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11 November 2022

Ruta Mave: Celebrate people when they’re alive

Tuesday 11 April 2023 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Editorials, Opinion

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Ruta Mave: Celebrate people when they’re alive
Ruta Tangiiau Mave. Photo: CI NEWS

I notice that not many want to celebrate life but they will rush to a funeral at the drop of a hat, writes Ruta Mave.

It’s my birthday shout about it. It’s my birthday so what about it? My 99-year-old nana would say any day above ground is a good day. I never thought I would say this but when you get to my age you learn you can choose your day good or bad and then you choose how you live that day, well or not and who you spend your precious hours with. Life does not have to be hard nor does it have to be perfect to be wonderful.

Choosing life and how you live life is an option regardless of circumstances. It’s not just a Pollyanna view of life and already I am showing my age as I hear readers say “who is Pollyanna?”

Seeing rainbows in crystal orbs reflecting on the wall from the sunlight is not a girly delight, it is noticing that there are rainbows on the wall and they are dancing like a disco ball that makes life fun and memorable.

I notice that not many want to celebrate life but they will rush to a funeral at the drop of a hat. People don’t plan their birthday parties to have friends share their thoughts, memories and funny stories about you with others but at a funeral it is meticulously planned and out of the blue people come forward and express their heartfelt moments they have never shared with anyone in the room and often not even with the person who should have heard it themselves but are now deaf dumb and blind to them all.

A get together of people to celebrate usually means standing around catching up on the past week of sport, work and children schooling activities. We are all busy and maxed out in our credit card of life in both money and time. We think we will pay it back, we will drip feed it to keep the wolves from the door (another nana phrase) by postponing life or sharing life with others. People gather and consume and imbibe and they may sing or dance or fall over. Some may remember it was fun or that the food was cold and the beer warm, people will bring a card and say Happy Birthday cheers.

I had the good fortune of having friends come together for my birthday party on the weekend. They say friends are like stars you don’t have to see them everyday but you know they are always there. This is so very true when you have carved a friendship out of shared experiences. Having video messages come in from all over the world and people fly from New York City, Dunedin, Wellington, Auckland and Brisbane was special enough but to have them publicly speak about you to you is the wonder of emotion we all get to bear witness at a funeral but that the dearly departed misses because they are dead and about to be pushing up daisies – nana again.

Thinking your beloved is floating above you in ethereal white looking down lovingly only serves to give you a free conscience for not having had the gumption to say it to them face to face when they were alive. Actually funerals are where you go to confess you haven’t seen them in years and ‘oh how you should have visited for a cuppa, made a phone call’ and now it is too late. Then if guilt is large and ego is large and you want to make a good impression to those still standing that you were a good friend child or spouse, you wrap them in precious tivaevae and build a monumental monument to them in tile and stone with words of love etched in forever. If you think this is the redemption you need and you will gain atonement and divine forgiveness then think again. The living remember your absence and they are appalled at the money you are now willing to spend on a lifeless stone which could have been money spent while they were alive and alone living in a shack.

My nana always wanted to be at her own funeral to see what people would say about her, fortunately we celebrated her life and she lived to see and hear what we wanted to say, there was nothing but emotion and raw loss when she departed.

It was Easter, Jesus died on a cross so you could live so then live for God’s sake. Wear the fancy perfume, tell your friends and parents that you love them, adore them and are grateful they are in your life because having had my children, family and friends say that to me is a treasure I now have forever and can take to my grave with me. I won’t need to come back and haunt them.