If you missed Day One.
The alarm finally rings. I get up not sure if I have slept and begin my journey home; I am dressed and ready. I bid farewell to my friend, she would come with me if she thought it would help. At this stage it is hard to know what will help. I arrive at the airport and find my way to the lounge. I have a crying episode, as I post the announcement on Face book that Dad has died. A little of reality pierces my protective fog of unreality but this quicly disappears. I am once again in a bubble of semi awareness. On the flight I attempt to bury myself in a movie. But this does not work, music does not work, so I just sit.
I arrive mid afternoon, in Auckland, New Zealand. I make my way to the public pick up area and wait for my son to arrive to take me to Dad. Whilst I am waiting, I see a young girl staring at me. This is my niece Holly. She has travelled from Brisbane with the rest of her family to bid farewell to her Grandfather. I had walked past my sister and in our respective fogs we had not seen each other. We hold each other crying and for a long time we just keep holding onto each other. We are all journeying to farewell Dad.
It is a 4 hour trip from Auckland to our home town of Whakatane. We stop at cafe and try to bring some semblance of normality to our situation by eating dinner. ‘How is work going?’ I answer and then disappear back into my fog. The final leg of our journey beckons.
As we get closer to Dad and the family, the tears roll down my face just as they do with my son. We park outside Mum’s home where Dad is lying surrounded by family members.
I hesitate to cross the threshold. I pause, then bend over and take in deep breaths. I do not want to cross that threshold; I am not willing to face what I know is there. All changes when I cross that threshold, I cannot pretend any more, it will all change.
The wailing from my family draws me in. My wailing joins theirs. I get my first glimpse of Dad in his coffin, he is pale, expressionless and with no movement. I kneel down to be with him.
I am not contained nor is my son. After some time our wailing calms down and it is time to greet all who have gathered. Mum, Sisters, Brothers, In-laws, Nieces, Nephews, and Aunties. It is a moment of few words and becomes a moment of holding tight to each person.
I notice Dad’s coffin, it is made of pine and covered with children’s colourful drawings. The story unfolds that Dad had requested a cardboard coffin. These are not available, so a pine coffin was the next best option. Grandchildren then drew pictures with messages of love covering all parts of the coffin. Bold printing, declaring to all that this is where there loved Granddad lies.
It’s two days before we are to bury dad, we are reluctant to move but younger children are falling asleep. To signify night time for Dad a square of cloth goes over his face. My son Harrison, some siblings and I choose to sleep alongside Dad. We settle for the evening, as we wait for the dawning of day 3.