Friday, 18 March 2011

In Memorium

Today a memorial service was held for the victims of the Christchurch Earthquake and to support those who survived. I travelled to Paris to be part of it. I'm here in France, alone, so far away and not part of the Kiwi expats community yet I have much feeling for Christchurch.It's been hard - little news on french media, grabbing a moment here and there to check the NZ Herald and TV3 news sites for updates, frantically employing Facebook, Twitter and any networks I have to find my mother.

I still don't know how she is, where she is, only that the police say she is alive. There's no news from the Red Cross regarding my brother but I must assume no news is good news.

I have a dysfunctional family, not at all close though I've always wanted it otherwise from the moment I was born. Alas, some families have love and others don't. Still, they are the only family members (other than Laura) that I have so I've tried really hard to check on them. It's impossible to phone, Mum doesn't seem to be living where she was and my brother does not appear in the phone book. Neither of them have contacted me. I had sent a care parcel to Mum before the quake but I don't know if she has since received it or if she checks her mail.

So, the only way I could share in the caring and acknowledgement of loss, death and that the city would never be the city I remember, was to go to the service. It was religious, being at St Michael's church in Paris. It's a few rooms in a modern sort of building and typically minimalist. I am not at all religious but this was all that was on offer so I just let that bit wash over me and appreciated the intentions. Two observations I had were that I still know the hymns, virtually by heart, after all these decades of atheism, and secondly,for some reason I found my voice. For the past few decades it has slumbered, unfit, out of tune and condition and not the singing voice I once had but today for reasons I don't understand, it soared high over many others with no effort at all, in tune. Where did it come from? Of course, hymns are designed to be very singable but our National Anthem has a particularly challenging high note-it was achievable today and I'm pleased.

I went to acknowledge my emotional support for all those in Christchurch; struggling with the aftermath which will drag on for years. Those who are homeless, bereaved, who've lost their incomes, their most precious personal possessions. Where will they find the energy to start over-how will the elderly keep going, will some of them give up because they no longer have the energy and time to build a life all over again?

The service was timed for 12.30pm, same time as the Christchurch one which happened yesterday. There was a pianist, a priest from the Wellington Cathedral, Rt Hon Simon Upton, the NZ Ambassador to France (Rosemary Banks) and the service was presided over by the Rev, Philip Mounstephen. Towards the end we each lit a little tealight candle and some of us trotted upstairs for refreshments; glass of orange juice and a lammington, in my case.

Heading back to the metro I took a tiny detour to the Elysee Palace (known as Sarkosy Palace). Nic wasn't going to stick his head out and offer me a drink before I went back to work. Shame, so I amused myself photographing his guards. I walked past the Madeleine (covered in urban grime) to travel back to the Gare and then back to work.

Photos from the service, the Elysee Palace and Madeleine.


Alison said...

I'm glad that you were able to go to the service. Something you will remember. I chuckled when I read about knowing the hymns off by heart - did we have very receptive memories back then, or what? I know zillions of hymns off by heart, but I don't remember where I put bits of paper on my desk at school one day later. Anyway, I hope thast you get some clearer info about your mother and brother. Take care. xxx

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