If you go down the beach today,
In Australia, and in New Zealand,
If you go down the beach today,
You will see lots of children,
And their mums and dads,
And uncles and aunts,
And their nannas and poppas.
For today is the day, they release purple balloons.
For today is the day, they send off little Sativa.
Today is the day, her mum Sheree Roose,
Her Dad Tim Eagle,
Her twin Sister Indee,
Say good bye to Sativa in Tauranga.
Brave Sativa lost her 21 month old battle to cancer.
Today, 6th October, is her funeral.
Sativa had inspired many people.
No more pain, you can run and play in heaven.
With all the other angels including my Andrew.
But my dear Sheree,
don't hold back your tears.
In reflection, I remember my baby's funeral.
Excerpt of my book:
Chapter 15 - 24 November 1989 PM
24 November 1989 Friday evening.
You left just like that,
In a little white box.
You look down,
I am not there.
Today, Andrew, my longed-for and well-loved son was laid to rest in Waikumete Cemetery. The funeral director tells me that it is the biggest cemetery in the Southern Hemisphere. Do I need to know a statistic like that?
We didn’t have a pre-funeral gathering. I wish I hadn’t agreed to not viewing Andrew’s body after we left him for the autopsy. Chen Onn said it would be too disturbing for me to see his body all cut up. On Wednesday evening, I wanted to go to the funeral home to see him. The funeral director, who was a Polynesian said, I could if I wanted to. But I knew Chen Onn would not agree.
The Chinese brought their deceased loved one home. The body was never left alone. I cried for poor Andrew, lying alone in the funeral parlour. We were in New Zealand and this was a white man’s culture and custom. I wonder if this helps in a mum’s grieving. Mum had said that the Ibans, the natives in Borneo, even hugged and kissed their deceased. I wanted to do that to Andrew. The Maori hold a tangi and it is similar to the Chinese custom. The Samoans have their fa'alavelave, which would take place for the next several hours and even days.
Yesterday, Olwyn came very early in the morning. She knew I needed her. Chen Onn’s colleague and our church friend, Bob Alexander came with a gigantic bunch of carnations in the morning. I was upset and cried. He didn’t know I cried because of the flowers.
We had definitely requested the funeral director to put in the obituary notice, “No flowers, in lieu of flowers, please make donations to National Women’s hospital.”
Before Andrew died, Olwyn said often it was very difficult for the bereaved families to come home to a house full of flowers. Bob said there was no notice in The New Zealand Herald, which was why he didn’t know. He asked if he should take them away. Olwyn said it was okay, it was nice to have some flowers.
Chen Onn rang the funeral director. They apologized that they had made a mistake and did not put in the notice in time. They promised to put a notice in the Thursday afternoon Auckland Star and The New Zealand Herald on Friday morning. They wouldn’t charge us for the extra notice. I was unhappy; the harm had already been done.
As a result, Chen Onn had to do a lot of calling to our friends. During the meeting with Don, Don told us if we had special friends we could ask them to carry Andrew’s casket. The picture of an adult casket carried on the shoulders of adult men conjured in my mind.
I said, “Andrew was just a small baby, how many people would he need?”
Don said, “Two men would do. It can be quite heavy.”
Chen Onn said, “We will ask Ian DeStigter and our friend and ex-boarder and neighbour, Jaya.”
I was surprised that we had so many friends who came to support us. Some of them had had to take time off from work. Of course, everything was a daze; I didn’t know who was there. Thankfully, we had Paul Khor who took the photos and I could see who came. My ex colleague Donna Green took time off work to come; Chen Onn’s boss Roger Chalmers was there too.
It was a service of Thanksgiving for Andrew’s life.
“Is it well with the child? It is well,” 2 Kings 4:26
Olwyn sat by me holding my hand and squeezed it every now and then. The girls sat between us and Chen Onn. It was surreal, like I was acting in my own movie. During the meditation, Don spoke of how Andrew came to bring love. He said that we showed to the hospital staff what love we had given to Andrew, and this love had led to them loving Andrew. Love was all the church family who showered love upon us through prayers and practical help, and finally it was love between Chen Onn and me.
Don quoted parts of my letter I wrote on November 16th. He reiterated the Bible verse I claimed, the ‘Assurance of Victory’, and said that once we memorized a verse, it is kept in a niche in our head; it will come out at the right time when we need it. Indeed, how true it was of the verses and of those old-time hymnals. Finally, he said that all children are on loan from God. Only Andrew’s loan was a short one. I can be comforted that he was back with his maker, and when I die, I will meet him there.
As I sat there, the casket didn’t mean anything. Andrew was up in Heaven.
He was whispering to me, “Mum, do not cry, I am in Heaven. You loved me, and you have done your best.”
We sang three songs. Chen Onn chose, “Thy loving kindness” Psalm 63; I chose “What a friend we have in Jesus”; and Deborah chose “Jesus loves the little children”.
Finally, there it was, Waikumete Cemetery. We went to the new section, a lawn cemetery. It had not occurred to me to go out there to choose a plot. Fortunately, the funeral director got us a good plot. My late grandpa would approve. The Chinese like to be buried high up on the slope of the hill. It had a good view.
The hole had already been dug for us, and green artificial turf lay around it. Andrew’s casket was placed on two poles. The children were running around. They had never been to a cemetery. It wasn’t a frightening place. There were flowers, toys and lots of pinwheels. I recall some of the boys were playing with the pinwheels.
Don held the graveside service. It was short. I don’t remember what he said. They lowered the casket. Then Olwyn led us to throw flowers into his grave. I gave Chen Onn, Deborah and Gabrielle the four special carnations. We threw them in the hole. Then it was an impromptu act; Olwyn took flowers from the display, and gave them to the children to throw them in the hole. The parents followed suit.
We went to Olwyn’s house in Remuera for Andrew’s wake. I think it was prepared by the ladies’ service committee -- at that time it didn’t occur to me to ask. I was a member of that committee, so I think it was done by them. It was a big spread. I brought along Andrew’s album, and my letters of testimony.
Olwyn drove us home.
We had been blessed. Don and Olwyn loved us immensely. They did so much for us. So did our church family. We didn’t pay anything for the funeral service and the wake.
I can’t remember what happened during the days that followed.
The clock still chimed. The world still turned. Chen Onn went back to work. I think Deborah went back to kindergarten, because I remember I was afraid mothers would stop to talk about Andrew. Everyone, except me, I was stuck in a rut. Unable to move on wishing the world would reverse its order, and turn the other direction for a year, and things would be great, and Andrew would never have happened.