I can’t stop writing. I have this itch to write, write, write. I have no appetite to write about fluffy superficial matters. The same happened when my friend Kelly died last year. It seemed utterly wrong to blog about lipsticks and recipes when the world felt like it had ground to a halt. I will give in to the urge to write – I have no idea where it comes from, but you have to go with these things! The same urge was, after all, what lead me to start a blog! My blog is doing alright.
Yesterday, spent with Dad’s gorgeous partner Lenaire, along with The Boy, was frankly, one of the ‘strangest’ days of my life. On ANZAC Day we spent 11 hours at the hospital. Yesterday after Dad had passed we had nowhere to be and nothing really that we had to do. We organised Dad’s final outfit for his cremation. We slipped a comb and a toothpick into his pocket and we added personal notes too. Then it was off to organise his ‘no bloody frills’ cremation (his orders). Ever the girl who wanted to make Dad happy, I rung around to get a good deal (!) and find the place that passed the ‘feels right’ test. Now, it’s all organised: He’s getting cremated as I write this blog post. We pick Dad up on Friday: He comes out in two urns, one for Lenaire, one for my brother and I. My brother and I will go to Singapore, Dad’s favourite place. We’ll eat Dad’s No1 favourite dish, chilli crab, wash it down with Tiger beer and send our grumpy old Dad on his final way. The other half of him will, I hope, go to Hobsonville Air Force base, another favourite place of Dad’s and where I spent the first few years of my life. Incidentally, does anyone know how we go about getting ashes scattered on the air field?! Lenaire doesn’t fancy braving the barbed wire fence.
I momentarily considered retraining to become a funeral director yesterday, I spotted an opportunity to deliver an outstanding professional service at a time of need. I reckon the money would be alright. By the way, if anyone is going to open a funeral service business: My top tips are:
- Answer your phone
- Don’t outsource your phone calls to a call centre because your prospective clients can tell it’s a call centre,
- Don’t say, like a robot “I’m sorry for your loss”: Your clients have a sensational bullshit radar!
- Recruit for someone with a balance of: Compassion, authenticity, diplomacy and someone who radiates warmth.
- See what your competitors charge, price appropriately and if your offering costs more, clearly outline to prospective clients the benefits of what you offer (we didn’t go with the cheapest, sorry Dad!)
- After you’ve met with the deceased family, check in that they understand the process and specifically ask “do you have any questions”. There’s a lot to take in and process. Allow time for this. Ask questions to confirm understanding.
It seems I can’t take my customer service trainer hat off for too long! I worked out the list of qualities and skills you’d need in a Funeral Director. I reckon I’d have a few of them!
The Boy never ceases to amaze me. His day yesterday started with ours at 2.20am. He’s learnt these school holidays about cancer, morphine, the death rattle. He knows that the last senses to go are touch and hearing. He’s learnt about cremation and death certificates. He’s soaked up learning about stuff that, actually, you really don’t want a 10 year old to have to learn yet. As an only child The Boy often seems older than he is. We have never talked down to him and consequently he’s able to hold relatively adult conversations with a high level of understanding. Having a Mum who works in HR means he can talk about different personality types and he’s becoming more assertive at having courageous conversations! After seeing the remembrance globes at the funeral director’s yesterday he told us that he’d like to be cremated and not buried and “I don’t want to become a snow globe”. This was uttered not long after we called in at Subway and, upon being asked about how his day was he replied “Great thanks. Well, actually, my Grandad died today. That was horrible. But he’s in a better place now. I’d like BBQ sauce and aioli thanks”. I was torn between feeling like wetting my knickers with laughter and wanting to cry.
Yesterday afternoon we turned our phones off. There’s only so many times you can repeat in a space of a few hours what happened at The End. Also the answer to “how are you?” is not a straightforward one for me to answer. Whilst it may seem I articulate myself well, expressing how I feel is not my preferred state. Is it my age? My half English-ness (stiff upper lip?) combined with my ENTP MBTI personality? Probably a combo of all of this! I’m cognisant being able to express how you feel is crucial to good mental health: So, this is a work in progress! Equally, the inevitable questions at this stage are: What happened? There’s only so many times you can repeat what happened at The End. It reminds me of Pregnancy FAQ’s. I used to feel like getting a t-shirt that said “’Currently X weeks. Hating being pregnant. I know what sex the baby is but I’m not telling. Unplanned. First baby. No morning sickness, but it’s just shit. Natural birth, but if drugs are required, sweet as”.
Back to yesterday. Finally, technology free, we decided to hit the beach. I said to Dad’s partner “let’s go out, otherwise we’ll sit here and get morbid!” We went to Clark’s beach just out of Pukekohe and bought Trumpet ice creams along the way (Tip: It’s cheaper to buy a box of four Trumpets than three individually, you are welcome). Clark’s Beach is a great spot and the weather was glorious. Despite the low tide, we went for a paddle and it was amazing to feel the sand and shells beneath our feet and the sun on our face. You can see the planes take off from Auckland Airport in the distance. As an Air Force kid I have a thing about planes. I follow their flight path and I ponder…. I wonder about the stories of the people on board (I’d love to go on a flight one day and journal where everyone is going and why!). The Boy spent an hour climbing a pohutukawa tree and shaking all the pollen out. He’s sneezing like a MoFo today. I’ll have to get him some antihistamine! Later, I nearly fell asleep in the sun.
My high, and low yesterday was talking to my little brother Kev who lives in Boston. What a tough time for him to be so far away. He’s bit the bullet and is coming home to NZ for a few days and he’s on the plane right now (don’t worry, he’s not flying United and he sent me a photo to prove the plane had left!). I can’t wait for him to be here and I howled and distributed snot for miles when he said he was coming home. I don’t think the poor fucker couldn’t understand a word I said. So much for being the resilient big sister: Even big sisters need their baby brothers. Any innocent onlookers of our reunion at Auckland airport in the early hours of Friday morning best have tissues on standby. It’ll be a reunion that’ll knock the socks off the Heathrow reunion scenes on Love Actually. I’ll let you know if my makeup stands up to the imminent balling of my eyes out – as this would be great funeral makeup. [Note, someone messaged me last week and asked what makeup would be good for a funeral. I replied “waterproof mascara and eyeliner”. I never thought to say “I’ll let you know next week”).
From here we are getting ready for Saturday. Dad isn’t having a funeral, he was adamant: “No funeral, no death notice in the paper!” Alright, steady on Dad. What we are doing is having a private shindig. We anticipate there’ll be 20-30 people coming for a ‘rolling lunch’. Dad wanted “beer, wine NO spirits” and “good food”. Hells bells – no pressure! I’m going to make two curries: One Beef Massaman and one Thai Red Curry. I’ve borrowed two crockpots to keep the curries warm and someone is dropping off a rice cooker for us to borrow. There’ll be two big antipasta platters, this was Dad’s favourite way to eat – and mine too. I’m nervous about buying the cheese… I hope I get it right! This easy catering will mean we can be with the people that have come to be with us and pay their respects. We don’t to faff around endlessly in the kitchen tomorrow. Someone asked what could they do to help, the reply was “bring slices! Pass around style sweet food!” We could have outsourced the catering, but I want a DIY job, it’s part of my way of honouring Dad. As an aside, the RSA visited this morning – they are paying for the food, that’s part of what they do for one of their own. This generosity gave me the eye sweats. How wonderful. This isn’t a side of the RSA you see publicly. What a fantastic organisation.
Speaking of funerals. I’ve spoken with a lot of people about this and, cut a long story short, this is something we all need to be talking about. Make your last wishes known. Your End might come quicker than you think – I’ve lost friends suddenly in the past few years. Few of us know when our time runs out. If it happens, trust me, the last thing your family need at that time is making decisions about what to do. Dad took care of all of this – his Air Force administration skills were used to the full force and this enabled us to take time to take much needed time out yesterday.
Back to funerals. I’ve got a thing about them. Partly as I’ve been to several where I’ve thought “Um, I don’t think that’s what the person would have wanted. So, I’ve sat all my friends down and had this conversation with them. I remember bringing this up with my Napier buddies when we were on a roadie to the REM concert when we were 18! I know my buddy Lisa wants no funeral, no speeches, just a huge party with shots (I’m on the tequila shots). Another friend, a Lawyer, would like pomp and ceremony and suggested who would make a good MC. Milly, my mother in law, wants me to do her makeup. When I expressed that she’d be cold and hard (Nana was when I did her ‘farewell nails’). My Milly said “Tough. Do it”. We laughed. I’ll do that, of course, for her. Another mate wants her coffin to be walked in to the song “For Today” by Neverworld Dancing Toys. Another friend totally surprised me and said she’s actually quite religious and would like lots of hymms. What great intel! In anticipation of Dad’s death, there’s been increased funeral chatter and I’ve warned my mates that I’m going to develop a ‘My Last Requests’ form, which has to be filled out within a specific timeframe and returned to me for filing. See, I told you I had grand designs of being a Funeral Director. Don’t get me started on Wills (exec summary: Get one sorted).
As for me, I want no flowers, fresh herbs instead, to be cremated in my Augustine Navy Rocket Dress (I update my outfit for my funeral often – I always tell Hubby the Dress of The Moment). I would like a big party – BYO, which is my favourite style of dining! I love experiencing everyone else’s creations. Nobody is to wear black – everyone must wear colour. Ants, if by some bizarre chance you happen to read this, please MC the event: Don’t keep it clean, be naughty and tell heaps of jokes. My ashes – half off Te Mata Peak, the other scattered discreetly scattered in Whaka Forest (not in the hangi pit!).
I’ll let you know how Dad’s curries turn out – send me good cooking vibes!