Tomorrow will be a year since the news broke of the Mangatepopo gorge tragedy which killed six school pupils and a teacher from Elim Christian College. I have a vague association with the school and know the principal through my job, plus the teacher who died was at a wedding I attended a few years ago. So ordinarily I'd be a bit sad thinking about those killed in the accident, their families, the friends and communities who grieve them.
On the 16th of April last year I felt a sudden sense of dread when I first heard mention of the deaths on the radio news. Two hours later I found out why and it had nothing to do with the canyon; it was the moment my father's heart stopped on the operating table.
While all this public grieving was going on for the seven lives lost at Mangatepopo my family was encased in a more private cocoon of sorrow. It's hard to share the anniversary of my father's death with a day that will see commemoration of other lives lost - who get widespread media attention because of the shocking manner of their passing.
I don't begrudge them and their loved ones that media spotlight. No doubt they'd rather do without it too. It's just difficult to even think about their grief while I'm considering something else, something that to be brutally honest means much more to me.
I'll be thinking about what I was doing when my partner came through the front-door and my instant recognition that something had gone very wrong; my near inability to get my limbs functioning enough to get out of my dressing gown; the race to make it to the hospital and Wriggly's incredible patience for his feed; the awful briefings in the whanau room and the waiting room from the medical staff; the massive impact on my mother even when we thought Dad would pull through; seeing him lying there in ICU with a sense of disbelief and a determination that he would make it; holding Dad's hand as he died; feeling his bristled cheek on mine for the last time.
I'll be thinking too about how lucky my family is. Lucky to have Dad in our lives for so long, but also lucky in the manner of his death. We had known he had cancer for only two weeks. He hadn't really been sick at all, just for a few hours before he died and even then he hadn't been in pain. He was joking with Mum immediately before he went under for what turned out to be the last time. I believe he may have managed to tell the surgeon, who he liked enormously, a slightly dirty joke before the anaesthetic took full effect.
My father had the best medical care he could have got, anywhere, and although he died unexpectedly we found out later that the cancer was much worse than we had thought and he wouldn't have beaten it anyway. Dad would have been an awful patient, going through chemo and further operations, and it would have warped our family and changed him. This way at least he died as the man he was, not someone altered by the disease.
We'd had a wonderful Easter together as a family not long before we found out he was ill. I had the eerie foresight to take some photos of my father, with Mum and Wriggly, just before he went into hospital to have the tumour removed, a week before he died. That last photo was a very accurate shot of him; we blew it up, framed it, and put it on the coffin. It sits in the lounge at Mum's now, a help to her, although I found it hard to look at for a long time.
Tomorrow will be a day for me that's likely to be tear-stained. I know it will be at least as horrible for those grieving the Mangatepopo victims. I'll think about them today, because tomorrow will be about something else.