During my January appointment with Dr S. upon hearing about my being included in this year’s New Year Honour list he urged me to explain to Government House that I had terminal cancer. I was extremely reluctant to do this, but he was insistent. He was willing to support a case for my investiture ceremony being held earlier than the late April event being planned for those receiving their medals in Auckland. He wanted to ensure that I would still be in as good shape and spirits as I am now and would be able to enjoy the ceremony with my family, rather than being unwell and arriving in a wheelchair. My eldest son agreed with him and joined in the efforts to persuade me.
Eventually I agreed to do this. I subsequently responded to the letter I had received from Government House asking me whether I would be attending the Auckland or Wellington ceremony, and explained that I had terminal cancer and my oncologist insisted I advise those organising the ceremonies of my life expectancy issues.
I received a phone call from a lovely woman at Government House a short time later offering me a special investiture ceremony for me and my family in February. I was also told I could bring 10 – 15 family members with me instead to the usual six. Given that I have five children most of whom have partners and six grandchildren wanting to attend the ceremony this news came as a welcome surprise and was great cause for celebration.
So at 2pm on Thursday 9 February the Williams/Wilson/Ballantine/Bhamra/McGrigor family tribe (the amount of surname changing that has gone on among my family of four sons and one daughter is a whole chapter in itself) assembled outside the gates of Government House and once the roll call had been completed we were allowed inside the gates. We were ushered into the main reception area and then into the room where the ceremony was to take place. The Governor General, Dame Patsy Reddy and her husband, Sir David Gascoigne came downstairs in due course. A brief ceremony took place with Dame Patsy reading out the citation and then pinning the Member of the NZ Order of Merit (MNZM) medal on me. Official photos were then taken followed by afternoon tea being served while we chatted. I introduced the whole tribe to Dame Patsy and told her how thrilled I was to be being presented with my medal by a female Governor General who her husband told me proudly happens to be only the third female Governor General; Dame Cath Tizard and Dame Silvia Cartwright being the first two.
It was a very emotional event, much more emotional than I had expected. One of my sons told me later that they were moved to tears during the presentation and they were all so very proud of me. It will be something special for them all to remember me by.
After the formalities were over we were taken on a tour of the grounds by two of the military people there and at 3pm we were ushered back through the gates. After a spending a brief time under the trees at Albert Park so the grandchildren could run around and play, we then migrated down to the Viaduct where we had the most sumptuous meal at Ostro’s restaurant. It was a fabulous end to an incredibly special day. And one that would not have happened if my children had not intervened during our weekend stay at the Tongariro Chateau in June last year.