Time enough for tears

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So. Deep breath. Monday.

I planned to get up at 9.30am, as the service was 11am and I know my mother likes us up and getting ready early. I still hadn’t confirmed what I was wearing, either, so it was a good idea. HOWEVER, she wakes me at 9. I have to be there at 10, not 11, as I’m an usher/handing out programs. Joy.

So at 9.15 I’m driving my mother down to the Hutt to get pantyhose. When we get back it’s 9.40 and I need to get ready pretty quick. Dan picks up Dad and I just before 10.
We arrive and I meet Suzy and Glenn, my cousins. Both live in Australia now, so it’s a nice catchup. It takes me a few minutes, however, to remember that Glenn and his wife Sue have separated, as when I greet her and ask him after the kids, he says he hasn’t seen them in a while. And Glenn talks about having lots of bedrooms if I need to stay when I move over. They are both pleased that I am moving and offer lots of help with finding a place. Glenn gives me too much information on good areas and my brain explodes.

The church is bigger than I remember – which amuses me as the last time I was inside, I was much smaller. Glenn and I track down the ceiling tile that represents Dandan – the builder.

The undertaker puts down a trolley with wheels on it and I am confused for a few moments before I realise that it’s the coffin transport – Dandan is here.

The coffin is small, but very nice. Silver handles. He was very frail and small in his last few years. The flowers on top are beautiful yellow and white. They take over most of the lid.

He is put in place.

People start arriving. Lots of old relatives who don’t recognise me and I make mental notes that I need to be re-introduced to by Ma later. The program is nicely-made, with pictures of Dandan from different times in his life on the cover.

I sit down before it starts, between my sister and Ma. Becky has a large pile of tissues in front of her and I start to think that I might actually be ok for it.

The Reverend greets us, and talks of how Kenneth and his company built the church in 54 and that they are glad to have his service there today.

The President/Grandmaster of Dandan’s Masonic Lodge goes to the front. He asks all the “brothers present” to stand. A good 25 men stand up. The lump forms in my throat. He is emotional and stumbles over his words. He places a fern sprig on the coffin. I breathe deeply and try to come back.

We stand, we sing. I can’t sing from crying until the last verse, so I am whispering. Mum next to me is singing loud enough for the 3 of us. My vocal chords simply will not sing. We sit.

My cousin Scott gets up and does a reading – a poem I don’t recognise. He has tears in his eyes, but does well.

My cousin Mark gets up to speak. He talks about finding some writings in Dandan’s things and is going to read one of them. But before he starts to read he covers his eyes. He can’t do it. He is so overcome. I am so heartbroken, I want to run up and stand with him. But in an act of real kindness (and quite a big thing for him to do), my brother goes and stands with him for support. I have never loved my brother as much as I did in that moment. He ends up reading it for Mark, who returns to his seat.

By now I know that I won’t be able to contain my emotion, but I keep trying.

Robyn, my auntie and Dandan’s oldest/only daughter, reads a eulogy full of memories. She tells stories that make us laugh, like when Dandan taught us to bang our knives and forks and beg for breakfast loudly before he’d feed us. This carried on right until I was about 15. We used to do this at Christmas to annoy everyone. He was so cheeky.
She is sad, saying that she is not sure how she will possibly pay tribute to such a wonderful father.

Warwick, my oldest uncle, then tells his own stories. About building projects with his father.. the Taupo house; about working at Dandan’s company.

I’ve run out of tissues by now, but I’m not so overcome. My sister has one left, I blow my nose on it.

We rise for the committal. She says a lot of prayers. My sister is silent at my side, which is a change from her usual scoffing. Violet hasn’t made a peep for the entire service.

The service is over. Loud peppy 40s music plays through the church, which startles Mum but makes me smile. The coffin is turned, and Dandan’s children + a few start to carry him out. Mum and I are the first to follow, Mum stopping to grab Becky as well. I’m weepy but not tragic.

But then the bagpipes start to play Amazing Grace. I kinda fell apart at that point. When we stopped at the steps out into the lobby, Mum had to hold me up. I was just so devastated – so much grief came over me. I finally understood why Romanian women throw themselves on coffins howling in agony. I wanted to lie on the floor and howl. But I pulled myself together as we left the church. He was loaded into the hearse and I put my hand on the coffin and said a silent goodbye.

We lost our patriarch. It hit everyone pretty hard.

Then lots of hugging. Talking and hugging. We stood outside for a while, everyone milling around. Dan hugged Mum with tears in his eyes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my brother cry before.

We finally left for the wake at Dandan’s hotel. I wasn’t sure who owns it anymore, but it’s apparently Warwick’s now. So that means we had the function room as long as we needed it. They played a beautiful DVD with photos and video clips from Dandan’s long and full life. There were some cute ones of us as kids and lots of him smiling and laughing. He was a happy, happy man.

We all raise a toast to wish Dandan a Happy Birthday. We sing.

After I’d eaten a whole ton of nibbles I started to feel incredibly weighed-down and drained. I desperately wanted to sleep. At around 3 I asked Mum to take me home. I slept for hours.

Dinner was chinese. Sleep was early. Work at 10am the next day, which I coped with fine.

It felt like closure. I think funerals need to be a celebration of one’s life and a goodbye. This was a goodbye. I no longer feel miserable about it, like I did for the 2 weeks before it. It felt like a huge weight on me.

He finally went to be his wife, and I bet she teased him for taking so damn long. He left behind 4 children, 14 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. We all loved him dearly. And we’ll never forget him.

He is definitely one of the reasons I have such high standards with men and with business. I don’t think I’ll ever respect a man as much as I did him.

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