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Those left behind

Leslie Fay Visser

Yesterday was a day of stories. These stories were about a life lived to the full and they were rich with expressions of love for a special woman who has touched the lives of many. This is a woman who thought she wouldn’t have a 40th birthday party because she didn’t believe she had enough friends to invite to it. Yesterday was testament to how wrong she was. The church we sat in to farewell Leslie was overflowing with people who felt a strong need to be there to show respect, and to say good bye. Men and women cried to the point where they could barely speak as they tried to share what Leslie meant to them. There were also many untold stories in that church. Stories that remain within and may never be heard by the rest of us.

Gavin and Leslie; Millan (9), Leslie, and Ryley(6)

We are pilgrims on a journey
We are travellers on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load

Words from the hymn The Servant Song which we sang at Leslie’s funeral.

Yesterday was not an average day ‘at the office’ at all. From the minute I opened my eyes early in the morning to get ready to catch a plane to Christchurch, through to arriving back home late last night I felt such a wealth of emotions and not all of them bad. These situations are grounding. They change you. Suddenly you look at your own life through different eyes. You want to be different. We learn so much through these experiences about life and how to live it.

What do we learn?

Life is fragile. Life is short and our time here is precious. Every day matters. We shouldn’t take anything for granted. We need to tell others what they mean to us. Why do we wait for an occasion like this to say the things we wish we had said to the person directly? Being happy is not something far away and mystical. It is not elusive. It is there for us to reach out and grasp. It is about looking at the riches that surround us in the ordinary every day things. After all, the only difference between ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’ is the ‘extra’. We are in charge of the extra. Life is not about the ‘work’ we do. This is a minute component of living. Life is about everything else. So many of us equate the value of our lives through our jobs, the money we earn, and the things we own. When you are dead none of these things matter. Those left behind deserve more from us when we are alive. We owe it to them to be fully present.

So many thoughts and feelings have been racing around in my mind. As I am writing this I still feel an intense sadness while at the same time I feel a peaceful calm. Being with all my extended family helped. I flew down to Christchurch with my husband, my mother, and my youngest sister and her husband. We were greeted at the airport by two of our cousins (there are six of them in total here in New Zealand). From that initial hug, until we parted, I felt priviledged to have had the opportunity to be with my family. We all spent the afternoon together with Gavin and the kids. We hadn’t seen each other for quite some time yet we were all there for one another as though no time had passed. We talked and talked. Our bond is so incredibly strong. We have something very special.

Back to BedlamMy cousin Gavin chose a song by James Blunt from his album “Back to Bedlam” ( a great CD by the way which I strongly recommend) to farewell his beloved wife, entitled Goodbye My Lover. The lyrics of this song say so much. As I have reread them today I am stunned how I never really listened before. Isn’t this so typical? We hear but we don’t listen. I have played this entire CD so many times in the past months. Ihave really loved a number of songs on the album (including Goodbye My Lover) but this heartfelt message saying good bye to a loved one had eluded me. I focused on the sounds and not the words. Now the situation is reversed. Today, as I listen it brings tears to my eyes – not just out of sadness but also from joy because I am so lucky to have my lover still here with me and walking beside me.

Death always leaves loved ones behind who have to pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives. Yesterday was the beginning of a brand new life for Gavin, Millan and Riley. As Gavin said at the funeral:

Our team is a little smaller without you, we love you so much.

The new Visser family: Millan, Gavin, and Ryley

The Star, 11 January 2006

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