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Life stories

Sometimes life doesn't go according to plan. Sometimes you get the hard stuff.

The last month of 2016 was a challenging one for our whānau, culminating in a family funeral two days before Christmas. But that's not really where it culminated; in reality the whole of that exhausting, emotional and uncertain time was the culmination - of a life, of an era, of the threads that bring us and hold us together.

We farewelled my husband's mother with words and memories and emotion. We didn't see it coming, but we saw it end. And that feels right. As a culture, we're not great at handling death. We fight it, we fear it, we find it almost impossible to calmly accept a process as inevitable as the tide. Yet there is an up side. Death brings us together. It can be a bonding time for family, a watershed; it shows us our rawest state, strips back facades. Death challenges us, and one way or another we meet that challenge.

I've written about death in fiction. Shadow of the Mountain traverses the aftermath of grief and the impact of tragedy on a family; Evie's War, set during WWI, depicts death on both the grand scale and the intimate. In Ebony Hill, the second book of the Sea-wreck trilogy, some of the surrounding ethical dilemmas are explored, as they are through skirting the fringes in High Tide and Out on the Edge.

It's inevitable that death features large in fiction because it features large in life. Through the decade of writing those novels I lost people close to me - my father, aunt, brother-in-law, several friends. Our family has seen the slow decline, and the shocking and unexpected loss. As everyone will. That's life. And it makes you think. When people die we think about their lives, we think about ourselves, we think about death. And I think in stories.

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