Posted by: alegra22 | August 1, 2010

the last day

Cezar Wairere

Zaviera comes into the bedroom, her sparkly barrettes hanging from tendrils of hair, her ponytail askew. She has a pile of books she plans to read to me that she deposits on the bed. Hands on hips, she sighs, surveys the bedroom where clothes are scattered, things piled, because the last few days have been a mess.

“Mommy, do want the fever on?” She is exhausted. She exhausted us today.

For the last few days, our lives have been a merry-go-round that refused to stop, one that has replaced horses and wild animals with mattresses, wharenui walls, hard chairs. It plays no music and moves too quickly. The children have clutched, cried, demanded, threatened, and held on. They lose themselves in laughter, running races with their cousins, mischief. And then they are gathered into the spinning of our adult world. The karakias, the speeches, the singing, the ‘sit still, be quiet’, ‘we are saying goodbye to Cezar’ that makes their world feel out of control.

Dan and I have stood in the middle, picking them up, putting them down, exhausted, dizzy, sick. Trying to be kind, patient, and failing. Trying again.

“What do you mean ‘fever’?” I ask Zaviera.

Today the air turned biting cold. The sky dark. At one point in the morning Sol said, “Is it night time already?”  Zaviera is built like me. Once the cold gets into us, we can’t get it out. Our lips turn purple. We shake. When Cezar was put in the ground, the rain began. The winds picked up and they were cruel. Zaviera was climbing all over her daddy, trying to escape. She whined and whined. Dan grew impatient. I clutched my jacket tighter, tried to hold an umbrella as a block against the elements.

“The fever!” Zaviera declares, smiling. Her crooked teeth so proud and unapologetic and beautiful they break my heart.  “The fee-ver.” She repeats as if to say: You silly woman. Do I have to explain everything? She points to the small heater on the floor of the bedroom. I laugh, pull back the covers. Pat the bed and say, “Get in, I’ll be your fever.”

As she begins to read to me, I continue to write. I’ve brought up this page several times and shut it down. I worry over the words, the details. I don’t know where to begin, where to end, what to put in between. Over this last week, I have continued to write several of my friends privately and I always apologize:

I am sorry for unloading this on you.
And they say to me what I would say: Don’t apologize. Write us. Write as much as you need to. Let us be your friends.
I hesitate for selfish reasons. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable. I want people to move away from my words feeling good. As the tangi began three days ago, I said to Dan that it felt like I needed to bring all of my friends through the three day process with me. Because I know my friends. Each one of them has had a place opened up inside of their hearts and minds, they are all mourning with me.
Today, on the last day of the tangi, I watched my niece, Minaka, who carries my name ‘Eros’ as one of her middle names, walk over to Cezar’s grave and drop a soft, yellow zip-up pyjama. I watched child after child line up, surrounded by adults, and grab a flower, a handful of yellow earth, and throw it on the coffin of a baby.
I didn’t think I would cry. I thought I didn’t have anything left in me after seeing Cezar on friday night and realizing that the soft knit hat on his head was to hide what was done to him. I shook that night. I lost the edges of my body. I still don’t know that they have returned.
Standing at the edge of his grave, a fistful of earth and grit and sand in my hand, I looked down at those yellow pyjamas, a white teddy bear next to the coffin, flowers, the earth slowly covering these things, and that space inside of me returned. I let go of the earth. I walked through the graves until I stood looking at bushes, flax, weeds, the hill.
Several years ago this same month, we buried another baby, Noah Ranui. He was nearly one. His death was from a heart defect that had gone undiagnosed. There was no way of preventing what had happened. On that day, Sol was only three years old, Zaviera was still a baby. As we said goodbye to Noah, Sol climbed up in my arms, and brushed my eyelids with his fingertips. He said, “Close your eyes mommy, close your eyes.” And then he pressed his nose into mine.
As I remembered this, I realized that I am mourning a murdered baby. I refuse to use pretty language, to soften the reality.
Murder is defined as: The unlawful killing of another human being without justification or excuse. The unlawful killing of one human by another, especially with premeditated malice. To kill brutally or inhumanly.
It seems we are comfortable naming it when violence takes the life of an adult. But with a baby we use words like ‘tragedy’ ‘abuse’ ‘wrongdoing’.
No, Cezar Wairere was murdered. There were signs of ongoing abuse to his body. Severe shaking and a blunt force trauma to the head.
These are things that will not go away inside of me as the earth covers that small body, as we get back to the daily acts of living. These are the things that leave me shaking and exhausted, my body aching.
I stood in the rain and I felt arms around my waist. It was Sol. I picked him up and he let his body relax into mine as I cried. Once again, he brought me back from the edge. My brave, question-asking son, stood in the gap between me and God. My children, my family, my friends you are my bridge.
Cezar, I will not bury your spirit in euphemisms and platitudes. I know you are beyond the reach of anger, pain, or sorrow, but here on this earth, while I breathe and live and hold my babies, I will not forget what has been done to you. God Bless you Cezar Wairere.


  1. I have no words…nothing adequate anyway, but I hope yours help you through this. This is felt in the heart of every parent on a cellular level. I can’t begin to imagine how to navigate it all.

    I’m here, I care, I want to listen if you want to tell, and I hope you can feel these arms as they stretch across the miles and hold you close.

    Your beautiful spirit will help to carry Cezar’s. I know you will do his proud.

  2. Keep writing. I am reading with a full heart.

  3. What a beautiful baby boy.

    Keep writing. Let it out. I told you, we don’t mind.

  4. You are right about your friends… and while I understand you don’t want to burden anyone but as some one who has suffered extreme grief over the past year, I assure you, letting people who love you help you shoulder the pain makes it easier to carry. Also if there is any thing that we can do to help see that justice is served… letters, calls etc i know for myself i will write til my fingers cramp

  5. You can’t burden us. You just can’t. It’s only a privelege to share in your grief. It’s important. I love you.

  6. Thank you for this piece. It is heart wrenching but it is so important to speak the truth. Your words give Cezar a voice he didn’t have. He mustn’t be forgotten. I hope you can feel my support from afar….<3

  7. amen and amen

  8. Keep writing. It’s important, necessary. Being a friend, an ear, a support system for someone is not a burden, it is a privelege.

  9. I would be very honored if you would give me your painful words. I am here for you. Keep writing, get it out, be Cezar’s voice. xoxoxo

  10. […] is heaven. How their laughter fills me up. How I want everything for them. Every single thing. (This makes my heart ache […]

  11. how u doin girlie?
    been prayin for you and your families.
    just take a step at a time.

    “get out of bed every morning, breathe in and out all day long… then after a while i won’t have to remind myself…”
    just remind yourself to keep breathing, getting out of bed and know you are loved and supported all the way around the world.
    love to you.

    • I am hanging in there. I have had a follow-up blog brewing but I’ve honestly had to shut down my emotions/thoughts for awhile because it was just too exhausting – and then my two youngest got the pox!
      Thank you for reaching out and thinking of me

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