Sunday, July 31, 2011

the importance of being Colin

as opposed to Ernest, the Great Uncle I hardly knew.

Colin was Dad's second cousin, Colin's grandma Jessie Farr was sister to my great grandma Kate Farr, who married John Dunford after they'd both emigrated to Christchurch from their homes in Solihul and Somerset. Sadly Durham St Methodist Church where they were married was one of the victims of the Christchurch earthquake, it just about withstood September 2010's big shake but February 2011 tumbled all but the West End doorway to the ground.

I first met Colin when I was aged about 12 when he and his wife Joan visited the UK making connections with the family members his parents had visited when they came over in the 1950s. So when I came over to New Zealand, first to visit and then to live, it was really special to me to be able to reconnect with Colin. I have quite a number of relatives here, but Colin was the only one who had known me as a child, albeit briefly. It was Colin who took me and his older sister Joyce around various family members scattered across the Canterbury Plains helping me fill in the gaps of our family tree and introducing me to the wider Farr family decendents.

Each time I've been down to Christchurch with time to spare I've caught up with Colin and Joyce, they have come to fill the gap in my life where my great aunts and uncles were - not that I ever met any of them that often and it's probably at least 15yrs since the last of them died. Colin and Joyce I've got to know well, with all the advantages of being able to get to know them as an adult.

I spent the majority of the last term break travelling around the 'Mainland' (aka the South Island) visiting F/friends and family - which of course included Joyce and Colin whilst in Christchurch for a couple of days. We had most of an afternoon and into the evening together, the longest length of time since my first visit to them 7yrs ago. Last time I'd seen Colin in late September he'd been tired, was awaiting catarract operations and had other health issues, not long after he'd gone to the Dr and was whisked into respite care which developed into him getting a self contained flat at the rest home complex. This time he was much more cheerful, the catarract operations had been successful and he was driving again. He was reading his father's diary about their trip to Europe in the '50s and was just getting up to the part where they had visited my grandparents and family in Somerset.

As ever it was lovely to catch up, hear about family members I'd met on my travels, and those I've still only heard about, to hear stories of years gone by, of Colin and Joyce's own international travels and their wistful wishes to see those places and people again.

Sadly for Colin at least that was not to be, just 10 days after I saw him Colin passed away, on the day I got back home from my own travels. With the last day of the school holidays getting back down to Christchurch and home again in time for the new term starting wasn't possible as flights were full. It would have been special for me, and my family back home, to be able to be there to say goodbye to Colin. It would have been a fantastic chance to catch up with so many of those we'd been talking about just days before. But if it had had to be one or the other I am so grateful for those hours we had together and that my last memories of Colin are the happy smiling face, albeit accompanied by a wheezy chest, rather than the worried one feeling every one of his 87 years from the year before.

It is going to be strange next time I go south, I'm going miss Colin.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just sending you lots of hugs xx