Click here for part 1
They arrived at the hospital and found a park. She took several deep breaths as he came to her side and opened the door for her, holding her by the waist as he lifted her down from the cab of his rugged truck.
They had come today to collect their baby’s remains, unable to bear the thought of the hospital disposing of him, horrified that was even an option and both looked the other way as they passed the ominous smoke stack - steadily billowing grey matter.
He was mindful that she still wasn’t one hundred percent, and although this day was necessary, they had both been dreading it and he worried about her ability to cope. She was doing well and he didn’t want her slipping under again, but knew this was important to her – to them both. They had to say goodbye.
They wanted to take him to a local spot they both loved; somewhere they both felt a great deal of peace and harmony.
As they arrived at the ward that had been the epicentre of their very own disaster, they were greeted by a familiar nurse, who ushered them into a private room. They had been working with a hospital grief counsellor; she had been preparing them for this day. The door opened and she walked in, the ornately carved Kauri urn reverently nestled in her hands.
He saw his wife take several deep breaths, and could hear her beginning to struggle as she took hold of it and cradled it against her chest.
"Take as long as you need my dear…just sit until you are ready," the counsellor said. She had been in this situation more times than she cared to remember, and no two parents grieved in quite the same way and she knew there was no right or wrong way to deal with the grief. People had to find a way to navigate as best they could.
She knew he was coping marginally better than she was, he had said privately to her that they simply couldn’t both fall apart. That he had to provide a soft place for her as she was incapable of all but falling.
He watched as his wife wiped away her tears, shaking her head ever so slightly as she reached out for him. He saw her set her jaw in the determined way that he loved so much and knew she was steeling herself for what was to come.
"I’m ready, hon."
Together they left the room, returning to their truck. They headed west, to a rugged beach they had been coming to since they were carefree teenagers. They were going to a place that was only accessible at low tide, via a four wheel drive vehicle. Mother Nature ruled everything here; from the churning Tasman Sea to the exquisite shifting black sands underfoot. It was, and is, a desolate place, one that contradicts completely with an abundance of life.
He stopped the truck behind a dune and again helped her down. A second vehicle pulled in behind them containing a friend from the local Iwi. He had given them permission to bury their son here. Together the men dug a small, deep hole and she lovingly placed the tiny urn into it. She watched as her husband began filling in their son’s grave, and turned as she heard a chant emanating from the dunes.
Behind her, an elder had joined them; she stood regally in the wind, tendrils of her long, silver hair trailing behind her. Draped around her shoulders was the most magnificent traditional cloak, handcrafted from brilliant blue and white feathers that seemed as though they were dancing in the wind.
The edges were alive, flapping around her ankles as her bare feet stood firm and proud in the ancient, scorching, black sands. She was softly keening and could have been standing on this beach for centuries, so unchanged was her traditional dress and the respect she commanded.
She began to perform a Karakia, holding her hands up to the heavens as she spoke, softly, yet loud enough to be heard above the howling winds. She couldn’t understand the language the old woman used, but knew the ritual chant well enough to know that she was invoking spiritual guidance and protection. A prayer for their child.
The ferocious winds carried the old woman’s voice out to sea and seemed to pick up a little of her grief with each verse. She felt a renewed sense of peace, something she hadn’t experienced since that fateful day in the stairwell.
She wiped away the tears she had not been aware of and bowed her head in thanks as the old woman approached her. She extended her darkly tanned, work-hardened hands towards the young mother’s, clasping them with surprising softness against her chest.
She then leaned in until their noses and foreheads were touching – a traditional greeting, believed to be the breath of life, a sharing of souls.
The two women remained as they were, the younger of the two closing her eyes as she felt calmness descending as clearly as she could feel the winds all around her.
The old woman said in a whisper, "He will come back to you, of this I am certain. He wasn’t ready to be here…nor were you ready to receive him. When the time is right for you both, he will be back."
Without a further word, she disappeared back through the dunes, taking the winds with her as an eerie silence filled the beach.
(to be continued)
(to be continued)