A couple Sunday’s ago, I stood amongst the congregation of my church as a woman stood up and said “There is someone here that won’t let Jesus in, he’s always been there for you but he’s asking why you won’t let him in?” I started to shake, thinking “Is it me?” I had this gut instinct, I knew this was for me. I sat there thinking, why is it that I can sing for a living but never in a church? Why is it that I lay in the dark, struggling to put a sentence together to talk to God yet nothing comes out? It left me questioning everything.
The following Saturday my daughter visited home (Netty), asking if I would share my story as a mother’s day feature on her Blog, I questioned this and asked “why?” she responded and said “You have a story to share and it matters”.
So here goes, maybe this has answers for me.
1955. I was born 13th September 1955 in Upper Hutt, Wellington. Before I was born, my family moved house a lot and this move to Wellington was specifically for my dad’s rugby career. The year of my birth, also marks my dad making the All Blacks team after playing for the NZ Maori’s and the Petone Rugby club. A few years later, we moved to Te Mahoe, where I started school and my dad starting working at the Matahina dam. My family kept growing but finally stopped at 8 siblings – 5 sisters and 3 brothers. Fast forward a year and a bit, my family endured another move to Kawerau, Bay of Plenty. We managed to stay here right up until my first year of Kawerau College.
For most of my childhood, my siblings and I were forced to sing in our church, if we didn’t we’d get a hiding, I hated it. We’d also get pulled out of bed early hours of the night to sing as entertainment at drunken parties, if we didn’t, you guessed it, a hiding. I promised myself I would never sing again.
1969. The year we moved to Auckland. I started Otahuhu College as a 4th former, thinking about what I wanted to do when I finished school. If my future had me working in either Music, Youth or Sports this would’ve been a dream come true.
You’d think moving to a new house and starting a new school would be hard for a teen, but my world, was suddenly turned upside down…..Sexual abuse. This “thing” was pretty much happening all the time and started at the age of 13. Shortly after, the physical and emotional abuse followed, “You tell anyone, I’ll kill you” was a constant threat and I’d always tell anyone who would listen. The violent outbursts were ongoing, being hit with anything and everything he could get his hands on. I was basically sent to school with fresh bruises and cuts from Dog collars, belts and the garden hose. I was living in a nightmare, this “thing” was destroying my family, and we were all going through it at the same time. My siblings were always jumping out of windows, trying to run away but were caught and brought back home to be dealt with.
I’ll always remember the day I told our minister what was happening. He visited our home, talked for a while and left, this was the worst hiding I’ve ever gotten. I even went to the Police one time but nothing came out of it, just another hiding.
Otahuhu College eventually showed me the gate at 15 because my behaviour was Toxic. I was always in trouble and you’d always find me in a fight.
1970. My whole world was one big mess. I couldn’t see a way out and running away wasn’t an answer. I wanted to travel, see new places and work in my dream careers – Music, Sports and Youth. 15 and fresh out of school I needed to find a job, I managed to get a job at DEKA, Onehunga, replenishing shelves and working the checkout aisles. I hated this job so much and I left shortly after. I ended up finding another job at W.H Bond in Onehunga working in the kitchenware dept. I would’ve been a week into this job when I saw this guy at work, he caught my attention, my heart started beating so fast and I was sweating. The 2 co-workers I was standing with, 1 girl being this guy’s cousin laughed and said “Your nuts” when I told them I was gonna marry him. I never had a boyfriend before, I was a tomboy and only ever hung out with guys as mates.
The sexual abuse at home finally stopped with me but moved on to other members of my family. I had a big mouth, I think that’s why it stopped but the physical and emotional abuse continued. I just wanted to get out.
A month later, I got to eventually meet this so called guy from work that had stolen my heart. I told him everything that was happening with me and he stood by my side. Something came over me and I finally knew how I’d get out, I was gonna get pregnant to this guy, we’d have to marry and then I’d be out of home. My plan worked, I got pregnant and on 18th March 1972 at the age of 16, we got married. I felt bad, I sort of trapped him into it, he loved me but wasn’t in love with me. Big difference.
4th August 1972. Our 1st son was born and I was a stay at home mum. I eventually got a part time job at the Mangere recreation centre, coaching and teaching kids how to play Basketball. Not long after, I was approached by the Onehunga Jordan recreation centre and went on to work in a new centre, with the job titles Basketball director and Activities coordinator.
1st May 1975. Our 2nd son was born and I was back to work in no time, taking my 3 year old and new born with me. They had hundreds of aunties and uncles, they became the Jordan rec. centre babies.
28th November 1979. “A plane has crashed into Mt Erebus” was announced on the radio for the arrival of our 3rd son. My job at this time was full on and my husband was made redundant at W.H Bond and went on to work for the council Pep scheme. My husband knew how much I loved music, so with his redundancy pay out he bought me my first DJ system and van to get out and do some gigs. My dream careers were finally happening, 2 out of 3, not bad.
27th September 1985. My 4th son arrived. I look back now and think how lucky I am to have 4 beautiful sons, great jobs and the man I adore. Everything at this time was perfect, the older boys were at school and everything else was good.
1987. My second son Dwayne had just started at Onehunga High School and would always come home from school complaining about how tired he was, he was sleeping all the time. I put it down to longer hours at school causing the tiredness. One morning, I heard a loud crash, Dwayne had fallen out of bed. I walked in and he started laughing hysterically saying “I can see 2 of you”. I picked him up and checked him, he had double vision, his whole left side was affected like he’d had a stroke and his face was all weird looking. I thought this was strange, I guessed that it could’ve been a pinched nerve? I called my doctor and we went to see him, we did a few tests and were sent to Auckland hospital.
After many tests, cat scans and X-rays they found a Glioma midstream brain tumour. I thought the doctors could operate, take whatever this is out and he’d be fine. The C word didn’t compute in my head until a hospital Chaplin said “We have an amazing group that the cancer society can put you in touch with”. The penny had dropped, my son has cancer and he’s only 12. My husband and I had a meeting with the oncology doctors. Operating was out of the question since the tumour was located in the Pons area of the brain, this is pretty much the heart of the brain. The only option was radical radio therapy. I ended up studying everything, the disease and symptoms, what medications we were using, I wanted to walk through every stage of this disease with my son. When the radiation started I told my son he would lose his hair, so we let him get a cool haircut which was great for him, he loved it! After my son had finished radiation, the doctors told us Dwayne is now symptom free and if he stays like this for a good 15 months, he has a good chance of beating this.
During this time, my work at the Jordan recreation centre was pretty hectic. I had been working on programs for youth at risk at the Jordan rec., I loved working with these kids. I was able to interact with them on all levels, they would talk about things that resonated with my life. This stirred something in me.
1988. Nearly a year later the cancer returned, with a vengeance. All of a sudden my son stopped talking then next, he stopped walking and eating, he became really weak and was sleeping all the time. We were told by our doctors that it was just a matter of time now, there is nothing else that can be done. We tried everything from prayer to Maori healing, nothing seemed to work. Dwayne ended up being in a coma for 2 months.
February 17th 1989. We went to the hospital and the doctors told us we could take him home, Dwayne wasn’t going to last the night. I called the family to let them know he is being brought back home. I stayed by his side the whole night while everyone came over to say their goodbyes. The morning came and my son was still alive. In that same morning there was a knock on the door, 2 men stood in front of me asking “Is this where the dying boy lives?” they carried on to say they are from a Maori clinic and asked if they could see him. My mum talked to them and finally agreed to let them in. We all went into Dwayne’s room and these healers were able to meet him. At the end of the visit, we were given biddy-bid juice and Matapo (boiled leaves) to use over 4 days. By day 2, he started moving his fingers and toes again and by day 4 he was fluttering his eyes, I couldn’t believe it! Day 5 came and he was awake, starving wanting curried sausages (his favourite).
May 14th 1989. Mother’s day. My husband and I were outside racking leaves when one of Dwayne’s friends came running outside saying Dwayne wanted to see me. Dwayne handed me a Pink plush button which had super mum on it and in a slow, soft voice Dwayne murmured “Happy mother’s day”. This truly was a miracle! From this day on, he was talking non-stop, he really was making up for lost time. Dwayne was making so much progress, we were over the moon, and this made me really appreciate my Maori Heritage. Although there was progress, I was told by my Maori doctor that traditional and Maori medicines don’t usually mix well and these natural remedies wouldn’t last.
With all that was happening I also found out that I was pregnant, I wanted another child so bad knowing I was losing my son. Dwayne always wanted a little sister as well and always begged for one. I’ll never forget the day I came home to tell Dwayne that he was gonna have a little sister, he cried and rubbed my tummy, miming “my little sister”.
September 1989. Dwayne started going downhill again, in and out of comas, every coma becoming longer than the other. I ended up looking after him during the day then my husband took over while I worked.
25th September 1989. It was 1pm and I just finished giving Dwayne his medicine when all of a sudden I heard this choking sound, I picked Dwayne up to burp him by putting his head over my shoulder. I began telling him how proud Dad and I were of him and kept telling him how much he was loved. In that moment, his body went limp and he passed in my arms. I will never forget the peaceful, serene look he had on his face. His funeral was absolutely beautiful, hard but beautiful. His funeral is another story in itself.
In my grieving stages, the recreation centre was my salvation, I had so much support through this area of my life. Both my jobs in music and sports were always busy and kept me going but in the back of my mind I always had the thought, if I had to drag my feet to either job I would leave, as my passion for it would’ve died.
23rd May 1990. My beautiful daughter was born, after 4 boys she really was a blessing. She had all her brothers’ characteristics, mannerisms and personalities. I know if Dwayne was still around he would’ve spoilt her. It’s so sad knowing she’ll never meet him but whenever I see her, so much of her reminds me of him.
2000. I did eventually lose my passion for the recreation centre and was asked to work with Auckland regional incest, rape and suicide youth at risk – Boys. I went in to this job with fire inside of me and was so excited, it truly was a dream come true. After taking on boys and having success and breakthrough I was asked to work with girls as well. I cried with these youth, we talked for hours, they opened up to me sharing their testimonies, which shook me to the core. I could relate on so many levels and the lead cause of all this brokenness was sexual abuse. It hurt me the most knowing the abusers were someone they knew. This job was the most rewarding, I couldn’t believe that my past is coming back to help these children.
I ended up working with the youth for 8 years. I couldn’t believe that all 3 of my life long ambitions had come into fruition and 2 career paths we’re used in my work with youth. They were able to take out aggression in physical activity and different aspects of music helped them learn in school and healing came through singing and rapping.
Now that I look back, everything that happened had reason, even that DJ system and van my husband bought me as a gift. This system was the start of keeping my passion for music alive. As I got back into loving music again, I found a Karaoke machine that I’d also use for work. This machine brought back my love of singing. When I sing, my heart cries with certain songs and I’m able to sing freely with no threats or violence behind it. Right now, I have a band and have been able to sing with some amazing musicians over the years, even my son has become a successful singer with an amazing voice.
As ugly and as painful the abuse was I guess it moulded me into the woman I am today. This past of mine has helped many kids whose lives had been destroyed. This story is the tip of an ice berg, a very, very big Ice berg. Have I forgiven my abuser? No not yet, I’ve forgiven the abuse but not the devastation left in my family. I am hoping that this release and the chance to share my story will help me forgive fully.
Today, I see myself as a 61 year old woman who married the man of her dreams, the man who stood by my side through everything, the good and the bad. This man is an amazing husband, father and grandfather and I love him more and more each day. My 5 sons, 3 daughters and 7 grandchildren are the most inspiring part of my life. I love them so much and my husband and I couldn’t be more proud.
I hope you all know there is a way out of the darkness, I’m living proof.