Msgr John Carde
3 December 2011
With the songs of Chris Skinner [sm] still ringing after attending one of his concerts, Mary Kane said to me in her understated way, ‘Mother’s not well’.
Tony White, Florence’s brother, rang with the same message. ‘And if you go to see her in Mary Potter, ring first as she falls in and out of sleep.’
Well I didn’t ring. Florence was wide awake. I pulled up my chair. She proffered her hand which I held and there in that small and intimate ward we had an amazing conversation.
I’m not breaking a confidence when I tell you this as John Kane and I talked on the phone about her well known love-hate relationship with the Church which she now brought up.
As she said this her eyes narrowed and she gave me her Mona Lisa smile. ‘You work it out, Carde. You’re the priest.’
I told her to be a little fickle in one’s relationship with the Church was no unusual stance.
‘But Florence you are dying.’
‘Yes, I know but I don’t want to die.’
‘Nor did Jesus want to die right until the end. So, Florence would you like to activate again that Jesus gene infused into your being at baptism. The ‘I live now, not I but Christ lives in me,’ of which St Paul speaks.
‘Yes, I would. Go ahead.’
Let’s go walkabout in the garden of Gethsemane. Say after me, ‘Father if it is possible let this suffering pass me by. Nevertheless not my will but yours be done.’
Would you like to try it again?
‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’
Florence, we have to splash with joy like happy hippotami in the mudpool of God’s forgiveness.
And another one?
‘This day you will be with me in Paradise.’
Don’t we all thirst, and for God alone.
Newman’s tombstone says, ‘from shadows and images to reality, the human God-marinated heart yearning to possess the God-infused heart.
‘It is finished’
But is it?
His body, the church, continues the message. You and I, your descendants are to write the final chapter of her life with your life.
Don’t allow her memory to be dissipated just with tears but also with action. Let people say Florence Mary still lives in her baby-boomer children and in their children.
Jesus was fascinated by wood. Well, he was a carpenter – the wood of the door that they knocked on for the ‘no room in the inn’ – the wood of rejection; the wood of the manger, the wood of comfort, the wood of boats, the wood of the cross.
That’s why, Florence Mary, your buying that old rowboat and getting the family to sand it down and get it ready is the essence of the Kane family.
Returning to the gospel (Jn 14) – Florence, in all the homes that the family occupied, liked to instruct the architects with the plans. I am certain the great architect of the universe listened and put into practice her ideas when he talked about and fashioned the many rooms in God’s house. One room of which she now inhabits and to which she gives five stars.
But I must finish.
They tell the story of John Ford, the famous American western film director dying. Because he was a Catholic, the family called in the parish priest who rather went on and on in his prayers for the dying. Ford shut one eye and with the other crocodile eye looking at the priest, he said,
A veritable polymath
Florence will be remembered for her involvement in peace and justice issues in Nelson and Waikanae parishes. She connected the parish with the Otaki food bank, a link she maintained for many years.
She founded and ran the Stoke St Vincent de Paul shop some 40 years ago. As her son John said in his eulogy, she insisted on maintaining high standards with fresh flowers in the window and attractively presented stock.
‘It had to be a pleasure not just a Christian duty. This charity was to come “warm” and with the dignity of all intact.’
Florence was also on the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and the Commission for the Laity during her time in Nelson.
She was also involved in liturgy at parish level.
In Waikanae she was for 30 years on the Save the Children Society and served some time as president.
She led research into Our Lady of Fatima parish’s jubilee publication.
A champion of art
Her interest in the arts was expressed in organising many exhibitions at the Mahara Gallery especially in its early years and she coordinated the Kapiti Arts Society for many years. Florence was also primarily responsible for exhibitions at Southwards, working full time for months.
She was also a longstanding member of Kapiti Arts Council and in that capacity advised the district council on arts grants.
She was a keen gardener and president of Kapiti Herb Society, which she helped publish a recipe book. She tutored for the Waikanae Bridge Club whose members formed a Guard of Honour at her funeral.