No parent should ever have to say goodbye to their child, yet for the families and loved ones of Bali Nine Duo, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, this is something they’ve just had to do.
Can you even imagine this for a moment?
“Thank you” was the polite reply from Bali Nine duo Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, when Kerobokan prison officers woke them, to take them to Nusakambangan Island prison where the men will wait to be executed. “Thank you”.
Regardless of your personal views on the crimes committed by these two Australians, and of the judicial system of countries which support the death penalty, the fact is these two healthy men, these two Australians, will soon lose their lives.
There are a large number of people in Australia and around the world, holding their breath, waiting for a clemency decision, incredulous that the wheels are in motion and that this is actually going to happen.
Yet behind the story of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, are the stories of their families and friends, their parents, their brothers and their sisters. These are the people who have watched the horrific consequences of their crimes, unfold. They have lived a roller coaster of hope and despair and frustration. They haven’t been able to “make things right’ for their loved ones. And now they have to say goodbye.
As parents, with absolute white-knuckle certainty, we know our job is to protect our children. And above all we do not want to bury our babies. Nor do we ever want to have to say goodbye.
“There is an unspoken rule in our community that our children should not die before us,” suggests Sarah Wayland, Grief Researcher from the University of New England. “The information about imminent death is not the chance for their families to get a ‘head start’ on their grieving but just one more terribly tragic addition to a dark story that began the moment they were arrested.”
We can only imagine the horror the families of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have gone through sharing their last words of love and comfort. To their families, these grown men become little boys with scabbed knees, they become pimply teenagers with a lifetime of opportunity ahead of them and they become newborn babies brought home from hospital, who’s skin and hair is inhaled, who’s soft-as-a-feather cheeks are kissed, and who’s warm breath is felt.
The decisions made as an adult have been forgotten and forgiven, and precious time is spent just being together.
“The rituals of loss are individual. For some the opportunity to spend time with a loved one prior to their death allows you to say all you need to say, hug all you need to hug and resolve any tensions that might have been offered,” adds Sarah Wayland. “In this extraordinary situation these families are in, with the deadline looming but without exact details, the continual goodbyes and the uncertainty would compound their grief even before it has happened.”
As we wait and watch in dread, spare a thought for the families of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran and walk in their shoes for a moment. Feel the absolute horror of their impending loss, and the unnatural trauma of having to do something a parent should never have to do – and that’s to say goodbye.
We can step back out of their shoes, sadly, they can’t.