Cars and pedestrians streamed in to gather for a public memorial service for 15-year-old Jai Morcom, who died after a schoolyard fight at Mullumbimby High School on August 29.
The crowd was huge, but the silence was profound, until at 11 minutes past the hour came from the distance a haunting wail, then the low, insistent notes of the didgeridoo, leading in the slow procession carrying the jade green coffin.
A Maori haka began the tribute to Jai, then an Indigenous smoking ceremony, and after a minute’s silence the tributes began.
And if in the week since Jai’s tragic death there have been those in the community wanting to point the finger of blame somewhere, there was only one underlying message at the service, there for all to see in the giant waratah-bedecked peace sign.
“We have come together to lovingly and peacefully celebrate Jai’s 15 years of life,” service leader Neesi said.
“Let us remember with love and gratitude the unique, happy and cruisy person he was, and can continue to be in our lives.
“This celebration may make it easier to share your grief and share your joy of knowing Jai, for he was a dear friend who will be sadly missed.”
She asked those present to ‘learn to love more deeply’ as the result of losing a friend at such a young age.
Jai’s friends and family fought back tears to tell stories of the ‘funny, cute, friendly, smart, peaceful, easy going little joker’ they had loved, and Kyra Morcom struggled to find the words for ‘how my baby brother made me feel’.
The last words were from Jai’s father Steve, who spoke movingly of the moment in his overwhelming grief last week when something happened.
“I realised I had to go in another direction to make sure no one got angry, or blamed any more,” he said, “
He spoke of what had helped, and what he hopes will come out of the tragedy.
“I can’t describe how much it helped when kids wrote things to put on the fence,” he said.
“One thing I will always cherish is meeting all you kids that were close to Jai, and I will be eternally grateful for that.
“Jai has brought everyone together in love, peace and togetherness – what he has given is unbelievable.”
After the signing of the coffin, those gathered formed a circle for the release of the balloons and white peace doves (‘homing pigeons, so they won’t get lost’), and then the coffin was carried back up to the hearse to the strains of ‘Arms of the Angels’ followed by the crowds as they waved and wept their last goodbyes.
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