Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Mother-in-Law’s funeral

I guess as one gets older, the more inevitable it is that the frequency of attending funerals increases. Except in my case, it seems to be the frequency of not attending funerals of those important to me.

Last year I was able to be present at my mother’s funeral, but I was unable to attend my father’s funeral a few years earlier. Two years ago My father-in-law passed away, and due to failure of communications, we didn’t learn of his death until several weeks after the funeral. Last year a very dear aunt died, and I was fortunate to be able to attend.

A little over a month ago, another favourite aunt died, but due to another migraine, and distance, I was unable to attend the funeral. Fortunately, I was able to watch the service via a live link over the Internet – a very common practice here these days due to tendency of Kiwis to scatter widely.

Then in the late hours of Sunday (or possibly early hours of Monday NZ time), my mother-in-law passed away. We learnt the news mid Monday morning. The funeral was held at 1:00 pm Japan time or 4:00 pm NZ time on Tueday – less than 10 hours ago as I write this. Neither my wife nor I could attend.

When you live at the end of the world that is Aotearoa New Zealand, it’s is an unfortunate fact of life that the rest of the world is a long, long way away. While there’s plenty of flights in and out of the country, direct flights to any specific city in the world are few and far between, and even using a series of connecting flights can extend a journey out to several days.

Take for for example a trip from our home town to the city where my mother-in-law’s funeral was held. My wife could have started her journey on Monday afternoon by flying to Auckland, but she would have been stranded there until Thursday, as that is when the next flight to Japan leaves. By the time she cleared customs, it would be too late to catch a flight or bullet train that evening, so it wouldn’t be until mid morning on Friday that she arrived at her family’s home town – three days after the funeral!

A frantic search for less direct routes proved fruitless as no option could get my wife home any earlier than Thursday regardless of the seating class. So another funeral missed.

We’re not doing too well in the Funeral attendance stakes. Let’s hope there’s no one keeping tabs. I would hope that there’ll be more than my own children present at mine.

I nearly made a terrible faux pas today. Had I not caught myself mid-sentence, I think I would have been “persona non grata” for a very long time. Sometimes humour does not transfer well from one culture to another.

After my mother’s cremation, we returned to the home my mother and sister shared, and as we tend to do in the warm months, we removed our ties etc and sat out on the terrace under the shade cloth and each opened a bottle of beer. My three siblings and I had just sat down at a table, and I was in the process of taking the first sip gulp (funerals are thirsty work) when one of my brothers quipped “You know… we’re orphans now!”

The next moment I was snorting beer out my nose as I and the other two siblings collapsed in laughter. Today I found myself saying the same thing, but I managed to stop myself just before “orphan”, and redirect it to a suggestion of what we might have for tea (Kiwi-speak for dinner or evening meal). Whew! Saved by the skin of my teeth. That’s humour that would be close to unforgivable as far as my wife is concerned, whether it was said yesterday or in 5 years time, bless her wonderful heart 🙂

Whose funeral will I miss next? While I’d be happy to miss my own, age, migraines and distance, means I’m probably going to miss many more.

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Farewell Haka

Some non-kiwis may have seen the haka performed, possibly before a sports event where a NZ national team is represented. Perhaps the most famous haka is that performed by the All Blacks (our national rugby team), “Ka Mate“. 

You may know that the haka originated as a Maori war dance to instil fear in an opponent, to raise the moral of the performers by psyching themselves up and calling on the god of war for assistance. The were highly choreographed and performed with precision timing. these are known as peruperu haka.

What you may not realise is that another form of haka evolved over time and is known as ngeri haka. Here the purpose is not to cause fear, but to psychologically move both the performers and the viewers. In ngeri haka movement is more free to allow each individual the express his or her feelings. The haka has become part of the NZ identity and is performed at weddings, funerals, sports fixtures, local events, and on many other occasions. It is performed by both Maori and Pakeha (non-Maori), men and women, young and old.

Two weeks ago, a colleague at the high school where my wife teaches died suddenly. He was greatly admired and respected by both students and staff. At the commencement of the funeral, over 1700 students welcomed the funeral procession onto the school grounds with a haka. I didn’t attend, but my wife said it was a very moving and emotional occasion, but that unfortunately the clip below, doesn’t fully convey the the effect the haka had on those attending. 

Rest in peace Dawson Tamatea.


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My Father’s Funeral

My father died on the 27th of July 2013. I wasn’t there.

My father’s funeral was held on the 30th of July 2013. I didn’t attend.

II had said my goodbyes to my father two weeks before. He was barely conscious and I doubt that he realised he was dying. If he did, he certainly put up a good fight. The last time I saw him, his breathing stopped often and each time itndid I was certain he had breathed his last. But then miraculously he would start breathingnagain. Even though we knew the end was near, it was also a happy time.

For the first time in many, many years, my father, mother, two brothers, sister and I were together in the same room. It may have been a hospital room but that didn’t matter. We sat around Dad’s bed and between singing old favourite songs to him, we reminisced about growing up under the watchful eye of our parents. Every now and then our father would wake up and be with us for a minute or two before drifting into unconsciousness again.

I spent three days with my father, but inevitably I needed to return home. No one expected him to hang on as long as he did, but in hindsight we should have realised that being the stubborn bugger he was, he wasn’t going to go without a fight. Even though I had said my goodbyes, I was sad that I wasn’t there with him at the end. He was ninety years and one month young.

On the day before the funeral I developed a migraine. By the following morning it was much worse. I was unable to string sentences together, and had difficulty in comprehending what my wife said. I was unable to walk without staggering, one side of my face had a droop, and my right arm had gone on strike. As best as I could I told my wife that I still wanted to attend the funeral even though it was an hour drive to the city where it was to be held.

When my son arrived to pick us up, I not yet dressed into my suit, so I struggled upstairs to change. Buttons are very difficult to do up when one set of fingers refuses to cooperate and the other set obeys reluctantly. Eventually I was dressed and struggled downstairs and waited in the dining room while the others made final preparations for the journey.

I have no idea how long I waited, but eventually I realised the house was very quiet. I went in search of the rest of the family but found no one. I then noticed my son’s  car was not in the driveway. I couldn’t understand why they had left without me.

I tried to phone my sister to tell her that I had been left behind but I wasn’t able to make a coherent sentence, andbhung up in frustration. Almost immediately the phone rang,  it was from my sister’s house. The personnon the other end told me not to worry about not being able to attend the funeral or being a pallbearer. I’m not sure if my insistence that I wanted to attend was understood and eventually the caller terminated the call. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, my wife and son had already arrived at my sister’s place where everyone was congregating before the funeral. Over an hour had passed since I went to change.

Migraines can play havoc  with  one’s executive skills and it  did so that day. I decided that if I was going to attend the funeral, I would have to get there myself. I realise I was in no state to drive, so I  set out on foot. I was about three kilometres into the journey when it dawned on  me that it would take more than nine hours to get there and the funeral would be well and truly over by then. I turned around and headed home.

I don’t remember the walk back home or anything else until late in the day when my wife found me sprawled out on the bed still in my suit. It’s not often I get angry, in fact it’s extremely rare, but apparently I was furious after I was told I was left behind “for my own good”. To add insult to injury, I was informed that my condition was so distressing to observe that it would have upset those attending the funeral.

I didn’t attend my father’s funeral. I wanted to.