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Condolences

After the traffic lights changed, I turned left into the crematorium where Uncle Patrick’s funeral would be held. I drove up the slope along the winding road, eventually finding a parking space in one of the bays. Once I parked the car, I slipped out of the driver’s door, feeling the chill of the wind through my black attire.


“Hello, Nina, thanks for coming.”


Geoff gave me a hug. As my phone beeped within my bag, we sprung apart.


“Sorry, I really should put that on silent.”


I flicked it over, then dropped my phone back into my bag. We walked into the chapel, which was already started to fill with family and friends. A slideshow of photos was playing on the screens, above Uncle Patrick’s coffin, covered in flowers and a photo frame. I noticed the Lavers in the front row, although I didn’t go to approach them, knowing them to be much more direct family than even Geoff. The minister, a tanned man with a combover, stepped into place behind the lectern.


“We are gathered together here today to remember the life of Patrick James Robinson, to grieve along his family, and to remember our hope in the life everlasting.”


I noticed Jessa wipe a tear from her eye, sitting with her family in the front pew.


“Miles Robinson, Patrick’s son, will now give the eulogy.”


He walked up, bearing the same jawline as his father, the resemblance particularly noticeable in the younger pictures.


“This is not the first time I’ve lost a parent. I don’t remember losing my mother. That was--.”


Miles sniffled.


“Dad found his first great love in my mother. They married when she was nineteen. Apparently, it had been love at first sight, and I was welcomed into the world only ten months after their wedding.”


The slideshow changed, to a photograph of Uncle Patrick with the newborn Miles.


“It was in the tragedy of the loss of my mother, and Dad’s first wife, that he met the second great love of his life, Doctor Joan Robinson. When my mother passed away from childbirth complications, Joan was there to pick up the pieces and, after a year, they formed their long partnership.”


Natalie swallowed. Of course, she had a handkerchief which she could pull out of her handbag. Natalie dabbed the corner of her eyes. She struck me as a stylish woman, whose makeup was beautifully done – never too over the top, but not about to be smudged by the sombreness of the occasion.


“Throughout my life, Mama Joan, Doc Joan, has cared for me lovingly and faithfully. She has not replaced my late mother, but she has become a mother to me in every way possible. I am profoundly grateful for her love, and I know that my father knew he was a very lucky man to have had such a faithful life partner.”


I couldn’t help but glance at Geoff. He, though, for the best, was looking straight up the front.


“The birth of Belinda was an occasion of great joy, if great shock. Mama Joan and Dad had not anticipated that they would have a child together, as she had been told she was likely infertile. I was thrilled to become an older brother, and Dad to become a father again.”


Belinda, in the front row, sat with her shoulders slumped. Jessa’s arm, engagement ring catching the light, was around her mother’s body. My chest felt tight, missing Mitchell. Should we have held a memorial service for him, even in the absence of a body? That was the sort of decision I couldn’t possibly make on my own.


“Dad decided to retire and once again take on the role of the house husband, one which he enjoyed just as much as he had in mine and Belinda’s earlier years.”


Miles recounted details of holidays and days on the golf course. He keenly enjoyed music, as well. I knew that we would miss Uncle Patrick dearly.


“The grandchildren, Jessa and Travis, were of course the delight of Dad’s life. He was so proud of the fine young adults they have become.”


Clearly Uncle Patrick had a very close relationship with his grandchildren. I tried not to think too much about Granddave.


“Joan has decided not to speak today. However, she has written this letter, which she has requested I read out.”


Miles retrieved a piece of paper from his pocket, unfolding it and placing it on the lectern. He breathed out, then started reading.


“Patrick’s love came into my life at a time when I did not expect it. Being a woman doctor in the 1960s was not easy, yet his love for me was effortless. I have been blessed to be able to share a life with him, as well as the love of both of our children, Miles and Belinda.” His voice wavered. “I’ll always love you, the man who made me a mother.”


Once the service was over, we moved from the chapel. The harsh sunlight brought to mind the day of Hudson’s funeral, even though their passings seemed different, one young, one old. That didn’t make the loss any easier. I noticed Jessa and Travis comforting their parents, while Miles stood off to the side. Entering the function area, Geoff and I stood resting against the wall at Uncle Patrick’s wake.


“Well,” he said, squeezing some tomato sauce over his sausage roll. “Let me introduce you from afar.”


Geoff pointed out some children, standing near the windows and bathed in sunlight.


“You know Uncle Sandy’s kids, my cousins,” he mentioned. “Abe, Ike and Isabella. I can’t believe how big they are now.”


 

The younger sister of missing Sydney man Mitchell del Reyan, Nina del Reyan lives on Dharug land in western Sydney. She has recently commenced a teaching degree at Macquarie University. Nina loves her family and friends and is deeply committed to finding answers and justice for the families of missing people.


Abbey Sim is the founder of Huldah Media. She is a creative writing, law and theology student who lives on the lands of the Dharug people in Sydney, Australia. Abbey desires to explore themes of hope, love and longing through her storytelling. She is the author of 'Shadow' and 'From the Wild'.


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