What a difference a day makes

Every day is different but what every day starts and ends with is driving! I drive from my home-working base in the countryside to the coast. The day dictates the harbour; Tuesday is Eyemouth, Wednesday is Port Seton, Thursday is Dunbar/Seahouses, it depends on the time of year, the season, the weather even, variety is the name of the game and prioritising must be the name of the aim.

Each community has its own personality but one thing they have in common is that they are all relatively small and tight-knit with large numbers of retired fishermen and widows. Collectively though the working fishermen number a substantial figure of around 200.

One Monday morning I got a phone call from the local funeral director saying that a retired fisherman from Eyemouth had died over the weekend. Within hours I am sitting with his wife and two sons who had said their final goodbyes only two days previous. He was the centre of their universe! He was also a hugely popular, well known, well-liked fisherman and in every sense a wonderful man. I sat in their kitchen, sharing a cup of strong, freshly ground coffee, interspersed with tears of laughter and tears of sorrow and grief. They share their deeply personal tales of their father’s life from his first breath to his last moments…. An intimate and trusting encounter. I must listen very carefully as they reveal so many stories of an entire life and their part in it, not in any order, just as it occurs to them. I gauge their tone, their mood, their needs, their wants, reading between the lines, checking for accuracy amidst their distress, but maintaining my own professional integrity and compassion. This is followed by planning and preparing for the actual funeral service, by composing the service/eulogy itself and liaising with the Funeral Director. The actual funeral typically takes place a week or so later. The most advance notice I’ve had is 4 days where swiftness was the order of that day!

I also had a phone call from a local carer’s charity whose service user was a retired fisherman (he had been medically retired by a heart condition and various other health constraints). That same day, I visit him to discover he was a lone parent and sole carer of his severely autistic school-age son, living away from any of his family or support network. There were a whole host of issues to help with including liaising with social services and several grant applications. These included a Shipwrecked Mariners Society grant for immediate needs, a Royal Merchant Navy Education Foundation grant for an educational laptop for his son which facilitates social inclusion and educational development and a Sailors Children Society grant for assistance with school meals, uniform, and a respite holiday. He is considering moving back to his home town which is within my area and he is very happy that he will retain some continuity with me supporting him and his son.

After two such intense and lengthy calls, I typically need to take time to digest and complete the associated paperwork and phone calls/emails which will begin the process of making the above happen. I manage to get my daily stats completed, as tomorrow typically brings another set of concerns. I also complete the beneficiary case notes to record all related interventions.

I try to get the most out of each day that God gives. During some days the rain falls, the floods come, and the winds blow and “the house” is buffeted. But it does not collapse. When my heart is rooted in God, I can withstand anything and will be blessed at the deepest place.

Supt Claire McIntosh
Mission Area Officer
South East of Scotland and North Northumberland