Sue Wells – The New Canterbury Tales

March 14, 2011

Sad Silly Angry Numb and then the bloody media #eqnz #newnormal

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 8:23 pm

All of this is normal.

It is now normal to be sitting in your kitchen of a morning, waiting until you have been through the death notices to respond to requests to attend council meetings or school-parent-teacher functions.

I made the mistake this morning of RSVPing to Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti’s request for help this week (they have two teacher only days) and saying I would love to teach a class in civics/democracy/town planning on Thursday (knew I couldn’t do Wednesday because that’s CCHL in the morning/Paul Wu’s funeral at 9.30 then Andrew Bishop’s at 1.30) – only then to discover that Sam’s farewell is Thursday at 11.30 (Rhys Broadbanks’ is at 2 but I suspect I might not get there.)

At Donna Manning’s funeral today, I sat between Kimmy and Beth Dunn. It was a very different send off to Murray’s farewell on Friday. Funerals are intimate, personal. They reflect the family, the person, the values that each or both or perhaps each and both hold dear.

At Donna’s today, there was a juxtaposition of two worlds. The broadcasting sphere is not the faith sphere. I am part of the first, but not of the second. Today was the piece in the middle of that Venn diagram, caused by the beautiful Donna. People from broadcasting, and from the church, came together to grieve at Donna’s passing today.

Donna Manning – 1 year and 364 days younger than me. She was most recently doing some of the jobs I did at CTV. She did them with the same passion, sharing her time with many of the same people. Her family, her faith and her values are in name only different to mine – she is not so different to me. It was hard sitting there and thinking that one through. It was hard seeing her kids and not seeing mine. It’s how I felt watching the little princes following Diana’s coffin all those years ago.

I loved Donna’s “girls” today. They wore vibrant colours,  no black. And so they should have – it was a beautiful day here today, fog clearing, blue skies, hot sun, like spring as so often Autumn is here in the Garden City. A good day to commemorate Donna, and her attitude, and her life. I have my girls, but not lined up on Fridays as Donna did, or as Barry Corbett does (his girls being boys of course). Note to self – it’s good to be regular.

It’s a bit much, these funerals one on top of the other. I saw folk today I saw on Friday, wearing the same clothes, wearing the same looks. Our memories are like swiss cheese. We apologise to each other for not knowing when we saw each other last or for telling the same stories before. It doesn’t matter. We’ll have forgotten them by the time we left. It’s out there, that’s all that matters. MaryAnne keeps talking about the doors swinging in the building – how lucky she was they swung out not in at the right time or she would have been on the other side of the list this week.

We look for small things to amuse us, delight us with the absurdity of the world or some miracle of connectedness. Today at the doctor as I picked up my prescription (turns out I share not just a hairdresser with Donna but also through a shared friend a mutual doctor – what a fabulous thing, how enormously meaningful it seems) I asked the practice nurse if she knew a good waxer. “Can’t meet my future husband on Friday with hairy legs!” (Haven’t met him yet but I watched him walk behind his mother’s coffin – that card on the top “Mummy” haunts me to this day)

And with a recommendation, Kimmy and I went post funeral to discover that the new connection was already connected to me through my oldest dearest friend. How girls can giggle! We laughed until we cried, we played silly buggers, showed each other treasured texts, acted like stupid puppies in the sand on one of our now banned beaches.

And then home we came, to drink wine in the sunset out the front until the sandflies came out and I took Pepper for her run. (We were looking for Zeke from over the back – if anyone has a missing huntaway please could you let me know?)

My running coach Bernard will be pleased. Tonight I ran faster than I have before, harder than I have.It’s probably the newly waxed legs. Aerodynamic and all that.

Got home, kids had made pasta. (Can’t think about kids tonight – hurts too much. Just like Donna’s.) Best kind. Diamond pasta spirals, watties tomato sauce. No need to think about what you’re eating – just do it.

And then Radio Live rang, bless them. “Royal Commission announced on CTV building. What are your thoughts on that?”

Took a big deep breath. Didn’t say,

Are you asking me as chair of the CCC Planning Committee or as someone who worked there, had her children and her dog in that building? Worked there for years, worked with the station, loves local broadcasting, has six funerals this week? Didn’t explain what  a nexus was.

Didn’t think it would have helped.

Commented instead politely that we would all like answers, but the most important thing right now was that families had a chance to grive.

Poor kid on the end of the phone sounded about the same age as Sammy that’s being sent off on Thursday. I was always gentle with him too. Baby journos have to learn somehow. (Aftershock in the middle of the interview – hope she doesn’t use that bit. I said the moderately bad word.)

We are trying hard to distract ourselves this week. It’s only Monday. It feels like December. We are picking and choosing funerals and trying to live our lives and walk the dog and respond to emails and it’s all a bit much, even with newly waxed legs.

But we will get through.

I was tempted not to write this, because as a leader in this town showing faith and courage and commitment are the most important things. They all underpin what I write tonight. They all still remain. What I refuse to do is to minimise just how much it hurts.







  1. hang in there after i buried my wife i have generally been (missing)u dont have to be the solution to CHCH or the world

    Comment by Dave — March 14, 2011 @ 8:35 pm | Reply

    • I’m hanging. It just sucks doesn’t it. Every now and again you just want to put your head under the covers for a few days – then you pull yourself together, have a good howl and grow a pair. Bit of number 8 and all that.

      Comment by Sue Wells — March 14, 2011 @ 9:02 pm | Reply

    • And ps Dave – I’m sorry about your wife. And thank you for reading this – and for caring enough to comment. My loo is your loo. 🙂

      Comment by Sue Wells — March 14, 2011 @ 9:09 pm | Reply

  2. Wow. I found your post while browsing through eqnz tweets on Twitter. How terribly sad and tragic yet terribly touching and powerful. I’m sorry you have been so affected by the quake. I have too, being a fellow Christchurch resident, but not in the raw, deeply personal way you have. Sending love and thoughts. Thank you for writing this.

    Comment by Erin — March 14, 2011 @ 10:27 pm | Reply

    • Thank you so much. Better out than in eh? Hope all yours are safe and well. Kia kaha. X

      Comment by Sue Wells — March 15, 2011 @ 3:51 am | Reply

  3. I’d love to know how the little princes coped with their Mummy dying. I guess one can’t really meet him and just blurt out ‘so how did you do it?’ or ‘does it still hurt so bad?’. But you can imagine asking him. I reckon his answer would be something along the lines of….one day at a time…which is all anyone can ask for. Hurray for waxed legs.

    Comment by Fiona — March 15, 2011 @ 5:34 am | Reply

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