Nana Liz

Kingston is my grandson. Like all nanas, I knew he was special. He was a gentle loving little boy who felt things deeply. He loved his family, his friends and pets. I have a book with all the cute and funny things he used to say. He stayed with me often and said one day, “You don't have to worry if you go blind Nana, you won’t need a guide dog, cos you will have me!”

He wore glasses from two years old and he really hated them. We all thought he looked really cute. I knew from a young age that he would excel at all the sports. His hand eye coordination was exceptional and he always had a bat or ball in his hand. He had a good, happy life.

He played rep basketball for NZ many times. It was his passion and some of my happiest times were going to watch his games, yelling and jumping up and down like an idiot. It was so exciting; he was magic on the court. He had a circle of good friends who also played basketball.

He was fifteen when he started taking a medicine called Roacitan for severe acne, and things changed rapidly. He stopped playing basketball, started drinking and had bad mood swings. His good friends slowly drifted away because of this behaviour and he became a bit of a loner. Things went up and down until he was twenty two and then he was diagnosed as bipolar and an alcoholic. At last we had an explanation for his excessive behaviour.

Once he was on his meds, I felt we have the kid Kingston back again. We had some good times which I will always cherish. We walked my dogs and talked about his hopes and dreams for the future. He worried about being on meds for the rest of his life. I told him it didn’t matter as long as it kept him well. He didn’t want people to know because of the stigma of mental illness. I told him his good friends wouldn't care and the others didn’t matter. He said he was feeling really happy and positive, I said it was because his life was now in balance. He was feeling well, had a good job, a family, who loved him and a son he adored.

His only dark spot was his father. Who Kingston loved but it was not returned. He had no support or feelings of having a dad who was proud of him. This caused him a lot of sorrow.

Three weeks before Christmas he had an episode that led to his death. He was playing with his band and then went on to a 21st where he started to drink. When he came home he wass in a state, angry confused, not really knowing what had happened. After we all talked, Paula and Eb took Zion to the park, and I took my dogs for a run and we thought Kingston would do what he usually did, sleep it off.

I went to work in the morning and when I came home I saw the police and an ambulance. It still didn’t enter my head that Kingston would have taken his life.

When I saw him in the garage, it was like time had stood still. I saw him, but I didn’t. Only other people who have lived this will understand. Trying to be strong for everyone, sorting the funeral, making decisions at that time that you know you will have to live with forever. Fighting with people who wanted to take over and make decisions that only Paula, his mother, should make. Trying to protect and comfort Paula, Ebony and Jasmin. Trying to accommodate the cultural differences. What a terrible time it was and is, to be making decisions about burying your beloved grandson.

I have dealt with death before in my job, so I know a bit. Trying to advise the girls not to go and dress their brother, knowing what they would see, and dealing with hysterical girls when they got home. The emotion of the many people lining the street and doing a heartfelt haka. As Kingston was bought home, his band was playing in the front yard in Kingston’s honour. All the hundreds of lives he touched.

I had to go back to work, pay rent etc. I wasn't ready but I didn't have a choice. I thought I was dealing with it, although I felt sad all the time. Coming up to Christmas was the worst as they played Silent Night. Many times and I would have to leave the room and cry. This was a favourite carol that Kingston had been singing in the days before he died.

I ended up in hospital not long after, I just couldn’t shake the sorrow and I couldn’t stop crying. I broke out in large target lesions all over my body. I think I slept for three days as they watched over me. I hated living alone in the house where Kingston died, but when I left I cried because I felt like I was leaving him behind. We had more happy times than sad times in that house and that's what I concentrate on now.

I still have good and bad days when I think of our loss of such a special beautiful young man. I now don’t as often have the, ‘I wish I didn’t, or could have, or should have moments’. I think of him, a wee darling sitting on my knee, with my face cupped in his hands saying, “Nana why do you have roads on your face,” and not long before he died, the 6ft1, 100kgs, sitting on my knee saying “Am I squashing you Nan?”

The biggest regret I have is I didn’t study more about bipolar. I read books from the library and talked to people but like many I thought, as long as he takes his meds, he will be OK. I know he knew we loved him. It was a split second decision that has affected so many lives.

I will always be his Nana and always be proud of the beautiful young man he was. He was a good son, brother and grandson and an amazing young man. He never felt he was good enough but we knew he was. He just had bipolar and none of us knew the consequences of this to him, and to all of us.

I miss him every day. His physical presence, his laugh his music, his being an egg. I will mourn for him until the day I die. I manage it. I still cry, but that's ok. I talk about him, I work in my memorial garden and I still just LOVE him.

GrandparentClea Pettit