It was spring at the end of November in Auckland. My parents, sister and I flew from Vancouver to Auckland for my oldest sister’s tangi, a Maori traditional funeral rite. It was an unplanned and unexpected homecoming—a poignant one.
The first time my sister and I walked around Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) and the surrounding Cornwall Park, it felt right and natural. So we decided to do it again the next day. And the next. Until after we cremated my sister and flew back to Vancouver.
Those daily walks provided comfort.
We remembered our oldest sister and recalled many family stories. No topic was off-limits. We griped and grumbled with gusto as much as we laughed at the adventures (and misadventures) of the Davis Girls – as some neighbours dubbed us.
At times, we walked silently, the sound of nature around us.
The trilling and warbling of the songbirds punctuated by the sheep’s bleating and the cows’ mooing. One Tree Hill and Cornwall Park surrounding the hill is not just an urban oasis in Auckland; but also a working farm. Today around 600 sheep and 60 cows are often seen in designated areas in the park. The livestock also serves as a natural, fuel-free grass mower. The birds’ trills, the sheep’s baa’s and the cows’ baritone moo’s, a pleasant auditory backdrop for park visitors.
One Tree Hill itself is a fascinating natural and historical part of New Zealand. It’s a volcanic cone, one of the vital pā (village, defensive settlement) and the greatest fortress in the country.
I reflect back at that experience now and realize that those walks that my sister and I did became a ritual for us. A ritual that helped ease our grief. A simple and natural act that became a soothing balm to us.
Our walks strengthened the connection between my second sister and me. By remembering our oldest sister, we sustained our relationship with her, too. The physical location of One Tree Hill connected us with our Maori ancestors.
Beyond that, the natural beauty around us connected us to the earth—a beauty created from a furious volcanic eruption about 67,000 years ago.
My walks with my sister in One Tree Hill reminded me of the power of rituals. Here at KORU, we recognize the importance of giving space for our grief. For some, this means being more hands-on in the care of your beloved departed.
If you wish to know more about what family participation looks like, we are here to give you information and support you in the process. You can read more about Family-Led Home Funerals and Vigils here. Feel free to give us a call 604-324-8285 (Vancouver office) or 604-770-1471 (North Vancouver) or email us at [email protected].
There is power in gathering with other people but also in spending some quiet time by ourselves. Through the Hummingbird Project with Lisa Hartley of Simply Ceremony, we offer you an excerpt of one of our ritual “recipes” below. May it inspire you to connect with your departed loved ones.
A Ritual Recipe
Go out into the natural world.
Find a beautiful place to sit, hopefully near the water, a stream, a lake, the ocean, a place of solitude and quiet.
Sit in silence.
If you feel moved, talk to the person who has died.
Or, if you wish, read them a letter, a poem, a story.
If it moves you, take a stone, a leaf, a flower, something to bring home in memory of this quiet time. Put it where you can see it and remember the peace it brought you.
Photos from the Davis Archive
This is the third in our “Ngaio’s Stories” series. With close to 20 years of experience, there is very little Ngaio Davis, KORU founder and managing director, hasn’t seen or dealt with around diverse, mourning rituals, family dynamics or unusual circumstances. Ngaio shares her stories to offer you a glimpse of her own life and her role as a funeral director.
*** Ngaio first talked about her sister’s tangi in this blog.