Monday, 13 July 2015

Releasing the Ashes

Mac's and his Mother's Ashes Released into the Upper Mangati River

Written by David Bell

Monday, 13 July 2015

A marvelous family event took place over the past three days and I must record it before some of the important details begin to fade from my memory. I will start with Friday the tenth and conclude with as full account as I am able of the release of the ashes of my mother and brother two days later.

Friday, 10 July 2015

For over two years the ashes of my parents, Jean and Peter Bell, remained in their containers closeted away firstly at Mac's house in Pirongia and then in his son Bully's place for a while. When Mac died in September, 2014, his ashes container was placed with the others and eventually taken to Denise's house where all three remained until the day of the release. The reason for the long delay was in part due to some family business that took time to work through.

Finally, the word went out and the family began to gather, flying in from distant parts of New Zealand and from Australia. Karyn, Kenny, Jaime, Darcey, Wade, and Jaimie's friend Tyler all arrived from Moranbah, Australia. Kelvin, also from Moranbah, arrived on the same flight. Glenda's brood, consisting of her son Kyle and daughter Maxine accompanied by her husband Darren - all from Sydney, made the three hour journey across the Tasman. Other family, cousins and friends from around Aotearoa also gathered: the Aucklanders, the South Islanders, the Taranakians, the Bay of Plenty folk, local Waikato people and so-on.

Friday the tenth was designated activity day. Miriam and Denise organised two family groups to visit various places and hopefully meet up at Kerosene Creek, a thermally heated river near Rotorua. Denise's group comprising hers and Karyn's family went bungy jumping at Taupo then on to Kerosene Creek for a hot swim. Miriam's group went to Arapuni, Blue Springs near Putaruru and then on to Kerosene Creek. Unfortunately, the schedules didn't match up too well and the Kerosene Creek rendezvous didn't work out, but it didn't matter, we all met up in the evening for the big family dinner at the Alexandra Hotel, organised by Denise.

As the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words. The following pictures with captions should give a good description of the activities.

Miriam's Lot:    

First stop the Arapuni swing bridge; very high and very scary. 
Second stop Blue springs near Putaruru. The springs and the river they have created are renowned for their cold, crystal clear waters and abundance of big rainbow trout. We spotted several trout in the short time we were there. Above photo taken from a bridge. Apparently, most of the bottled water we buy in the stores is from here.

Third stop Kerosene Creek near Rotorua, so called because of the distinctive kerosene smell from the thermal activity in the area

The kids enjoying the hot water under the waterfall. The air temperature outside was very chilly so it was a struggle trying to get them out.

                                                              Basking in the shallows.

Kerosene Creek was the final destination. After that it was home to change and then off to the Bell dinner at the Pirongia hotel. The old Alexandra has been rejuvenated by the new owners and now sports a very good restaurant. Over thirty family turned up and everyone had a great meal and plenty of fun. Credit to Denise for the idea and the organisation.

Saturday, 11 July 2015 

Saturday morning was spent resting from the rigors of the previous day's activities and preparing for the evening 'River Cottage' dinner at Renee and Bully's house. The idea of a River Cottage theme as part of the ashes festivities was hatched some time earlier by Denise, Miriam and Renee; the idea taken from the popular River Cottage television cooking series where everything cooked is home grown or from the wild. The Saturday dinner was to be likewise. Additionally, Glenda turned seventy and it was the perfect opportunity to celebrate her birthday; when would we ever again have so much family gathered together in one place?

Bully and Renee generously offered their new home with its large deck, spacious patio, expansive lawn and African brai pit for the occasion. It kicked off at about four thirty in the afternoon with everyone bringing their River Cottage offerings. There was abundant food; Barry and Denise killed and prepared a sheep, Graham and Jan did the same to a pig from their farm, others brought poultry, salads, desserts, drinks (Heath made some fejoa-peach wine that was well received), breads and a host of other delectable goodies. You could almost hear the tables groaning under the weight. Winnie spiced up the menu by bringing her two 'Yangtze River Cottage' dishes; a large bowl of spicy chicken feet and some stir-fried chicken gizzards and hearts, not so heartily received.

The 'River Cottage' venue:Leslie and Renee Bells' family home, Pirongia.

The brai pit. Bully worked for a year or so in the mines in South Africa and brought this outdoor cooking idea home and had it put in when his new Pirongia house was being built.
Above and below: The brai also had the secondary benefit of  keeping  out the bitter chill of the evening air.

Happy seventieth birthday Auntie Glenda.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

At 8:30 am on a frosty Sunday morning we gathered at Bully's house to head for the spot up the Mangati to release the ashes. Both Mac and our mum had stipulated that their ashes be released into the home river. At 9 am a convoy of several cars set out for the place selected some days before by Glenda, Denise and Bully. It was several miles up into the higher reaches of the Mangati stream near the bush-line on the East face of Pirongia Mountain. The spot was on a sharp corner with a sizable concrete slab encasing three large pipes which emptied a generous flow of upstream water into the stream on the other side.  The cement culvert proved the ideal surface upon which to congregate.

The task to lead the ceremony was given to me (David), a task I fretted over for days, preparing a short opening speech, mihi, and prayer. This is something I wished to do in respect to my brother Mac because it was he alone who reawakened in us our Maori whakapapa, or heritage. This reawakening, along with his incredible whakairo (carving) skills, is the great legacy he left our whanau. I, for one, feel greatly indebted to him. He was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination - he had some serious human flaws - but in the final wash he certainly left us something special from what he saw as his life's purpose. I wanted to do a good job with the service by keeping it short and to-the-point (he hated long-winded speeches and endless rituals), hoping it might meet his approval. I was keenly aware he might be watching so I wanted my performance to be as near to perfect as possible. I practiced and committed it to memory for over a week until it was ingrained in my brain.

When all the cars were parked and everyone who made the journey gathered on the culvert, I got the nod from family kuias Denise and Glenda and stepped up to do my thing. To the best of my memory it went pretty much as follows:

"Greetings everyone. On behalf of our whole family we thank you for coming to be with us for the release of Mum and Mac's ashes. I wish to do a welcome and mihi in respect to Mac, my older brother, because he brought our Maori heritage to our family remembrance before it died forever. I don't profess to have great te reo skills so please bear with me if I stumble a bit." I may have said one or two other things but you get the gist. Then....

"Ka tangi te titi
Ka tangi te kaka
Ka tangi hoki ahau!

Tuatahi, memihiake ki to tatou Kaihanga,
Mo ana, manaakitanga i tau i runga i a tatou.
Memihi ano, ki nga mate hoki,
No reira, haere-haere-haere.

Te rohe e horohia nei,Puketotara,
Tena koe, tena koe.
E nga tupuna te kaupapa o te ra nei,

"Hear the chirping of the little fantail,
Hear the call of the great red-winged parrot, the kaka.
Hear my return call.

First let us give thanks and praise to our Creator,
And let his kindness rest upon us.
Also greetings to those gone before,
Be with us today.

To Puketotara and the land,
Greetings, greetings.
To our ancestors for whom we are here today,
Be at peace-be at peace-be at peace.

"Waati Arthur Sydney Omipihi and his wife Matire Matilda Wright, my great-grandparents.
Honi Ruki Pohepohe John McGruther and Te Kura Whakairi McGruther, my grandparents.
John Robert McGruther, best known to us as Uncle Jock who gave his life in World war Two and lies where he fell in Italy.
Colin Ormsby McGruther.
Jean Waireti Ormsby Bell and Peter Leslie Absolum Bell, my parents.
And Peter McGruther Bell, also known as Mac, the most recent to leave us.

"Oh God our eternal Father, we come together as whanau to release the ashes of our brother and mother into the waters of our ancestral land. We pray that this little stream will carry these ashes through its twists and turns into our family river, the Nakuawhia, symbolizing their journey into eternity. We come here today to wish them farewell until we gather once more in our heavenly home. We pray that their spirits may find peace and contentment as they rest in their homeland. We beseech you to take them into your loving care and may this spot be blessed and remembered by our whanau now and forever. In the name of Jesus Christ, amene."

Time was then given for any who wished to say a few words and three responded. The first being Kereti, Mac's Wananga colleague and great friend. He opened with a mihi in Maori and then related some memories of Mac and some personal reflections. He was followed by Sharon Tautari who spoke about her Auntie Jean and shared some happy memories about her. She said she was intrigued by mum's name, Waireti. It made her think of wai, meaning the water into which she was released. The wai (water) would take her down into the Nakuawhia and on to Te Akarauti, the ancestral cemetary known for the cabbage trees that used to grow there. These are called ti in te reo. Waireti is simply Violet in Maori but Sharon gave it a new meaning on that day; Wai-rere-ti, (waters flowing to the ti...Te Akarauti)

Jan Bell then arose and delivered some beautiful, heartfelt words emphasizing the spiritual aspects of the event. She stressed that without the presence of folk like the Tautaris, and all others present, the great feelings of whanau would not be possible. It was a courageous effort because out of all of us Jan is possibly the most sensitive to losing our brother and parents in such quick succession and I think this has made her more attuned to spiritual things. She hadn't planned on saying anything but as she said later, something made her come forward and it felt like it wasn't her speaking.

I like to use the word whanau because it means something more than just family; it conveys the feeling of everyone united in kinship, here and beyond the veil. We were all whanau on the river bank that day and we were truly uplifted by the messages of the three speakers. I was especially glad because they filled in all the things I failed to say.

Then it was time to release the ashes and Sharon and Georgina Tautari offered the karanga as the ashes were released into the water by Mac and Jean's children. The service ended after that and everyone mingled for a while before going back to Bully's house for lunch.
The culvert, upper Mangati.
After the official opening three people gave short speeches.
Mac's friend and colleague, Kereti, sharing his memories.
Displaying IMG_9102.JPG
Releasing the ashes into the stream.
by Sharon Tautari

Let the light shine down on me.
Take me home to my mountain stream where I want to be -
To the heart of my ancestry,
Just as they before me bound themselves to the land
I am of them, so take my hand.

Mangati has my whenua; my destiny decided.
My people always knew and watched me as I grew.
There were stories to be told,
They were numerous and old.
The forest became my friend
And I saw the stories in the trees.

Wood was the book that my hands overtook,
The words exposed in post and house.
My teachers never stopped that spiritual flow
But allowed me the privilege to stretch and grow.
And I longed to be on this, our tupuna land.

E-aku tupuna!
Come, take my hand
And let my whanau know it is time to go.
The swirls and curls of the old Mangati
Have set my wairua free.

This was our day at Te Wairere Tii

The end

1 comment: