RIP Blanket Man

Blanket Man’s public memorial service took place in Waitangi Park’s most exposed corner. At 10:15 a grey hearse trundled up and parked awkwardly on the lawn. A few family representatives and a selection of Wellington’s street community clustered around the open boot and brightly-decorated white coffin containing the earthly remains of Ben Hana. They were flanked by nearly two hundred mourners (definitely more than reported) and a small squad of cameras from the press. A few TV reporters stopped preening and looked suitably solemn: one of the camera operators never stopped chewing gum.

The wind rendered most of the short speeches inaudible despite amplification. Many of the speakers weren’t used to holding a microphone, and their words were lost. Hana’s older brother, who looked his neater, healthier twin, told a few anecdotes about his childhood. His lawyer, Maxine Dixon, gave a powerful speech which ended with her requesting that he now be left alone.

There was no noise apart from the fierce wind and the flapping of what I thought was a flag, but proved to be someone’s tracksuit pants. Several people approached the hearse to take close-up photos during the service. The crowd was a fairly good cross-section of Wellington, a mixture of dark corporate suits and substance-happy teens. The service over, the boot was closed and the car trundled off to Makara Cemetery, to bury a human being.

The crowd, impassive but tense, began to disperse. There was a terrible sense of sadness in the air.¬†I wish that everyone who had commented on blogs saying good riddance to Blanket Man’s death could have seen it.

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