Tom was only 20 weeks old when he died.
We were in hospital at the time and among the formalities which had to be completed was signing a form giving permission for a post mortem.
I had no objection to that. I was at least as anxious as the medical staff to find a cause of the brain disorder which killed him and I waited with increasing desperation for the results.
It was a very long wait. We passed the 20 week mark after his death so he’d been dead longer than he’d been alive and still the post mortem report didn’t come.
The longer we waited the more I focussed on the results but when the letter finally came it was an anti-climax and a disappointment. The investigations undertaken after his death told us no more than the results of the numerous tests Tom had endured during his life.
In hindsight I realise that it wasn’t just the absence of any answers to our questions of what had caused Tom’s illness, which upset me. It was that focussing on the post mortem results had led me down a by way off the grieving highway. The letter brought me to a dead end and forced me to accept there wasn’t going to be a happy-ever-after there. The son we had loved was dead and with him died the hopes and dreams we’d had for his future which we hadn’t even been aware of until we lost him and them.
The report on which I’d put so much importance was nothing more than a reminder I had to return to the main road, come to terms with Tom’s death and get on with living.
All that a long time ago now, more than 20 years, but reports on the desperation of the families of the men who died in the Pike River mine remind me of how I felt.
Anguish and anger are natural and normal reactions to the tragic deaths of their men and wanting to get them back is understandable. But even if, after two explosions and subsequent fire, there is something to bring back, it won’t by itself make anything better. The families are stuck down a side road, waiting as I was. Whatever they might have when the waiting is over it won’t be what they want which is the living men they remember and for whom they grieve.
Nobody could have told me I was waiting in vain and I don’t expect the Pike River families to give up on the hope a recovery operation could, and belief it should, be undertaken.
However, those responsible for the mine can’t be swayed be the strong and understandable emotions of those who grieve. No matter what the bereaved families think and feel, the living can’t be put at risk to bring back the dead.