Our flag hung at half mast yesterday and I stopped for the long two minutes of silence at the start of the service of remembrance for the miners and contractors who died in the Pike River mine.
I caught the first few minutes of the service on television then listened to the rest on the radio as we drove to Christchurch. I was moved by the simplicity and sincerity of the service and the messages given, not least of all that of Prime Minister John Key who said :
. . . I want to thank all those people who rallied round to support the families of the miners. I know your work is not done and will continue for many months and years to come.
I want to thank those who worked so hard on the attempted rescue and especially those who were on standby to go into the mine. I know you wanted to bring your fellow miners home alive, but that was not to be.
I want to thank all those who offered support from throughout the country and indeed from around the world.
And I’d like to say something personal to the families of the lost miners, and in particular to those mothers of children who have so cruelly lost their fathers.
Amongst all your other emotions and pain there may be fear for your children growing up without the father who loved them.
Because I was such a child, I know that the absence of a parent is a heaviness you learn to carry in your own way.
It is a terrible thing to happen. But it doesn’t mean your children will not go on to live happy, worthwhile and fulfilling lives and, in time, experience joyfulness and love in new families, yet to be created.
And even if those children’s memories of their fathers fade, his legacy will live on in each one of them. . .
Whoever, thought of the 29 tables, one for each of the men who died, was inspired. This, more than anything else brought home that while the country has been caught up in this tragedy because of the number who died, each was an individual.
Those of us who have looked and listened from a distance have been moved and saddened by those deaths, but we can’t carry the grief of the families and friends who have lost their husbands, sons, fathers, mates and neighbours. That grief is theirs.
We can give money and write messages from afar. Those who are part of the community can give more practical support. All of that can help, but grief is personal and individual for each of those who have lost the one they loved and we can’t carry that for them.
Now the service is over there is talk of life getting back to normal, but normal isn’t normal anymore for the families and community. The people left behind will need love and support from others as they adjust to the new norma; and they will also need their own strength to carry their grief.
It will take time but the burden will get lighter and Joyce Grenfell’s words may help:
Weep if you must
Parting is hell
But life goes on
So …. sing as well