What we are not prepared for…

For the second time in a matter of days the Ōhaupō community was witness to a tragedy on State Highway 3.

As former district councillor James Parlane was being mourned, more families were learning of a road crash which claimed five young and not so young lives. Among the victims were Paul and Lois Grimmer.

They were known in the Hamilton community for Grimmer Motors in Heaphy Terrace before their move to become part of the Whatawhata community.

Te Wananga o Aotearoa and Te Awamutu College combined to support mourners grieving the deaths of three young people – Cheyene Love-Mitchell and Piata Ofufangavalu, pictured, and Suliasi Lefai.

The college made O-Tāwhao Marae, on the school grounds, available for a tangi.

Julie Guest, Vicar of St Johns Parish, shares her thoughts with Te Awamutu News readers.

“In the past two weeks, Te Awamutu has been in the news because of the two traffic accidents on Ōhaupō Rd.

Julie Guest

Both resulted in loss of life, leaving families and communities shocked and grieving.  Stalwarts of our community and young lives with much yet to give – all gone in an instant. In Te Awamutu each time we hear the siren’s wail, we wait and wonder what has happened this time. We are adept at “reading” the signs. Who is responding? Police? Fire? Ambulance? All three and we know it’s bad.

The recent two accidents were bad. When five people are killed in one accident, we are horrified, and wonder what could have happened. How could this have been avoided?  I have two journalists in my extended family. As soon as the news of the  tragic accident near Te Awamutu hit their newsrooms, they each contacted us to be sure it wasn’t us, or anyone we knew-that we were OK. I’m sure many other locals had similar experiences.

And that’s the thing about car accidents, isn’t it? Whenever we hear news of a bad accident, we are aware that this time it could be someone we know or love who could be affected, who could have lost their life, or be seriously injured.  We all live with the knowledge that driving is dangerous, but we drive anyway.  So, we accept that driving is dangerous, that more than one person a day will be killed on the road year on year.

But we are not good at preparing for death – be it sudden, as in a car accident, or a slower more predictable death. Nor are we good at knowing how to support those whose lives are suddenly turned upside down by the death of a loved one.

As a Christian priest, many of my conversations are with people who are coping with feelings of loss, grief, and subsequent loneliness. Grief is a lonely journey, partly because your grief is your own. No matter who else cherished the person you grieve for, their way of grieving will be different from yours. That can cause even more upset, as one person’s way of coping can seem inappropriate to another.

But it seems everyone does wrestle with the same big question. When a loved one’s life ends, it calls into question the very purpose of life. What is life all about? Why do we struggle and labour in life, when it is so suddenly over? Jesus gave us the  answer that satisfies, even in the midst of grief. We are given life because God loves us. We’re invited to accept God’s love and become a conduit of God’s love to others. We are told that although we cannot now be with a  loved one after they pass from this life, we can never be separated from God’s love. In the midst of grief, it is the love and care of those around us who make God’s love real.

In the Death Café I’m part of, the most wonderful care is offered from one grieving person to another. The group know the journey, know the pain. They treat each other with tenderness, deep listening and generosity. Such care is underpinned in love and the shared journey. What a privilege it is to walk the grief journey together.




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