Sudden loss and isolated grief. A real pair of motherf*****s.
I’ve always thought I had a fairly stable and robust psyche, despite (or in spite of) my occasional experiments in pushing and prodding said mental even keel. A 1am phone call from my sister in the midst of a northern BC winter called that assumption into stark and sudden question.
“Are you alone?”
“Shit. Um, Dad died”.
Unprepared is an understatement. Four words instantly flipping a working holiday in Canada to a protracted wrestle to keep it together until I could get home; a literal Ocean (and governmental pandemic policies) separating me from the only place I could comprehend beginning to process the sudden and totally unexpected death of my old man. Dead at 62, playing twilight cricket in Te Puna as he had for the majority of summer Thursday evenings all my life.
Eight months to get home. Eight months of video calls supplementing any real contact with family. Eight months of an oldest son and brother’s guilt of not being there to support them. Eight months of leaning heavily on the only person I could. Eight months of realising that robust psyche wasn’t too far from a much more fragile existence. Truly deeply sad, and working damn hard to avoid returning to the familiar comfort of booze-drenched numbness. A full-blown, and very physical, anxiety attack en route to the pre-departure covid test opening my eyes as to just how misguided and arrogant my thoughts on my mental health were.
Planting Dad’s ashes with a young Titoki on the family land, a full year after his passing, was my start line for processing the loss. The tree is flourishing, and serves as a focal point for us to gather for a beer, a kai, and a multitude of memories. The Titoki is growing, to provide shade for us, and branches for grandchildren to climb and swing from. Dad, in part, lives on. And so do we.
These trees are a no-strings gift to festival attendees, to plant in remembrance of loved ones unable to join us this weekend. Please plant them somewhere you can visit throughout the coming years, to spend some time in reflection of those who’ve gone before us. There is absolutely no obligation attached to taking a tree home from the festival, but if you wish, I invite you to return an email to the address on the card, as we develop a geographically dispersed, yet digitally connected, remembrance forest alongside the great work that the Everyone Hurts Foundation are doing here this weekend.
Please feel free to provide a planted location (as accurate as you feel comfortable), the name of who the tree is planted for, and as many words as you like in honour of your loved one. I aim to share this virtual forest via an online map, allowing others to wander through our communal loss and healing, and perhaps feel less lonely during various grief journeys.
In eternal memory of Dave, love you forever.