Sunday, January 29, 2012

Grief and Resilience

January 22nd – 29th
 On the morning of January 22nd, (January 21st in the States) we learned that Darrell’s father had passed away. While not unexpected, as Norbert had been receiving full-time care for more than a year, it was still a sad shock. Darrell made flight arrangements and we drove straight over Arthur’s Pass to Christchurch so he could catch his 7 pm flight. I stayed in Christchurch with two dear friends of Vera’s, Matt and Margaret.

Christchurch, as most of you are aware, has suffered some horrific earthquakes over the past 17 months. The first major one, in September of 2010 (magnitude 7.1), was centered west of Christchurch, and caused some damage including to Matt and Margaret’s home. They were just determining how much to salvage when the second major earthquake (magnitude 6.3) hit in February of 2011. This earthquake caused tremendous damage to the CBD (Central Business District) and 182 people lost their lives. Since the first earthquake, there have been continuous aftershocks. The first morning I was in Christchurch, there were three earthquakes. I only felt the largest one, a magnitude 4.5 quake that shook my coffee and jiggled my chair. Very eerie.

Each day I stayed with Matt and Margaret I took the bus to a different part of Christchurch and walked around. Each place showed both damage and rebirth. The CBD is no exception.

One area of the Christchurch CBD
Most of the CBD is still cordoned off. No one has been allowed in many of the buildings so they still have the purses, coffee cups and computers that were left almost a year ago. One of the areas hit the hardest was Cashel Mall. After the rubble was cleared, some of the businesses began again in new shipping containers in an area called ReStart. There is also a memorial to the many people who lost their lives there on that day.

ReStart District on the site of the Cashel Mall
Another view of the ReStart shopping district
Many volunteers worked in the aftermath of the quakes, and there are still volunteer efforts being organized to improve the city. One group is called “Greening the Rubble” and the white board in the background states the time and place of the next volunteer action.

Beautification courtesy of "Greening the Rubble"
I hiked up the Sumner headlands south of Christchurch, and got a view back to Sumner and Redcliffs where part of the cliff came down in the February earthquake.  Then another strong earthquake hit in June of 2011, and caused further damage to these cliffs and of course the homes built on the cliffs…

Cliffs above Sumner, just southeast of Christchurch
Close-up of Cliffside home
I’m not often contemplative, but the yin and yang of being confronted so directly by the power of nature and the resilience of the people, while also reflecting on the life and death of Darrell’s father and the impact on his family, encouraged somber thoughts.

Darrell is back in New Zealand now, and he is also changed from the intense experience of being with his family and putting his father to rest.

I'll leave you with a beautiful picture of the beach showing the area where we are now staying. The beach stretches for miles and miles and is wonderful for long, and contemplative, walks.

The beach stretches to the far right for a long, long way...

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