.


Well, the weekend started on a high note (!) with superb performances by the musicians, but the enthusiasm became flatter and flatter, as one Grey sport team after the other turned in a loss!


Sean managed to put his team into the lead by creating a break for a fine try. But, in the presence of a poor kicking performance by their regular kicker, Sean was given the conversion kick. He missed, and it left Grey just one point ahead of Selborne.


And then, Selborne were awarded a penalty – it was over, they moved two points ahead, and the final whistle was blown. Selborne won by two points!


I guess Sean will always remember that last game as the one that they could have drawn IF he had kicked over that conversion!


But, at the end of this era, remember Sean, that wonderful break, that wonderful try, and ten years of wonderful rugby that you have experienced since your under 9 days.


Remember what you have learned – from that first game in Queenstown when, quietly on the back seat of the car you told us that your team was going to play rugby against Queens and no-one even knew how to play the game!


Remember the players that you have played with and against along the way. Remember all the friends that you have made.


Remember the coaches that have spent hours training you.


Remember the many families that have hosted you, and the boys that we have hosted.


Remember the many and happy trips we have made together to Bloemfontein, Queenstown, Cape Town, King William’s Town, Graaff-Reinet, Stellenbosch, Durban, Pietermaritzberg and East London.


Remember the sportsmanship and the wonderful example that you have set for Phillip.


Remember the many hours of pleasure that you have given your Mom and Dad as we have watched you from where we have stood and sat next to the many sport fields that you have played on.


Remember all the friends that, through your activities, we have made along the way.


 Remember the FUN!


Remember the wonderful music that you have played for us, and we pray that you will be able to keep on playing – on the fields and in the music halls – for many years to come.


On Friday night, your Orchestra played “Band of Brothers” by Michael Kamen. Remember the band of brothers that you have at Grey.


Above all, remember that, as on the sports fields, you do not win everything in Life.


Life’s not fair, and when the knocks come, as they always do, and when we perceive life to be unfair, as some parents perceived the referees on Saturday, it doesn’t help to rant and rave and to shout abuse, as some parents did on Saturday.


It’s how you take the knocks that count! And, you have already shown us, Sean, that you can take the knocks.


In the end, as Grantland Rice said,


For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, He writes — not that you won or lost — but how you played the Game.


Remember, that you have made us very proud parents.


And, the rest of the weekend?


We had a great time. Friday evening, after the show, we had supper at the Black Bull with Robbie and Clair Blair, Frank and Jenny Collier, Ronel Charalambous and Stuart Keene. And the Band of Brothers!


We stayed on the beachfront at Cintsa in David Nosworthy’s (ex pupil and currently touring as coach with the emerging Proteas cricket side) beach house (thanks to Rory Lavender’s arrangements).


Saturday evening, we called back the past and braaied with Uwe and Carol Tinhoff, residents in Beacon Bay and friends of mine from the business days, and the days when we were still able to run the Knysna Forest Marathon!


And Sunday morning, we visited the new Hemmingways Mall and met up with Stella Heuer, an ex-business associate of mine. (Stella arranged a contract for me to do HIV/AIDS training in the rolling hills of Transkei in 2004 – but that’s another story for another time!)


Our visit was brief, because we had to get back to PE for Sean to get to … rugby practice at 15h00! It’s BODAs vs DAYPOTS on Friday. So much for the end of the era …