In that first January Arina’s sister died. Loban and Gai had been at work when the phone rang. School was still on vacation and Arina and I had been sat in the kitchen drinking tea.
I had her speaking then her voice changed. I watched as her face changed, and instinct told me to move beside her. I let her fall against me as she hung up the phone. I felt her body sobbing and wrapped my arms around her. I did not know what else to do.
We stood there for what seemed like hours with Arina just crying. Eventually, I convinced her to sit on the sofa in the living room while I tried to get hold of Loban. I was not confident on the phone but luckily Loban was in the office and came straight home.
I left husband and wife to each other and went into the kitchen to make tea. From the day we arrived Arina had taught me to make tea, whatever the occasion. It was like second nature now.
Arina wanted Gai and me to attend the funeral even though we had never met her sister. “You boys are my family, and I need you there,” she said, “and Kip needs to learn about life, the good and the bad.”
So on a sunny winter’s day, Gai and I stood either side of Loban and Arina. All of us were dressed in white, the colour of mourning. I held Arina’s hand while Gai and Loban lowered the coffin into the ground. I felt her squeeze as the cemetery bell tolled out a slow monotone. Without thinking I heard myself whisper “It will be ok, mum!”
Over a few days I had learned about the loss felt by a family at the time of a death, but I also learned what being a part of a family really meant.
©JG Farmer 2013