We are ready for those waiting to say goodbye to Dad. His visitors include work colleagues, old school friends, friends of the family, and relatives. Stories, of Dad’s antics usually comedic has us smiling. We ask questions of the visitors. Their answers reveal more parts of Dad’s life. As part of our tradition the visitors move through to refreshments. Here, general conversation flows and somehow normality pierces the veil of unreality. Then the prevailing sadness enters your mind and the veil goes up.
Extended family members answer our unspoken need. They provide gazebo’s, gas heaters, tables, chairs, and a continuous supply of food. This contingency of relatives gives time for the immediate family to just ‘be’. You hear the term of allowing you to ‘be’ and this is what the extended family members did for us.
Discussions about the funeral service start and then stop. There is some gentle nudging from extended family members. Until the outline of the funeral service has been somewhat decided upon. The visitors have left and the evening service can begin.
The last night for the departed is a time of sharing. We call it Poroporo arki (por raw por raw ah key) this is where family members gather for the last time. Sharing a story or memory of the departed one. Mum sits next to Dad, the gathering consists of; 9 siblings, and partners. 27 grandchildren and one great grandchild. As well as extended family members. Children share their stories of their Granddad. Some breakdown as the grief washes over them. We wait, we wait for them to breath and we wait for them to finish their story. There is no rush as this is the last night for us to be in the same room as our Dad. I stand up and share the memories of the home that Dad designed. He designed it with children in mind. In the 1970’s door handles were out of the reach of children. In the house that Dad built, door handles were low enough for use by both child and adult. He introduced a pulley system for the main doors. This pulley system would close the door when opened. This solved the problem of warm air escaping due to children leaving doors open. I too am swept away by emotion as my voice breaks midway through my story. I swallow and breath and describe the memory of Dad sitting in the front row at one of my public talks. He has tears rolling down his face as I speak, he is smiling at me through those tears, his eyes fixed on me. It was one of the most challenging and treasured moments in my public speaking career.
A song is composed, using the written words on Dad’s coffin. The tune is one which Dad would whistle. It has a haunting melody and the words describe a journey of love. It is to be our Family Song, a song we will sing at Dad’s funeral service. It is our last night with Dad. A restless night for us as time ticks away towards Day 4.
Click link to hear The tune Dad whistled.