No Need to Ask: How to Refloat the Stranded
Not far from here up the coast in early June, thousands of locals dropped everything to form a human chain and pass buckets for a washed up pilot whale. A digger was brought to trench out a channel for the incoming tide and the local rūnanga prayed a karakia. The Surf Life Savers used their pontoon to float the whale through the breakers before the Coastguard helped navigate the final stretch to safety, 500 meters off the shore, to the delight, and the satisfaction, of the entire beachside community.
There were a few nervous moments when the whale started to go sideways in the surf, but it soon righted itself again to a collective sigh of relief. People brought down soup for the hungry volunteers and everyone was well behaved the Police said, which was amazing given the numbers of people who dropped everything to come help pass buckets.
One summer at a beach up north, when my Dad was doing his funny guy thing, he teased some of the girls in his class, 'hey careful they don't come try to refloat you!' He was a teacher so everyone knew that humour was meant to be a tool of connection rather than a hatchet, more like a bridge builder not a bludgeon, and I like to think they kinda loved him for it, or maybe they just tolerated the humour but loved him anyway.
So it was a cold day in west Auckland when they found him dead and alone in his car in his garage in the dark. The soot from the engine coated all the bookshelves in blackness, and I just remember the sobs of his wife going why, why, why?
From time to time you will hear this refrain from amongst the people;
That you should just ask for help,
He should have asked for help,
Help is there,
You just have to ask for help.
I've come to know that's the bedtime song we sing to ourselves,
So we can sleep at night.
I've come to know, from when it was my turn, pummelled and hopeless,
With a dead Dad and a quiet wish for the hurt to stop,
I've come to know that,
"Just ask for help",
Is the tide already gone long out with no-one there to help you when you're stranded.
I've come to know that the black hand that turns the key in the dark,
Is the same hand that robs you of your voice,
So there's nothing to ask for and no way of knowing who to ask.
"Just ask for help" is the tune,
That people whistle who don't know what else to say to you at the wake.
I've come to know that it is I that should be asking you if you need help,
Not expecting you to seek me out exactly at the moment when you're incapable.
I've come to understand why we should all be bringing down soup for the hungry volunteers who help refloat the stranded,
And why we should all be praying a karakia,
And forming a human chain.