Home South


I arrived at my sister’s place in Alexandra yesterday. Air New Zealand kindly took on my overweight bags! Probably because there were hardly any passengers. In fact, when I arrived at Rotorua to check in there was NO-ONE in the terminal. It’s a bit freaky. My bags were full of Winter clothes! I’m distinctly nervous about how cold it is down here! There might have also been a new bottle of Ardbeg in there!

It was a beautiful flight down and I got some lovely photos. I felt quite a lot of the anxiety and sorrow I’ve been overwhelmed by this last fortnight, fall away as I headed south. And now I’m here, I do feel much better. Fizz is so happy to have me here, I’m wanted, and I can relax.

I snuggled in bed for a very long time this morning, hoping the air temperature would have warmed up by the time I emerged! I had two cups of coffee and long conversations with Matt, Mum & Dad, and my northern friends, Brett & Raewyn, before piling on three layers of merino and braving the day. (BTW, it’s 1520 and 14 degrees!)

Fizz and I had eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach for brunch. Then I went for a long walk along the river. I reacquainted myself with this stunning and demanding part of our amazing country. It was after all part of my formative years, having grown up in the high country at Lake Tekapo, and holidayed down here annually. So in a way I’ve come home! My walk was grand. I saw, with joy, the plant life of my childhood: Viper’s Bugloss (often known, erroneously, as Borage) with its prickly stems and enchanting blue flowers, which I used to freeze in ice cubes at Christmas time and Lamb’s Ears (mullein), nature’s softest toilet paper substitute (might need that!). Of course, as everywhere down this way, lots of weeping willows, sweet briar, wild thyme, lupins, poplars, sorrel and stone crop. And the pathway was naturally paved with the colourful stones and sparkly schist of this region. I also saw some good sized trout in the river which I felt would look good on the end of a line, but…. better not. Out of season!

I was keen to go mushrooming too, but Fizz reckoned the local boys in blue might not see that as essential forraging! She could have a point. Bummer, as I know some good spots near Wanaka. Lots of rabbits around too, that would go well in a pot, if I could get my hands on a 22! I suspect we’re not going to starve, isolation notwithstanding! We have decided we should attempt to limit our alcohol intake to Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Mmmm. Time will tell how well that goes!

I think I’ll miss the sound of the Tuis though!

Pile it on, Universe, why don’t ya!

20.03.20:   Do I start with the rant now, or slip it in part way through, subtly, or just end with a roar?

Difficult decision. Not worth the effort anyway, perhaps! One of my “direct your energy” things. More on that later.

Well, isn’t 2020 shaping up to be…. Mmm, what’s the word I’m looking for? Interesting? Challenging? Oh, that’s it, a Shit Show. For once they had it spot on, on TV.

I’m learning a lot about grief. I mean, as a health professional you get a fairly unique perspective on that, and you kinda think you know a fair bit about it. Well, hell NO, baby. Take a back seat prior knowledge, you actually know fuck all (sorry, Ella, another $1 fine).

I have a mantra running through my head most of the time. A couple actually. One of them goes “Why Danny? Why us? It’s not fair. I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this.”           Then there’s the rational brain that kicks in with “Why shouldn’t it be you? Why should you be exempt from the horror and pain others endure? Get a grip woman.”

I know there’s no right way to do this. I know there’s no time line on grief and how you get through it. I know it’s important to accept the fact he really is gone, that no amount of wishful thinking or bargaining will change that hard fact. Any one of us in the family, of the generations up from my boys, would swap places in an instant. I’d give my life for theirs 100 times over. But that isn’t how this works. Bugger it.

So, as I’m not very good at sitting around doing nothing, my coping strategy has been to do things, like joining Momo for a while. Now I’m back I’m trying to be busy getting the legal side of things wrapped up, help in the house since I know the flatmates didn’t bargain on having me home, get maintenance done, do exercise each day and eat healthy food. It’s hard being forced to stay home when I had so many plans, especially as I don’t feel welcome.

But it’s tough titties really. Just one more thing I have to suck up. And this Covid-19 is a million times worse for those in China, Europe and the USA. I guess it’s because having seeing Matt to look forward to was keeping me positive, and now I don’t even have that. I’m trying to find positives in really small things. So it really hurts when, because I smile over one little win, those around me stare at me as if to say “How can you smile? You’re supposed to be so unhappy you can’t do that.” The harsh judgement of those who have zero idea how it feels to lose a child is bad energy I can’t deal with.

My lovely friend, Raewyn, has invited me to stay so I’m here at her place for a few days. We’re going sailing for the weekend, which will be wonderful and healing for my further bruised heart. Her family is wonderful; strong and independent grown kids, like mine. There’s animals and a stunning view. It’s a good place to be and I’m so grateful to her. Her granddaughter, Ella, is fund raising for the Girl Guides Jamboree next year and is fining everyone $1 per F bomb! Hence my earlier comment! I’m trying to substitute Foxtrot. The boys just pony up in advance, they tell me!

Part of me feels I should be trotting along to the nearest operating theatre and offering my services, but I tried working at the local dementia care unit the other day and couldn’t deal with it. I was clock watching after a couple of hours. The sorrow of the place made me want to cry. How can I care for others if I can’t manage my own emotions yet? I’d be better with emergencies where you don’t have time to process, just act. Best of all would be my boat job back, but that’s impossible just now. This is why I said earlier that I’m trying to place my energy where it will do most good, not where it’ll drag me down. My stamina is still a work in progress.

My heart goes out to all the people whose jobs are on the line, to those whose age and health puts them at higher risk. The healthy and strong among us will have to step up and look after them. I’ll have to shelve my feelings for a while. It’s interesting (and normal) how the fear of this uncertain future is making many people react unkindly. One of my tenants is a pharmacist and said customers are being so rude she doesn’t want to be at work. That’s sad. Allied health workers have no choice but to continue to help and should be supported, not subjected to unkindness. Matt said this morning that he’d seen the same thing in England. I suggested he offered to be a bouncer for the local pharmacy!

0400 Thoughts. Some good, some not.

0415 3rd March: My sleep patterns are totally messed up. I’ve been trying really hard not to resort to temazepam since Danny died but eventually I have to force sleep on myself. Mostly I try to meditate, which I’m useless at by the way, take valerian (legal everywhere) or bufti (depends where in the world you are!), read my book or listen to a podcast or music. Usually I get between 4 and 7 hours, not enough, but then I’ll wake at 1am and that’s it for the night. That’s when I get out my slide of the hard stuff the next night. One slide of 20 lasts me about a year! I’ve got 4 left from last March’s prescription!

One thing Matt and I decided was that losing Danny, who we loved more than even we realised till he’d gone maybe, gives us the right to do what we like for a while. For a start we’re both blown away at how much it’s affected us mentally and physically. Both of us have pretty good brains and can usually remember things without much trouble. But I feel as if my brain was resected the moment I got the ghastly news. For the first month I couldn’t remember anything for more that half a minute. Literally. If that. Matt said he was the same. It’s slowly coming back but I still can only deal with one day at a time. I write absolutely everything down. Then there was the complete loss of physical strength. If you’ve not experienced this you cannot imagine it. I wouldn’t have understood what someone was telling me before having had this happen to me. I had no strength at all. I went from being really fit after 6 months on Lucky Wave, to barely able to climb a set of stairs without stopping. Overnight. Faster, in fact. A completely physical reaction to an emotional trauma. I’ve always thought stress to be a bigger factor in our general health than we realise. Now I know it is.

From a nursing perspective its fascinating, but by God, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It’s as if my mind and body have totally shut down in response to this intensely painful emotional trauma. I consider myself to be fairly resilient. And I brought up my sons to be also. But nothing prepares one for this. Over three months down the track, we are slowly climbing out of the abyss but neither Matt nor I feel ready to be pushed in any direction.

Which brings me to my next thought, next point of discussion! As you may remember, I started my yacht master offshore last year but had to stop when Carly’s greedy attempt to get at my life savings upset and distracted me to the point I couldn’t focus on the course. So I still plan to do that at some point and Bluewater have been really understanding about it all. But there’s no way I’m in the head space for it yet. However a family member, having being told once already that I wasn’t going to do it yet, decided to really push me. “you must” blablabla. I’m the end I burst into tears and said to damned well leave it alone. It’s up to me to decide when I’m ready. And I’m not. I couldn’t. I can’t remember things yet. But I was angry at him for pushing me when I’d already asked him not to. I need, at least from those close to me who should understand, support not judgement. I’ve lost my son. You don’t just snap your fingers and get over that. I’m doing my best, dammit.

One of the common statements I hear being made against the use of social media is that “people only show the good side of life”. I don’t actually find that to hold true, when you randomly scroll through Facebook. More so, perhaps, on Instagram where its primarily photos. Anyway, I’m being pretty straight up here. It’s certainly not all high tea and dancing lately, don’t you think. I’ve gone from being in one of the happiest times of my life, to the absolute worst. And to feeling I’ll never get that back, never be able to fill the huge void Danny’s death has left inside me. I still, many days, feel he’s just in another country. I wish. It’s unbelievably unfair that such a beautiful person was taken from this world. There plenty of black hearts to choose from, so many people who are selfish and cruel. And please don’t any religious proponents tell me “god wanted him back home”. I have zero time for religious ferver. Everyone is welcome to their beliefs but keep those ones to yourself. A modicum of common sense and scientific learning is enough to show the error of those ways! As far as I’m concerned religion and knowledge are mutually exclusive concepts (wait for the outrage!). Apart from anything else, religion is responsible for more death and heartache than any other one cause throughout the centuries, I’ll be bound.

Well, it’s nearly 6am, a roughly normal hour to be awake. I’m going to get up and pack. Ohope today. Flight leaves 0930.

2031. Really tough day. Give me another please. I can’t do this.

Wednesday 4th March. 0230ish.         So, yesterday was even harder than I knew it would be. Brett collected us from Rotorua, bless him. It felt great to get here really. The climate is so welcoming, softer than the bracing challenge of our southern region! We immediately got lunch and a rose, and toasted Danny and other absent friends. Later, after Brett had gone home to Tohora, Fizz and I walked to the beach, had a wonderful swim and lay in the sun. Then we went to Cadera for Tuesday tacos. And that’s when I came crashing down. So early to bed in a messy heap.

2120: We’ve had a lovely day actually. Into Whakatane early and got a few jobs done which was satisfying. Then lunch and a good walk round the estuary to the beach and back, a swim, shower and then dinner with Finn and Nicola. It was lovely to spent time with them and hear the news. I’m tired now so bed. We plan to walk round the sea to Whakatane tomorrow.

0515 Saturday 7th March                      Can’t sleep again. I’ve been trying for the last two hours. I give up. We’ve had rain in the night which will make everyone happy. Fizz and I have had a good few days. Both my nieces, Hannah and Kelly are here now, Kelly arriving yesterday. We all went to the Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant last night for dinner. Raewyn and Brett joined us too which was awesome. So good to see them both. The restaurant has changed a lot. Tom has employed a manager and he takes a more relaxed role I guess. Only saw him briefly. And Elias has taken over as chef. He’s doing superbly too. He’s a real gem, that guy. I hope Tom pays him an outrageous sum! I popped into the kitchen and said hi quickly. Other than that, we’ve gone for walks, had a couple of swims and I’ve got the odd job done. Slowly ticking off my jobs list, though new ones have cropped up too.

I heard from the local policeman who’s in charge of Danny’s case. Hope, the girl who killed him, is now home recovering. I have mixed feelings about that, which is not very nice of me, even if it is understandable. Why should she get to go home and have a chance at a normal life again, when she took that chance from Danny. I think they’ll be interviewing her soon. I wish they could charge her with murder. That’s what it is. She drove like a maniac, wilfully putting others at risk. But she’ll be dealt with by the youth court and will no doubt get a slap with a wet bus ticket.

I was in the garage yesterday and found the container Finn dropped off with Danny’s work gear in. It made me cry.

It’s 0708. I might go and make coffee.

Road Bumps & other stuff

1st March 2020

I haven’t written since leaving Momo.

No prizes for guessing why. She was a safe haven, a port in a storm that proved to be so much more, in the aftermath of losing my beautiful son, and Matt’s best friend and brother, Danny.

So I flew home courtesy of Hawaian Airlines, surrounded by a Kapahaka group speaking Te Reo and making me feel like I got a personalised escort home. By the time I reached Christchurch and family I was emotionally ready to face the memories I knew would push my buttons. And they have.

Tomorrow is my last day here. It’s hard to leave such wonderful family and friends down here, as it was hard to leave Momo, hard to leave France….. I seems to leave bits of me around the world, to be pieced together like some crazy human jigsaw puzzle, as I go round again.

I’ve been delicate today, prone to tears. It’s not rocket science. On Tuesday I go back to the home Matt, Danny and I had made for ourselves, built together, in Ohope. Part of that equation has been ripped from us, a third of the team stolen by selfish stupidity. I can’t dwell on that or the destroyer of peace, anger, will seep in. I don’t want that. Danny wouldn’t want me to let that dominate. I won’t. But some days, fuck it’s hard.

I miss him so much. I miss both my darling boys but Matt and I are here and must soldier on. And we will. Just without our wingman. It’s a bit hinky, but I talked to Bernie today, and he said the whales haven’t hung round the boat since I left. Maybe Danny really was there in spirit. Brett said his spirit animal was the whale. Maybe they’ll be off Ohope Beach when I get there.

I was going to add photos but WordPress have changed the format and I can’t work it out. WhyTF must they change what works already? Not helpful.

Edit: The only way I’ve discovered how to add photos now, is an eight step process for every single picture. How stupid is that.