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Carmen's funeral: Thanks and farewell

Wed 21 Dec 2011 In: People View at Wayback View at NDHA

In this excerpt from her eulogy delivered at Carmen Rupe's funeral in Sydney yesterday afternoon, longtime friend Jacquie Grant acknowledges the commitment of those who supported and kept company with Carmen as her life drew to a close. There are some acknowledgements I know Carmen would want me to make so I want to publicly acknowledge some real heroes from our wonderful gay and transgender family. Robin, Jurgen and  Kelly, your advocacy on Carmen’s behalf when she was unable through her illness to make decisions was just superb. You willingly took over guardianship of Carmen and her affairs, you advocated on her behalf and in my opinion it was only through your sheer determination that our sister lived as long as she did. I know the battles you guys fought and the responsibility both emotionally and financially you undertook gives me faith our gay community is in good heart.   Diego, I can only describe you as Carmen’s guardian angel. You provided so much personal and intimate care for Carmen while she was so ill in those last weeks and months. You are so quiet and unassuming yet your calm and unflustered presence instilled a sense of peace in Carmen. Pindi Hurring, you kept Carmen’s name alive through her Facebook page. I hope you will take on the task of maintaining the presence for a long time to come so future generations may get to understand some of our history. Chanette, Carmen’s niece, joined Robin, Jurgen and Kelly in the fight for Carmen’s right to dignity and has been a favourite niece. Channel and your team, a huge thank you for dressing Carmen and making her look like a Queen for this her final journey. Drew, I know you visited and also cared for Carmen and it was Drew who made our Lady Carmen look so beautiful on the night of her birthday. Phyllis, I guess you are watching all this with anticipation from wherever you are. Your old friend is coming to be with you. Girl, I hope you have plenty of bling on hand as you are going to need it. Oh, and a large supply of tea bags. Yes, tea bags, as tea was the strongest drink Carmen ever had in her life. She never drank, smoke or took drugs, a rare thing in our glbt community (so I helped out by having her share).   Thank you also to all the sisters and members of the wider glbt community who have supported our friend during her illness and the thousands of people from the straight community both in New Zealand and Australia who have also supported Carmen on her journey over the last 75 years. In New Zealand it is like royalty has died and in a way that is what has happened. She was undoubtedly our best known Queen. The talkback radio, the blogs and chat sites have been going overboard for days with people writing and calling with their experiences of this unique lady we knew as Carmen. One comment I read somewhere was that she was before her time. Well, I disagree. Carmen’s timing to enter and take our world by storm was right on the mark. What she did and how she impacted on society in New Zealand in the 1960s, 70s and 80s was her destiny. She was put on this earth with the sole mission to pave the way for so many and to make their journey easier and that is just what she has done.   A few days ago when the news hit the media I was approached by some people from the Arahura Pa, Katiwaewae in Hokitika, which is the place where our rarest pounamu or greenstone is found in the Arahura River. They asked me to place a piece of river polished pounamu in Carmen's hand and presented me with a beautiful piece of blessed stone, engraved with her name in it and a message for her to take on her journey. The stone has been passed around the community where I live and has been warmed by the hands of many of my West Coast friends over the last few days. Carmen, it will keep you safe and warm on your journey and it is with you for eternity. Five years ago I, along with some Wellington friends, had the pleasure of arranging a surprise 75th birthday bash for Carmen. One of the highlights of that night was how we arranged for 70 of the sister girls and trans men to line the stairs as a guard of honour. Carmen’s beautiful sister, Tess, was there, as were other members of her family and I think they all learned that night just how much respect Carmen had gained for the Whanau name Rupe. I would like to ask the sisters and brothers to do the same today at Rockwood when we carry our sister to her final place of rest. Would you please form a guard of honour so Carmen can be carried between her beloved community and friends. Carmen, for you and I it has been a friendship spanning 53 years. It started in the Cross and carried on in New Zealand. Our journey has been sad, happy, funny, memorable and I know that, like me, you would not have missed it for anything. You were always the ultimate show person. You just loved being on the stage and your stage was everywhere you were... always a performance that nobody could  surpass. At your birthday recently you performed from your wheel chair and said this will be the last performance. Well, looking at the audience here today, I guess it wasn’t quite the final performance. So, to everyone here today, if you all think it appropriate let’s give our sister and friend her last standing ovation in the usual manner. - Jacquie Grant     Jacquie Grant - 21st December 2011

Credit: Jacquie Grant

First published: Wednesday, 21st December 2011 - 11:20am

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