On my mind

... in my brain actually. My very own brain tumour

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tributes to John

This photo was taken by Joan in the Cedeberg in January, when John did his last hike and climbed his last peak, the Wolfberg.

Having said that the previous post was the last, I don't know how many bloggers will be looking at John's blog again, but many friends have requested that I put the tributes paid to John by our sons on the blog. The funeral took place on Monday 15th Sept 2008. We had a wonderful service which was a fitting tribute to a brave, talented man and Ian and Michael captured the heart of John so well.

Ian's Tribute:

Early in January I was driving home from the shop with Hannah when
mom called to say that there was something wrong with dad. They
had just got back from the Cederberg. I knew then, before the
diagnosis that it was a brain tumour and that he was dying.

I felt cheated. Dad wouldn't see our children grow up. We wouldn't
be able to go on family holidays together any more. It felt like
the expensive bottle of wine we'd got him for his birthday that he
wasn't able to drink. The wine as it turned out was corked and
putrid. Fit only to be poured down the drain. A bitter irony.

And yet, we were granted time. Quite a lot less time than we'd
hoped for, but time none the less. And time is a valuable thing.
In this time I learned again that my dad was amazing person.

He was a wonderful father although he seemed unconvinced of this.
He would often say that one day, we might forgive all the mistakes
he made. The truth is that there is nothing to forgive. Because
of him, I got to experience a broader world than I might otherwise.

I walked and climbed in the mountains with him. I listened to music
with him and although my taste diverged somewhat I find that I'm
deeply influenced by the music I was exposed to as a youngster.
He could get a tune out of just about anything: a piece of hose
pipe, a saw, two recorders at the same time or a garden tap.

He always questioned everything and he wasn't satisfied with a
superficial understanding. He was fascinated by the sciences and
things that we don't understand, the very big and the very small,
the universe and the atom. He tried to think about things in new
ways, in unconventional ways.

He told fantastic stories and I remember sitting in a darkened rooms
in front of fires on holidays being regaled tales of utter misery
in windswept and sand-blasted family holidays. Always told with a
wonderful sense of humour so that the hardship became funny. He
told us how he'd once burned half of a documentary his father had
made because he'd discovered how well celluloid burned. When his
father found out, in stead of being angry, they burned the other
half together for fun. But, he didn't have a happy childhood and
he looked on with envy at the start to life his 3 grandchildren are
being given.

He was a proud grandfather who fell in love with his grandchildren
rather unexpectedly. Proud of their beauty and delighting in their
innocence and wonder at everything. All new and bright.

And then the cancer struck and slowly ate his brain while the
medicines slowly ate his body. And he had to think hard about hard
questions. The one question that troubled him most was what to do
about God. Fortunately God knew what to do about dad and so about
a month before he died he accepted Christ into his life. And he
was specific saying "I want it said of me that I have accepted the
truths in the bible for myself".

He didn't want to be remembered as he was near the end: weak, frail
and fighting for small scraps of dignity. But this is fresh in my
mind. In time this memory will fade and I will walk in the mountains
and stand in a place where you stood, or I will remember a story
you told and I will pause. I will remember you full of life and I
will miss you.

Michael's Tribute:

A letter of thanks to my father
My father was a remarkable man. In his last days he said to me, “I wish that I could have given you boys more.” In this vein, I would like to focus on some of the many gifts that we, his boys have received from him.

Loved his children

One of my earliest memories is this. I can’t have been more than 3 years old. During a visit to family friends, I crawled onto one of those foam body-boards that happened to be floating in the swimming pool. The next thing that I remember was a brief moment of bubbles streaming past my face. Unable to swim, I was sinking. Seconds later I was being pulled out of the water by my now very wet father. This would be the first in a long line of saves from imminent danger that my father would perform. I guess that I needed a lot of saving in my earlier years. My father loved us, no matter how difficult things might have been at times. He was always around for us and invested heavily in our future. We in turn love our children too and would do anything to keep them from harm. Thanks Dad.


Prompt and well prepared

Just before diving into the pool in his Sunday best, he had enough time to remove just one garment. Without thinking, off came his watch. Yes. My father was always prompt and well prepared; a sign of respect for others and a seemingly uncommon human characteristic these days. I too cannot stand being late for an appointment. In all, I have spent numerous hours during my life waiting in my car at my appointments destination for the time to pass so that I can “arrive on time”. Thanks Dad.

Love of mountains

Thinking about being well prepared reminds me about his love for the outdoors. I remember a story he used to tell about a particular expedition of his. He and some mates were about to embark on a 4 day hike. Having not been on such a long hike before, he diligently did some research about what to take. There was a food provisioning table in one of Sir Edmund Hillary’s books on tackling Everest. I imagine the logic went something like this, “If it worked for Everest, it must work for our 4 day hike.” So they calculated, measured out and packed the recommended supplies which included a surprising amount of sugar. ½ a Kilogram of sugar per person per day! It seemed like a lot, but it’s what Sir Edmund Hillary recommended so it must be necessary... It wasn’t... If anyone has found little stashes of sugar hidden under rocks along the path down the Wit-Els and couldn’t understand why, consider the mystery solved. Now we, your children also share a love of the outdoors. Rock-climbing, hiking and basking in the beautiful simplicity and ruggedness of the mountains, I will always remember you fondly.

Thanks Dad.

Computers and things technical

Something that may have helped the “sugar calculations” is a computer, although perhaps the formulas for Everest don’t translate linearly to the Wit-Els. My father was always keenly interested in technology. He purchased his first Atari kit-computer when we were very young, which he upgraded to a BBC-Microcomputer, and ultimately a PC as the technology advanced. He enjoyed creating, and found that writing computer programs was a good way to do this. This was a passion he passed on to both of his sons before they were 10 years old and who would later go on to start successful careers in the computer industry. Thanks Dad for your patience in teaching us about technology.

D. I. Y.

My father was never afraid to fix things himself. Be it a radio, changing the oil in the car or rebuilding a wind-blown fence. He usually didn’t have the right tools for the job, but that didn’t stop him succeeding. Through determination, perseverance and a little un-holy language, the job would get done. I was never particularly good at fixing things, in fact quite the opposite: I broke things. But that was counter-balanced as my brother received gift enough for all of us for fixing things. Like Yin and Yang, Ian and I would go around fixing things and breaking things respectively. Incidentally, Ian now always has the right tools for the job. Thanks Dad for at least imparting this gift on one of us.

Love for music

Music was another passion of my father’s. Listening to it and playing it. I will always remember my father for his ability to turn any inanimate object into a musical instrument. While extremely adept at playing the music of the classical masters on the piano, he was also known for his Cross-Cut Saw concertos, as well as his ability to play Frere Jacques on the garden tap which was transmitted via means of vibration to the toilet bowl which acted as a loudspeaker, much to my surprise as I was the audience, so to speak. Perhaps it was his ability to play two recorders – one up each nostril – that put my brother off playing music; one recorder belonged to him. That certainly put me off the recorder, but I moved on to playing piano, drums and guitars after that. Thanks Dad for such a sound introduction to music.

Love and respect for his wife

My father loved and respected my mother. He never questioned her judgement (at least not in front of us). My parents always made decisions together, especially when it came to us children. A united front is what we saw. This is something that I hope to achieve in my own life, now that my wife and I have also been blessed with a wonderful little girl. Us boys as grown men now love and respect our wonderful wives. Thank-you Dad and thank-you Mom for this gift.

Strength to start over

Late in his life, events conspired against him at his job in the bank; a job that was the foundation of security for him and his family, security that he was so desperate to provide due to the lack of it in his own troubled childhood. In the face of his worst nightmare, he was able to find the strength to start again. He used all his skills as a computer-programmer, a financial expert and a mentor to create a tool and body of knowledge that would help others succeed in business. The metamorphosis began. I could see that, for the first time, he truly believed in what he was doing. Over time he became less stressed and just seemed lighter and happier.
This was an inspiration to me. Having been working for the same company for almost 13 years, I felt sorely like I needed a change. I figured that I would get there eventually, but I didn’t really have the courage to take the next step. The shocking news of my father’s brain tumour changed all of that. Three months before he intended to retire, he was diagnosed with three months to live without treatment. With odds like this, I decided that I had to do something about my own life. Life is simply too short to be doing something that you aren’t passionate about. I quit my job with nothing but the faith that I would find my way. Almost immediately I found a new job, one that I am passionate about. Thank-you Dad for leading by example and helping me find the strength to do this.

The right crowd

My father always managed to surround himself with good people, good friends. Your presence here is a testament to that. Thank you.

Humble farewell

Dad, I know that your primary mission was to provide for your family. You have given us so much more than you would ever admit to. I am eternally grateful for all that you have done for me. You were truly a remarkable man.

Farewell all you Bloggers!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Last Post

Dear Friends out there who have been keeping track of John's blog,

It is with great sadness & a very heavy heart, but also with relief, that I am writing this last post on the blog.

Yesterday just before noon, John died peacefully at home. He left this world as he wished - he just drifted into a sleep & faded away quietly, without a fuss.

We are so grateful that this happened before he became bedridden. We still would get him up & dressed each day to sit in his favourite chair in the lounge where he could listen to his music. He was suffering no pain, nausea or headaches but he did have a fair amount of mental anguish as his mind became confused. Except for his steroid face, he looked remarkably healthy & took great pleasure in eating rum & raisin icecream whenever he could persuade us to give it to him. In spite of his mental suffering he kept his wonderful sense of humour to the end.

Dearest Johnny, rest in peace and until we meet again may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Update from Joan

Alas, John & I have not been able to sit together to post a message of thanks to everyone who has been so kind to us. John's condition is slowly deteriorating almost daily. His chest infection seems to have cleared & the awful coughing has stopped, but he is very weak & his mind is confused much of the time. We do still manage to get him up each day to sit in his favourite chair where he listens to music. Sometimes I read to him which he enjoys very much & a vote of thanks must surely go to Bill Bryson whose books have kept him entertained over the last couple of months.

I will do my best to say all the thank-yous that John would like to express. There are so many that I am not going to mention everyone by name but rather by deed.

Thank you for bringing us food: soup, suppers, goodies for tea & chocolate
Thank you for bringing us flowers: Mixed bunches, orchids & fynbos
Thank you for taking us out when John was still able to get into a car
Thank you for doing our shopping when I was unable to leave the house
Thank you to a very dear friend who travelled all the way from Australia especially to spend a week with John ( and me )
Thank you for your prayers - even people we do not know directly in other parts of the world & here in SA.
Thank you for all the love & caring which has surrounded us during this time, which John has at last been able to receive & bask in, & which has led him to know that there is a God out there.
Thank you for standing in queues at the traffic Dept, re-registering our cars & having them roadworthied.
Thank you Jess for coming to stay at a moment's notice to help me before I had managed to organise the nurses to assist & for transporting them at every change of shift.

There are some young friends who have done special things for John which have moved him to tears & whom I will mention by name:
Thank you Stephen for your beautiful photo taken in our beloved Cederberg. It is much admired & is placed where we pass it all day long.
Thank you Jo, together with Antoinette, for putting together such uplifting music of 23rd Psalm on CD for John. He asks to listen to it often & it transports him to another world.
Thank you Kerry for your moving poem written for John. When he is agitated I read it to him & he especially wanted me to post it on the blog for him. So here it is:

O God who created mountains
Shaped valleys with his hand
Watches dassies at their play
And yet sees all of life unfold

Your voice is in the cry of a newborn
In the playing of children
The sigh of a mother
The voice of a father

From the first breath to the last
The wind in the peaks to the ocean spray
I've found you in the scudding clouds,
The forests
The timid disas hidden near streams.

The mountains are your cathedral
The skies your glory
The stars your crown

And I - I have walked on the mountains
Seen you in their beauty and harshness
God of this amazing creation

I have loved finding

Endless places we've explored
Fires we've shared and stars we've counted
Through all of life and now to beyond

I hear a call to come higher up, and further in

For John & Joan - August 2008-08-12

Lastly we thank our dearest boys ( men actually! ) and their loving wives for giving us their unfailing love & support, time so generously given, assistance where-ever it is needed & for bringing our darling grandchildren to shower their Gompa with love.

As you can see the list is very long. This is a difficult time we are going through but in some strange way it has brought many blessings and we thank you one and all for carrying us through on a cushion of love.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Joan taking over blog

For some time now John has been unable to use the computer. He has asked me to take over the writing of posts on his blog. Many people have expressed concern that there has been no post for a while so I am writing this one on his behalf. John has a chest infection and has been quite ill this last week. It has really taken it out of him, leaving him more weak and tired than usual. He has so many thankyous that he wants to say and when he is feeling a bit stronger, we will do a post together where he can tell you in his own words what he would like to say to all of you out there.

In all this time he has not lost his wonderful sense of humour, some days it just bubbles up more often than others. Mostly he is comfortable, except for his chest at present, and in no pain for which we are both very grateful.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Very good news

Joan and I received wonderful news yesterday. We have been presented with our third Grandchild by our youngest son, Michael and his wife, Gill.We are so happy and excited. Little Chloe was born by Caesarian Section yesterday at 15:39 at the Kingsbury Nursing Home. No problems, no complications at all. Her birth weight was 3.275Kg. She is beautuful! How about that for wonderful news. Pictures will hopefully follow

Friday, May 23, 2008

Senator Ted Kennedy and John Freislich

Well well. I see that these things have nothing to do with power or influence. We are all human and are all equally vulnerable. Ted Kennedy has just been found to have a glioblastoma tumour in his brain. This is essentially exactly what I have - except that I know my diagnosis with greater accuracy. Basically what has happened to the two of us is that a line of primitive brain cells - glioblasts - in our brains have gone out of control and are multiplying much too fast, causing space-consuming lesions that shouldn't be there at all. Eventually they will take up too much space and cause problems that will make it impossible to go on living normally. They are also demanding a blood supply to try to stay alive, but outgrowing that blood supply, resulting in cavity formation as time goes by. They are a big, big problem. Not nice at all.

I am a lucky guy because I have far better friends than Ted Kennedy. I feel surrounded by my friends. They are so special. They all just going on being themselves. We chat quietly when necessary, or joke about things if that's what we want to do. Or we just do nothing, knowing that we are there for each other. Most of us have our mountain experiences in common, and that in itself is special, simple and fulfilling. We don't nee to pretend. Who needs more money, power or fame? Come on! Not me. All of you out there are amazing. Don't change who you are. There are plenty of things that I can't do any more. Like playing the piano. That is very frustrating. I can't climb the mountain. That is a bummer! But that may come back. But I am enjoying my food - ask Joan. She knows, and has just kind of accepted that I will put on a bit of weight. She even went out and bought me a pair or braces the other day to make sure my pants stay up reliably in all situaions (!) One mustn't take unnecessary risks. . . .

For the time being life is actually pretty good. I going to do my best to enjoy it. The prognosis for the condition is not great. I know that. But so what. No one lives forever. To read about Ted Kennedys tumour, click here.

I found it interesting reading the link about his tumour because it gave me enough distance from my own to put it in better perspective.