I feel that I haven’t thanked him enough for the many wondrous things and hidden sacrifices he has made whilst he was still alive and so I wanted to write about his memory knowing that he will be pleased.
I remember that night vividly at about 7pm on 3 November 2008. The Mt Hagen hospital bus came to the house, the driver said our dad was at the hospital and wanted to see us.
I didn’t believe him because dad just left the house with Emmanuel, my fourth-born brother, about 30 minutes before to attend a meeting at a colleague’s house and all had been well.
What could have possibly happened to bring the hospital bus to our door?
I called dad’s phone but it went to voicemail. Bosco, my third-born brother, went with the bus. In a minute or two an ambulance came and picked up me and my little sister Clara.
So many thoughts ran through my mind. We were confused but being the second eldest, I had to be strong for the little ones. Not much was said on our way to the hospital.
One of the doctors with us was a good friend and colleague of dad and slipped his phone, notebook and credit card into my hand and said sorry.
We didn’t ask any questions. Just sat and wondered.
As we approached the hospital gate, we noticed a large group of people hanging around. We didn’t know what awaited us at Accident and Emergency. Clara and I were ushered into A&E. There was my dad, lying on a hospital bed, a doctor trying in vain to resuscitate him.
Emmanuel was left alone in dad’s office at the dental clinic. Dad had said that after the meeting he would come back for him.
Then Emmanuel heard a commotion outside. Sirens wailed as an ambulance sped out and back in again. He looked through the window and saw someone being carried into A&E.
It was someone else, he thought. Dad was coming back to get him. I notified the hospital guards and they went to get him. The four of us gathered around our beloved father. We knew something was terribly wrong.
“I’m sorry kids, there’s nothing we can do. We have lost a good friend and a colleague and you have a lost a great father,” said the doctor.
The news ripped our hearts out. This is not happening. This is just a dream.
Why daddy….why, why, why. Why did you leave us? Dad was our life. He was our friend, our confidante, our biggest supporter. Our everything. His death was so unexpected.
We tried to shake him awake, but it was useless. We were inconsolable. Dad had died of a heart attack during the meeting.
My father, Dr Peter Are, came from Wigo village of the Gumine District in Simbu Province. He had a traditional marriage in 1983 to my mother Janet Karrot Guy from Asaro in the Daulo District of the Eastern Highlands Province. The marriage took place in my mother’s village of Kofena.
The following year, after finishing his studies at the University of PNG, he did his residency as a dentist in Buka. There my elder sister Savina came along.
In January 1985, he started work with the Health Department as the Provincial Dental Officer in Mt Hagen, Western Highlands. Bosco, Emmanuel, Clara and I were all born and grew up there. My dad served the people of the Highlands region with distinction until his death. He was just 46.
In February 1998 my parents had separated and dad raised us five children singlehandedly. When mum left, he made a promise he would take care of us no matter what it took and he was true to his word. So many sacrifices he made. He was our father and mother. He was our pillar of strength.
Dad was one of the few educated men from his Nigimarme clan. He told us how he struggled to be educated. He attended Dirima Community School then Kondiu High School run by the Catholic missionaries.
They were very strict. Sometimes when he was late or did something bad he had to do hard labour as punishment before or after class - cutting grass, removing tree stumps or working around the teachers’ houses.
It was very challenging at times when he had to climb mountains and cross rivers just to go to school.
He always showed interest in our education. He paid school fees are paid, helped with homework, often checked how we were doing, ensured our personal conduct.
He was also is a board member of the schools we attended - St Paul’s Preschool, Mt Hagen United Primary School and Notre Dame High School. He was proud of our achievements, whether we did well or not he was always there to encourage us.
Back in boarding school I looked forward to seeing him on weekends when he came to visit. I would sit patiently on the stone wall looking down to the gate. At the sight of him, my heart leapt with joy. He made sure he visited Savina and I every weekend.
Such immeasurable love he had for us his children. I always thanked God for this special man. Life was not easy; we went through many rough times, but his firm faith in God kept us going.
He encouraged us to have faith in God, to thank Him for everything, pray earnestly in both good and bad times and accept the challenges that came our way.
Dad was compassionate of the old and needy. Sometimes he would bring home an old man, Richard. He’d feed, clothe and bathe him, give him money and even let him sleep in his bed.
I greatly admired his humility. He was such a down to earth person and wanted us to be the same.
He could be hot tempered at times. We would understand that he was under so much pressure juggling many responsibilities. We loved him and accepted his discipline and knew that he really cared.
At the haus krai and funeral mass, I was amazed by how many lives he had touched. People talked about the many good things he did, the words of advice he gave to them, the treatment he provided his patients. Not just physical healing, but emotional and spiritual healing.
People cried in the streets and saluted him. He was truly a great man.
Now the great love, concern and care he had for us have all gone to another place. Another time. And all that is left is his five children.
We still have each other but life will never be the same again. He has gone, his gentle spirit, fine intelligent mind, handsome face, kindness and all of it. Rest in God’s eternal peace, dad.