SAYING GOODBYE THE NORFOLK WAY
The passing of a family member or a friend is always a difficult milestone in one's life . It can be a poignant time, but it usually presents an opportunity for family and loved ones to gather together, not only to support each other, but to share memories.
The first few days after a death, one is often caught up in making arrangements, answering the door and the phone, and many other more mundane tasks. It is probably good to be busy and surrounded by people at this time.
The hardest times probably come later. The purposeful round of activity abates, particularly for the carers of the one who has been ill.....and the bills come in....
Bernie's brother Mick died last week. It hit very hard, because he had always seemed the strongest and fittest of the family. But he had endured months of pain. We were all so glad he was able to return home to his beloved island before he died.
You see, here you leave this life surrounded by wonderful love and caring support, from friends and family, and also from the amazing staff of our small hospital.
And the caring does not stop there. It carries you right through all the funeral and after.
News of the death comes over the local radio, accompanied by the Pitcairn Anthem ...free.
All the island's flags remain at half-mast until the burial.
The coffin, a simple box covered with calico and lace, is provided by the Administration...free.
A faithful group of ladies meet "in the usual place" on the day of the funeral to make wreaths, from flowers and greenery supplied by many different people ...free.
The hearse and driver are supplied, and there is even a dignified police escort ...free.
The grave is dug that morning by volunteers - and by hand, supervised by the government sexton, and the plot in our beautiful sea-side cemetery comes at no charge. Even the mound of dirt to the side of the freshly-dug grave is covered with hibiscus and other blooms.
During the funeral time, public and sporting events are respectfully cancelled.
As the procession goes through the town, the doors of the shops are closed, and the shop assistants line up in a dignified manner outside. Cars pull over to the side of the road.
Islanders gather in large numbers to farewell one of their community, and pay their respects. Laurie is always there at the gates of the Cemetery to hand out service sheets. A very helpful speaker system is provided by the Lion's Club, so that the service can be better heard by what is usually a very large gathering. The pallbearers are always chosen from among family and friends.
If there is to be a "wake" afterwards, food seems to arrive from everywhere, and there is no shortage of people happy to gather to share the sorrow, ease the pain, and celebrate the life of the one who has departed with wonderful stories and anecdotes.
Then, in the following week's newspaper, there will be an obituary, and a copy of the eulogy, once again free of charge!
A small white cross with the deceased's name is provided on the burial site until a proper memorial headstone is organised.
Mick was the sexton at our cemetery for many years, and made the area truly beautiful and well-cared for. Shane, who succeeded Mick in the job 10 years ago, and has maintained the wonderfully high standards set by Mick, said he could have the pick of the cemetery - he had earned it. So he was finally laid to rest in a clear area off to the side underneath an old leaning tree, with a view of the surf and the sea. A most beautiful spot.
Rest in Peace, Mick.