Aituā is a powerful Māori word that can’t really be matched in English. H.W. Williams dictionary speaks of “misfortune, trouble, disaster, accident”, and next to it is aitu meaning “calamity”. It’s when death comes trampling, death of a person or other sorts of death – of dreams, or a relationship, of health, of prospects, of the future we thought we had. Basically anything that bowls us over.
The only antidote to it is identified in these words of greeting I regularly use – I roto i te ringaringa kaha o aituā he iwi kotahi tātou. Under the heavy hand of aituā we are one people. The only recourse for finding our way through is to draw together, to share the struggle.
Not alone, but surrounded by fellow travellers – that’s what it is to be human, genuinely human.
The Whangaroa community experienced this when our good friend “Magoo” drowned at Cable Bay rescuing his daughter. Wairongoa Clarence Renata has 1,332 friends on Facebook (me among them). We worked together on Whangaroa Armed Services Commemorations and that was enough to get a friend request from him. His whole life was like that – meet him and you’re mates. For a family and for community that, through the armed forces, stretches around the world, aituā indeed to lose such a top bloke. And yet it happens. And it’s what we do with it that counts: in particular, do the things and be the kind of person we admire in the one we have lost.
That’s the same with another person I have mourned at a distance recently. Millie Te Kaawa was a matriarch within the Presbyterian Church. She was a mentor and a great support for me, never forgetting times years back when I had stood in General Assembly to speak up for the Māori Synod. She lived the faith, and radiated the kindness and warmth of being motherly disciple of Christ.
But what’s really knocked me recently in a sudden discovery of illness, pancreatic cancer in fact, in our wider in-law family. A previously fit and healthy man in his fifties so you’d never expect it. It hurts when people we care about are hurting. Even more so when it’s one’s children and in some ways the emotional hurt of others is harder to sit with than physical hurt. But sitting with pain is always hard, unable to do anything to make it right again.
Hanging in there, being together when that’s possible, that’s what is best. Providing background support to family, or friends, that can help them cope with the fact that the future has changed.
The immediate family in this case is very much part of the Catholic Church. Messages of prayer and love have been the key thing, and Parish Council has been brought into the prayer circle as well, knowing that our prayer support as a church will be meaningful. Prayer is in fact an ideal way to offer a sense of being surrounded by love, without intrusion, without fuss. A way to share the journey of being human.
I pray for all these people and all those among us who mourn or who struggle. I pray every time I think of you.
Rangimarie Peace Shalom, Robyn