The memorial is tomorrow and I will be off from writing, licking my wounds for at least a day. Funny, I thought that there would be more calm acceptance by this time. I thought that I would be able to speak for my Calista, maybe tell a few amusing stories and get right into the "celebration of life" theme. I rather doubt that will happen. If anything, as the memorial approaches I am becoming progressively more anxiety filled and far more emotional. It takes next to nothing to set either Roni or I off right now; there are huge mood swings between anger, denial, and sorrow. I really need to steel myself or, as my darling daughter would say often, "suck it up and get it done".
Jack Cowin came through for Calista in a big way. Jack, a very well known wildlife artist, had mentored Calista for nearly 18 months and was a huge part of her finding her way into professional photography. Jack and Calista had such an amusing relationship: he played the stern task-master and she the recalcitrant apprentice. He would tell her that the first assignment she missed would be her last assignment from him and she would grouch about the big mean ol'man affectionately. He gave her 3 months before she quit, she lasted 18 months before she moved west with us. It could have been a sit-com.
Jack donated not just one but four original etchings; you could still smell the ink on the art. If I manage to sell them in the right market, that represents over two thousand dollars that will go to the scholarship fund. That is a significant donation. I believe I will be able to offer the buyer a big discount on those etchings since they will just make the cheque directly payable to the North Island College Foundation and call it a tax-deductible donation. It would be a win-win situation.
Jack also wrote an incredibly touching memorial to Calista. I always thought that my daughter was the most talented, beautiful and wonderful girl in the world, but it really drove home her potential to hear it from Jack. The memorial starts off quite slowly as Jack describes academically how he came to mentor Calista and how it became a bit of a bridge into retirement from his university professorship. He worked his way through his discovery that Calista had a natural eye for photographic composition and into how he helped groom her to follow her own natural talents to create truly unique photographs. It is the last three or four paragraphs that just about killed Roni and I. I had printed off two copies of Jack's letter and we were reading them simultaneously; we both broke down and cried as we finished the letter. Roni and I are so in tune about this that neither of us felt the need to tell each other why were crying. The tragedy of such potential being lost before it fully bloomed. It's like cutting an orchid bloom just as it forms a bud. Thank-you Jack; you memorialised Calista perfectly; you understand the travesty here.
The relatives are all arriving from the corners of the globe. Roni's family filled the house last night, most of them staying elsewhere but still hob-nobbling until nearly midnight. I have finally learnt to tell people right away that they need not try to find any comforting words; their presence alone is enough and truthfully, there are no words sufficient to the task. That is really something that is a recurrent theme I hear from every member of the Club of the Damned; people want to express in words their support and everyone fails miserably but we forgive them because they cared enough to try and they stood beside us. That's all you can do so it has to be enough.
I so wanted this memorial to be a celebration of a nearly perfect life well lived. I really wanted an upbeat, optimistic soiree with beautiful photographs and amusing stories about a unique character. Unfortunately, as the time approaches I now realise that the memorial represents the beginning of the end. Up to this point I was busy organising, planning, and booking memorial details, but after this point I am going to have to admit that she really is dead and gone. It is still possible to fool yourself into thinking she will wander through the front door with a massive bag of dirty laundry and a huge grin as her only apology as long as you have not officially said good bye. Unfortunately, that is what a memorial really is; a formal goodbye to a loved one. After that point everything else will be just labelling things and putting them into long term storage. I am really not ready to say good-bye, but then who am I fooling; I am never going to be ready to say good-bye. Hell, I was the one that was supposed to leave her behind, not the other way around. That is the way the world is supposed to work , Goddamn it.
I wrote the hospital yesterday, basically accusing them of intentional neglect of their responsibilities. I told them I was going to have my own family review the entire file and if anything wrong happened at that hospital that prevented them from reviving her I would find it. I suspect that between my brother the orthopaedic surgeon, my brother the anaesthesiologist and my brother the crown-prosecutor the will find that something wrong if is there to be found. The letter is more the product of my angry state of mind, but it is really amateurish that the hospital that pronounced my daughter dead did not even have the decency to send me a note of condolence. I doubt much will come of the letter, but if the doctors involved lose a couple of nights sleep over it, well then I guess it sucks to be them.
I better lay off today and head for the ferry docks. I am crossing the wide blue straights for almost the last time to finally lay my girl at rest. My God I miss her.