You always loved the weather - right to the very end you would always watch the 6pm News on Channel 1(Channel 3 just didn't do it for you), and the news didn't finish until you'd seen the weather; and then you'd analyse the next few days ahead, despite the fact you didn't go outside much in those last few months...
So as the day of the funeral got closer, and it became apparent we would be saying goodbye to you in cyclonic circumstances; it was quite ironic wouldn't you say!
But let's back track and I will take you back to the week between your passing and your final send off...
I had stayed the Saturday night with Mum, and in the morning Andrew had joined us again, and together we'd called Derek (the Funeral Director) to pop over and go through a few things. A decision was finally made to hold your funeral on Friday 12th May at 1pm, and we discussed a few other things as well - catering, format of the service, who was doing what. It was a hard morning, but made the rest of the week run a bit smoother.
I had then had to head back home for Lydia's 7th Birthday Party... it was one of the hardest afternoons ever; but I am so grateful for community. There were more adults than children in the end, as people gathered to help out, and take some pressure off me.
Brendon and Karen flew in on Sunday afternoon as well - this had been planned for a few days, because once you fell into a coma-like state (fell really doesn't describe what happened... dropped perhaps?), we had rung him and told him to get over as quick as possible... We all knew it was the end, so they made the decision that Karen come as well. They arrived down with us late afternoon, so after we'd cleaned up the party, we all headed over to Mum's for a shared meal... it was short and sweet, the kids were tired (Ashie had just had his first week of school - almost forgotten in the drama), and it was a big week to come. But being together was everything, and so necessary...
That week I tried taking on as much responsibility for your send off as possible; I organised your service sheets and the slide show (took ages to cut down the photos to only 15 minutes worth - eeeeeek). I am so grateful, again, for community - Paul, (my first boss down here when we arrived back) is a printer and spent hours with me putting idea's forward for the service sheets, and letting me go through the slideshow pictures over and over again - deleting, rearranging and generally trying to get them perfect for you. He put together such a gorgeous service sheet - totally different to the traditional type, you'd have loved it! The idea behind it was an old style photo album; and as a family we chose family photos for it, as that was more what you were about.
I also rang a number of folk on behalf of the family, Karen and I helped Mum find an outfit, we took Brendon and Karen to Hamilton to find appropriate clothes, I cooked and looked after, and arranged and helped and checked in with people. I kept busy Dad - I just didn't know how I was going to go on without you, so I didn't let myself stop and think about you... I just kept going.
I felt a very strong sense of responsibility towards Mum, still do; just as I did towards you while you were still with us. I wanted to minimise her pain as much as possible, and do everything I could to make things run smoothly. So I couldn't stop, because I knew if I did, I would start crying - and once I started there'd be no stopping. I know you were looking down, and would have approved of me looking after Mum, she was your main concern at the end - that she'd be ok, and have enough to survive on... you'd often talked about this.
So that week went in a blur... a blur of busyness and survival.
Next thing I knew - it was Friday; and as per usual, as a family we'd left things to the last minute, and it was a morning of rushing around trying to get everything we needed for the kids and us (including new umbrella's for the burial)! It was a wet, cold, miserable day; and blowing a gale just like they predicted... but oh my gosh Dad, you'd have been blown away emotionally, and not just physically, if you'd have been here (*grin*, did you see what I did there - bet that made you laugh).
Despite the weather, the turn-out to farewell you was spectacular; we'd been told to expect and cater for 120 guests, and yet there were over 150 people in the end. A tribute to you, and to us as a family - I had Marianne fly up from Nelson to support me, Andrew had James come up from Wellington, Brendon and Karen had Len and Steven from Foxton, and there were family and friends from as far north as Whangarei and Auckland, as far east as Wairoa & Gisborne, as far west as Te Kuiti and Kawhia, and as far south as Foxton, Levin, Wellington, Nelson and many, many places in between.
A huge thank you to everyone who made the effort to come and support us as we farewelled our beloved Dad - whether you traveled far, or were local - you all had to rearrange your schedule to make it.
To be honest - I don't remember much of the funeral itself, I was trying to hold it together for Mum and for the kids... Ashie in particular, was struggling with the whole thing. So I will share some images from the day, and my speech; we all got up and spoke Dad, both the boys and I - you'd have been so proud of us. I did it for you, none of us are natural public speakers, but we needed to do it for you.
Me - started off alone.
When it got hard - Luke came to stand beside me in support.
Next thing I know - the whole family were there.
Lydia was meant to share a scripture, but Daddy came to the rescue in the end...
About one third of the crowd...
Bringing you back down the aisle
For My Dad
12th May 2017
I want to start by thanking everyone who has come today to honour my Dad, and celebrate his life together with us. It is humbling and overwhelming to see so many of you here – past and present... I especially want to thank those who have travelled; I know of friends and family who have travelled from Nelson, Wellington, Gisborne, Wairoa, Napier, Levin, Foxton, Auckland, Whangarei and many places in between. However, each and everyone of you (whether you have travelled from out of town or not) have changed your plans and rescheduled your day to be here – and for this we are blessed beyond words.
You have likely noticed that some of us, including myself and my Mum, are wearing some rather bright flashes of colour... I assure you, we’re not losing the plot quite yet; there is a purpose and reason for this. My Dad hated us wearing all ‘doom and gloom’ colours, he felt that wearing dark colours all over would somehow lose ‘some of us’, that we were hiding some of our personality, and apparently it just wasn’t lady-like! As you can imagine, there were a few ‘discussions’ between myself and Dad when I was a teenager and in my early twenties regarding this, as I have never claimed to be a ‘lady’, nor did I mind ‘hiding’! However – in honour of him today; I am wearing a splash of colour, and I know he would have approved. My daughter is also wearing a dress that he loved on her – he thought this dress made her look grown up and very sophisticated; so it is out of respect and honour she is wearing it today, and I am very proud of her, just like her Pop-Pop was.
Anyone who knew my Dad for any length of time, would know without a doubt, he was first and foremost a family man... he lived for his family, we were everything to him – and this is why we chose those particular photos on his service sheet, it projects him perfectly. He would give his last dollar to any one of us if he felt that we needed it more than him, and would promise us stuff before discussing it with Mum, and I know there were a few ‘discussions’ behind closed doors later because of this! He couldn’t help himself; generous to a fault, and anything for family. He loved his Grandchildren deeply – when he first retired he started to fall into depression, and his health deteriorated quite a bit; but then I fell pregnant, followed closely by Amy; and everything changed. Those kids pulled him out of the depths, and breathed in him new life – and for this I will be forever grateful, we got another 7 years with him, and our children got to create beautiful and lasting memories of and with him. Brendon and Karen – I just want to acknowledge here that you guys haven’t been able to have these same opportunities for your kids as we have; but I just want to assure you that Dad adored your children, they were just as important to him and he was super proud of everything they have accomplished. One of his regrets was that he didn’t take more chances to go and see you when he was well enough; but that weekend in November when you all came over was the ultimate weekend for him – his entire family around him, the chance to meet the great grandies, and an opportunity to get to know your children as the amazing adults they have become. He talked about that to the end; and I just want to thank you for making that happen – it meant to world to him, and the world to us as well.
Another very strong aspect of Dad’s persona – and probably one most of you are familiar with, is his very black and white outlook on life, and his hatred of injustice; he had very strong opinions and he wasn’t scared to ‘share’ them with folk. But he also always stood up for the underdog, no matter who you are – if he felt you were right, he’d stand and fight with you (unless of course, you were the Wallabies and playing the All Blacks, then you were on your own)! He even went to Council meetings in later years, and argued against some of their by-laws when he didn’t agree with them, he wrote the odd letter to the local newspaper, and he generally attempted to make a difference in his little corner. Mum encouraged this, and helped him with the letters and in organising his thoughts with some coherence. But overall, he was quite good at stringing words together when he put his mind to it, or was passionate about something... I was quite proud of some of the articles he wrote, and as he and Mum (read Mum here really) were the editors of the NZ Building Inspectors Magazine for a good ten years, it was a good thing he could manage to do this!
Dad had a great sense of humour, and he kept this right to the very end – he was in fine form one evening in his last hospital visit, and had me, Mum, Brendon and Amy in stitches when he started mimicking a nurse that was looking after him. And when he and Uncle Max got together over the years, especially when we were playing some sort of game – card or board, there would be cheating so blatant our sides would be sore from laughing. It is one of those family memories we will probably always giggle about whenever we think of it. Something that could make the rest of us laugh, albeit quietly behind our hands, was Dad’s passion about sports – rugby in particular, and the All Blacks especially! He could play better than any of them, and was certainly a better Ref than any that took the field; if you watched rugby with Dad, it was never going to be a quiet game (and that is one of the rather unfortunate genes I have had handed down to me)!
At the end, in the last few weeks, we were fortunate enough to be able to spend a lot of quality time with Dad – not only did my family, my husband, release me to spend as much time with Dad as I wanted, but my work place was also incredibly supportive; and I want to take this opportunity to thank Luke and the kids, and also my workmates for all the love and support they have shown me, and thus shown Dad, in his final weeks. I will be forever grateful that I got to spend so much time by his side, and also got to see him make peace with his Creator. Our faith is a central part of our lives, as it was with Dad, and I can say without a doubt, he is now with his Creator – no more pain, and no more suffering... and as much as we will miss him down here, beyond words; there is a hope deep inside that we will see him again.
Dad – I love you, I still can’t imagine doing life without you. You will always hold a large piece of my heart in your hands.
We chose to have the food before burying you - partly because of the weather, and partly because we knew many people had traveled long distances to farewell you, and we wanted to acknowledge this and spend as much time seeing them as was possible. So by the time we took you out to the cemetery, only the hardy remained - not even all the family made it in the end.
The day actually finished with a beautiful sunset - I think this was your little love message to me Dad, that everything was okay, including you. I know you weren't much into sunsets or sunrises or rainbows; but anyone who has known me for any length of time, knows I can't resist taking a photo of a beautiful sky... I literally have hundreds of photos of sunsets in particular. But this one, this was a special one - a little love note from you via God's creation; you knew I would notice, and you finished the hardest day of my life off, with a sweet reminder that I will survive this.
That night we gathered one final time at Mum's for a family meal; Brendon and Karen left the next day, and it just seemed fitting that we would celebrate you with fish and chips together on the floor... I know without a doubt you would have whole-heartedly approved of this.
It was a long, long day Dad... saying goodbye to you had been, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I didn't know how I would do it, how I would survive it - but somehow I have. Somehow I keep getting up every morning, and getting on with my life - and sometimes this is ok, I get through the day without tears. But there are other days when the hole in my heart still feels like physical pain, when I can barely breathe for missing you. Sometimes I wonder why people think it gets better in time - not better, I will never stop missing you; but maybe a bit softer around the edges. Maybe one day the memories will make me smile, and not secretly wipe tears away, maybe one day I will watch your slideshow and enjoy it for what it is, a celebration of you - and not sit there sobbing in my own pain.
Reminders everywhere - this is on the wall of my office at work...
The little photo is Mum and Dad when they were expecting me - precious photo.
Maybe one day... until then, I guess I will keep remembering you, grieving you; but grateful for every last minute I had with you. Grateful that I know that you knew just how much I loved you; grateful for no regrets.
Thank you Dad... I love you, and I still can't imagine doing life with you; you will always hold a large piece of my heart in your hands.
Your loving daughter.
If you want to read my tribute to Dad in his final month, you can go here: