Words are important. Sometimes, they are all we have.
My father, Ian Arno Nietz (IAN), died last month.
Ian's family were German immigrants. From the north - Prussia and Schleswig Holstein. They were all solid Lutherans.
One thing that differs in Lutheran funerals compared with other Christian funerals is that they tend to go easy on the eulogies.
Lutherans typically believe salvation isn’t something that one earns throughout their lifetime. Instead, it’s granted only by the grace of God.
To talk about one’s accomplishments boastfully is a sign of disrespect in front of the church. So eulogies are never long, braggy, drawn out affairs.
Writing and delivering a *brief* eulogy for my father in the only Lutheran church in Ballarat was simultaneously stressful and cathartic. But language is my way of dealing with Ian's death. And it is a fitting way to cope.
Well, when I was a kid, Monday night meant local library night.
Ian borrowed and read 5 library books a week for the 50 years I knew him.
He loved words, etymology, foreign language and whodunits.
He read books to us kids like crazy.
He loved scripture.
He (loudly) loved hymns.
He taught us all our prayers. Catholic and Lutheran.
He taught us the words of civility.
He played piano and knew all the words of the big tunes from the 30s and 40s.
He told us stories of his childhood before, during and after the war.
The St. James bible was always by his bed; John's Gospel well thumbed.
Words can feel awkward and redundant when someone dies, but don’t trust that feeling. In the end, I think that our words are the best things we have for each other.
These are the last words I had for my father.
You always showed me that every visit, phone call or interaction should have a distinct greeting and distinct farewell.
A most sincere, never jingoistic, ‘G’day mate’ was your favourite greeting.
You wanted to wear your overalls today, so here you are in your blue overalls.
Hard Yakka 107S.
Your flat carpentry pencil in your pocket.
You loved spending time in the shed, and I loved being there with you.
I remember your powerful, purposeful stance as you planed a block of wood.
The aroma of wood oils and turpentine is warm, earthy and reassuring – just like you.
I see the curly shavings join the thick carpet of sawdust on the stone floor.
I hear the transistor radio tuned to the ABC for the cricket or the footy.
I spent so much time in there watching you make things, I assumed you had made me right there on your bench with your special woodworking tools.
I saw Geppetto standing there - thick, wavy hair and glasses.
The man who made the world.
Remember your 80th birthday?
We climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge together.
Both you and the bridge were 80.
On that bridge climb, you were oldest.
And you were the slowest .
But you knew the most.
You knew considerably more than the bridge climb guide.
I was on the Ian Nietz History of Bridge Design tour that day.
I was by far the luckiest tourist.
You and I know that your last years were tough.
But you never missed the opportunity to share your special brand of humour.
I took you to The Peter MacCallum for radiotherapy.
I remember you settling into the big chair in the ward ready to be examined.
The nurse raising the chair up.
You sat there calmly, arms folded and requested : ‘short back and sides’.
A cheery farewell was mandatory to bring to a close every interaction I shared with you. Whether it was leaving the house to go to school, leaving home and everything in between, you insisted on a proper goodbye.
So here we are, Ian.
This is the last time we’ll have to say goodbye.
Du fehlst mir.
I miss you.
Ruhe in Frieden.
Rest in Peace.