So..

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Dear Lord.

It’d be really swell if we could go 6 months without someone else dying. I’d also really love this job I’ve been preparing so hard for, and to finally find someone to have a healthy relationship with.

2007 so far hasn’t been so great. Can we wipe January out of the books?

Cheers,

Kat

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Lost

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Sometimes too much is too much and I just get overwhelmed and everything collapses in on itself. I lose it. Sometimes for a few hours, sometimes a few days. Everything seems hopeless and I just feel unbearably sad and lost and uncomfortable.

I’ll be okay tomorrow. I’ve learned to live with random bouts of depression and anxiety. I just wish I could time them better or know how to really explain them.

I’m so cliche.

Anyone who had a heart

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Heartbreak teaches you many things. I have learned a lot lately, and continue to learn.

Friends are precious.

Dressing up is not for special occasions. Dressing up and wearing your favourite clothes, jewellery or perfume is something you should do anytime you want.

Focussing on something other than who you’ve lost will save you and keep you sane.

Laughter should be loud and often.

Friends are precious.

It is so important to do what makes you happy.

Money is never wasted if spent on good times.

Items that cheer you up are worth the investment.

Friends are precious.

Time spent with people you feel at home with will keep you grounded.

You will never forget your first real love.

You will never forget your first real heartbreak.

Friends are precious.

Friends are so precious.

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.

Dandan.

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This post doesn’t seem worthy. But I did my best.

It’s funny what thoughts you have after someone dies. Some of them are downright horrible, but you can’t help it. So many are racing around that they collide and jumble you up. I guess that’s why you start out confused. You don’t think of memories yet – just scattered thoughts while trying to take it in. Not getting that goodbye, wondering about the inheritance, wondering about work, wondering why.

On January 1st, my grandfather passed away. He was nearly 93 and had been fading, but it still came as a surprise. He was my father’s father. We called him Dandan.

I was in the middle of my worst hangover ever: one of those where you chant to yourself “I’ll never drink again”. Of course this was later revised to “I’ll never drink tequila again” (which I believe I’ve said before).
My mother woke me with the news and as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t lift myself from the pillow to hug her properly, but we tried. I didn’t think much more on it and went back to sleep. Not a conscious choice – I physically had to.

Once I was up and more mobile later, my sister arrived. As we all hugged and wiped our eyes, I couldn’t help but notice the familiarity of it: after all, we had only done this for my maternal grandmother 6 months before. It felt like that day stuck on repeat. My Dad seemed ok, but that’s Dad. He never shows anything, never has. Only emotion I’ve ever seen from him is anger – and in this situation frustration. But I imagine that mixed in at the moment there is a lot of relief. Dandan’s children had spent the last 6 years looking after him.

I don’t cry around my family. I find it very difficult to lose my face – I am the strong one who gets grumpy and bitchy when she’s upset, not sad. But if my sister and/or mother start to cry, I can’t help myself. I allowed myself to weep a little on our couch, but nothing had sunk in. It was just the emotion all around me.

I used to go to Dandan and Nana’s every day after school when I was young. They lived in the street where my private primary school was. I would watch TV with my back up against the arm of the chair, or lying on the floor. I would do my homework. On Thursdays Nana would make fish so I would stay for tea, watching Shortland St on the kitchen television. Sometimes if I stayed over I would get to watch the X Files with my hands over my eyes.

I remember this carried on through intermediate. I remember teaching (or trying to) Dandan some Japanese. As hard as he tried, he just couldn’t get it right. He tried to greet me with Konnichiwa in the afternoons and we’d both just end up giggling.

They’d always ask me what I wanted for Christmas and as they were wealthy, they’d simply just buy it. I was a good kid, though, so I never asked for too much. I remember one year I wanted this dollhouse so bad – and then I found it underneath Dandan’s desk in the den. I never told and was very surprised on the day.

I’d spend hours in Dandan’s den typing on his electric typewriter. I tried writing stories… imagining that I was writing the next great novel at 9 years old. When my Nana passed and my auntie sold the house, I went and got that typewriter. It’s under my bed.

Dandan was a very prominent man. His construction company built most of the major buildings in Lower Hutt and Wellington. They put down the roads in Napier. They were very highly regarded. His hotel in Lower Hutt was considered the best one in the area. He played bowls regularly, was president of many clubs and worked with community organisations. They had a beautiful house, nice BMWs, yearly trips to their apartment in Maroochydore, Queensland. They had a good life.

And then just after their 60th wedding anniversary, my Nana lost to cancer. Dandan stayed in the house for about a year. And then his health started to decline so rapidly that we were certain he wouldn’t be too far behind his wife. Despite his wishes, he was placed in a home near my Aunt’s place in Johnsonville. He hated it. They told him it was temporary but he ended up dying there.

Quite often in visits in the last few years, he asked us to get him out. He started to stop recognising people, but he always knew me. We had such a strong connection between us. Early last year, however, he started to get confused around me as well. Sometimes he’d ask me about things that showed he definitely knew it was me, other times he would ask me what I “do for a living” and smile at me quite politely like we’d just been introduced. Around May I stopped visiting. I’d had rough visits with him where he’d not only not recognised me but had begged me not to leave and not to leave him there. It was too hard for me. But I couldn’t help feeling that I had given up on him.

We knew he wasn’t going to be here much longer. And it wasn’t the fact that he was finally gone that hurt me. It was that I knew that I would never have that Dandan back. Of course, I’d known this for years, but I’d never really faced it. I’d never really grieved for losing my friend.

My parents went up to their Taupo house late afternoon of the 1st. Mum wanted to stay at home an extra day to give people the chance to call and visit, but my father wanted to go. After reminding me to lock everything up and double-check myself, they left. My Dad came in to my bedroom where I had returned to bed and hugged me goodbye. I was wiping away tears and he looked at me in concern. Those tears were for my miserable headache and stomach, but a part of me was starting to let things out for Dandan as well.

As soon as I locked the door I returned to bed and cried. I cried and cried and cried. I was feeling so miserable being so sick, and so miserable about the loss. I cried for losing someone that I used to have such a connection with. I felt guilt for not visiting him, but my father had told me recently that it wasn’t a good idea anymore. He just wasn’t the same person.

I cried for losing one of my best friends. We had 71 years between us, but it didn’t matter. I wanted him to be in my life – to meet my children. I wanted my children to know what a great man he is. What he was.

The service is scheduled for the 16th, his 93rd birthday. This will give people time to come in from overseas and around the country – and to get a worthy obituary printed.

Dandan is in all of us – my father and him in particular share a lot of mannerisms. He had a wonderful laugh; a cheeky one where he scrunched up his eyes. My father and his brothers share this laugh. My Dad doesn’t laugh that much (though more lately with his job changes) but when he does it often brings Dandan to mind.

His hard-working nature and sense of business is also in Dad. His kindness is in my sister. His cheekiness is in my father and brother.

His love is in me.

Mourning the great

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I feel.. numb. Well it’s the closest feeling.

My recent ex and I had a big talk tonight that was long overdue. I finally feel like it’s over. I don’t feel great, but I don’t feel like my heart has been ripped out, either.

He is a good guy. He is a good guy that made bad choices, said bad things. And he does deserve the forgiveness I am learning to give him. He wants me to be in his life and I am important to him – and he is important to me.

He finally mentioned that it feels like mourning – and it really is grief. We’ve lost something big. We can have something similar, but we’ll never be the same.

I told him I can still be in his life, but he has to earn it. We will see how things go. We held each other and I cried over losing what we had and him hurting me so deep. My throat still aches.

Maybe I can heal now. I think we will be ok. Or at least I’ll write some good songs from it.

…Right?

The end

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Break-ups are never easy.

My relationship is over.

There it is, I’ve said it. I feel completely sick doing so, but it needs to be said (or typed, whatever). So there it is, it’s out there now.

And the worst thing about putting that out there, however, is that now you have to accept it.

It starts so beautifully.. you have this amazing relationship: a man who is a constant in your life for 4-5 years. Your best friend as well as partner. Someone you love to that blind stage where you couldn’t possibly imagine it ending. Where you picture the marriage and the babies and your name with theirs tacked on the end. Your friends can’t imagine you ever not being together. You do everything together. You talk for hours every night. Hate being apart. And then you think that soon you’ll be moving in together and taking it to that next level.. and suddenly he’s gone.

You’re not quite sure how it happened, really. There was a break and he left the country (or the other way around) and there was this constant hope of getting back together. He talked about it, you talked about it.. you both wanted it on and off. And he explained that though he loved you, he wasn’t really in love with you, especially not across an ocean.

There’s the crying-your-eyes-out-every-night stage, the angry stage, even the begging stage. There’s wanting nothing to do with him and then contacting him daily. There’s trying to forget him and not wanting to lose him.

Then you start to see that it’s over. He no longer wants you. You try to deny it to yourself for months and your friends just keep telling you – and when you finally get past the mucking around and realise that when he comes home, it’s not to you – there’s the crumble. Those last few bricks fall down.

So you start to rebuild. It takes a long time – brick by brick. And some days they don’t stick for long and they fall down again. But the construction continues.

And the more you tell yourself that he’s not coming back, the more it actually sinks in. And one more brick sticks in place. You consider trying to win him back, and you do your best to be who he fell in love with.

But it’s not you. And if you got him back, you know that it wouldn’t be the same. He’s hurt you too deep and you couldn’t let go.

So it’s the end. And the beginning. Brick by brick.