So I can’t begin to imagine the deep, hollow pain that Mona and Grace Ioane are feeling, at the loss of their youngest boy in a head-on motorbike crash at the weekend.
This week, through the grief, Mona Ioane Sr has been a brave ambassador for his 14-year-old son’s memory. He told young Mona's friends he did not want his son's death to be in vain; that he did not want other parents to ever have to grieve like he and his wife Grace are now grieving.
His children were the apples of his heart, he said. To lose one was heart-breaking.
And he told them to make their parents proud: "I don't want to attend another funeral."
Sadly, too many other parents in Cook Islands do know what Mona and Grace Ioane are going through. Ten lives have been lost on Rarotonga’s roads in the past 12 months, from a resident population of barely 10,000.
These are people’s sons and daughters, too, many of them young with their lives ahead of them. There are few of us who have not been impacted by one or more of these deaths.
For many of us, it is hard to accept that our loved one’s death was anything other than a cruel act of God, or random bad luck. The alternative – to acknowledge that there are acts and omissions that let to their death – is just too painful.
But we must. We must accept that if we as a community do not want to attend more young people’s funerals, then we must make considered changes to our laws, to our education, to our behaviour – to the role-modelling we offer our children.
So we welcome Prime Minister Henry Puna’s promise to shepherd through new road safety laws: mandatory motorbike helmets, lower drink-drive limits, banning drivers’ use of cellphones and earphones, tougher penalties and stronger enforcement.
I understand, there will be some who will criticise this as politicising Sunday’s tragic deaths; others who will believe this is a kneejerk reaction.
But it’s not. The challenges of drink-driving and helmets have been very well-argued and well-researched in this community, over many years. We know there is a problem.
We know from local and international evidence that not drinking before we drive dramatically reduces the risk of accidents; that reducing our speed reduces the risk still further; and that wearing helmets reduces the harm when accidents do happen.
And I believe many of us now know that, like it or not, it’s time to address that problem.
Go home to your families tonight. Be close to them. Tell your partners and children, “I love you”.
And in coming weeks and months, let’s set aside politicking and honour Mona’s legacy.
Let us – as his father asks – make sure his death is not in vain.
* Politicking at funeral
* ‘Just pray for your children’
* ‘We’re elated – compulsory helmets will save lives’
* Mona’s legacy: ‘Enough is enough’
* Editorial: Let these parents bury their sons
* ‘I wish the tides will bring me home’
* Resource police to ‘keep roads safe’
* Heartbroken: Families mourn as ‘horrific’ head-on crash kills two