Jeanette Fitzsimons’ Memorial Service, Wellington, 20 July 2020

I was honoured to have a small role in the memorial service for Jeanette Fitzsimons: former Green Party co-leader, activist, musician, farmer. I first met Jeanette in my teens and, since 2011, worked closely with her in Coal Action Network Aotearoa.

At the memorial service, I read a poem I’d been asked to write for the occasion, “What You Leave Behind”. The text of the poem is at the end of this post, and you can view Jeanette’s memorial service, and take a look at the programme, at the links below.

Watch Jeanette Fitzsimons Memorial Service

Download your copy of the programme here.

What You Leave Behind

The final movement of the last quartet
stumbles to an end. The players
raise their bows from the strings,
stand, incline their heads,

And wait as the silence stretches on.
The hall is empty. Only microphones
connect them with the world. Where
are you, where have you gone?

Gone from the valley, gone from the hill.
Gone your prodigious memory, your mind.
You were not a kind person, you told me once.
But your forte was kindness in action.

You planted a thousand thousand seeds.
Stony ground devoured some. Others
were taken by drought, swept away
by sudden flood and rising sea.

Yet hundreds still grow, seedlings
sheltered so long by the mighty parent tree
now spiraling upwards in the clearing
made by your fall from the canopy.

Silence in the hall, silence on the Hill.
The air lies thick and curdled.
In our lungs and in our bones
we feel the cost of consequences rise.

All voices end. Yours lives on
in wisdom, friendship, in example.
Be kind. Speak clearly. Be unafraid.
Block the gates of power and greed.

The players leave. The music hides
between the pages of the score.
Alone on stage, one music stand,
one violin, one bow, one empty chair.

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