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Gay Penelope Jane SCHAVERIEN Obituary
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Wednesday, 21 November 2018

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Preview Entry
Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Please don't submit copyrighted work; original poems, songs or prayers welcomed. reviews all Guest Book entries to ensure appropriate content. Our staff does not correct grammar or spelling.

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 Memories & Condolences
This Guest Book will remain online permanently courtesy of Lychgate Funeral Home.
October 9, 2017
With love and admiration
October 1, 2017
Jane was a clear thinking, principled fighter. She could not tolerate injustice or the exploitation of the powerless.
Political activism has been a strong core of her life.
She had many friends who admired her strength, commitment and kindness.
She was a spiritual person and became involved with the Jewish communities in Auckland and Wellington.
She taught both Josh and Adam their Bar Mitzvah parshot and they both performed admirably.
She was such a wonderful wife, mother, friend and role model that all those that knew her had their lives enhanced by knowing her.
As a family, we were all grateful for knowing and being part of Jane's life.
At different times, we sought and received her wise advice and shall miss not having her present to respond to our questions.
Her pragmatic acceptance of the fate life had for her was the last testament to this remarkable and exceptional human.
September 27, 2017
We had a wonderful service to farewell Jane yesterday. A number of people asked that the eulogies be posted online, so we have done so here.

Eulogy for Jane Schaverien -
Read by Polly Schaverien and Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa 26/09/2017

When Hikurangi and I sat down to write a eulogy for our mother Jane, the task felt simply overwhelming. How on earth were we to distill the essence of this amazing woman down into a few short words? The weaving path of her life - starting in post-war England, two marriages, parenting us, years of activism across multiple causes, a fascinating career, growing her own vegetables, her deep and long-lasting friendships, her engagement in Jewish spirituality - culminating in her tending her garden in the little eco-house she built in Wellington.

What was the common theme? How could her life be both so diverse and yet so consistent? We began to collect together vignettes around key themes in Jane's life, we thought about the conversations we had had with Jane in the last weeks of her life, wondering if perhaps in this way, we could capture something of her essence. In the end, it all seemed to boil down to one thing. Her overwhelming strength of belief.

Jane lived her life based on the strength of her beliefs, not on societal expectations. She paddled her own waka . . . and mostly upstream. As a young child, I was desperate for my mother to conform. I really, really wanted chips at my birthday parties, not carrot sticks. I wanted Mum to blend in with the other parents, not come and collect me in gumboots and my grandfather's faded and torn pink hat. I wanted to be given a delicate wicker basket of fruit to be taken to school for the harvest festival like the other kids, not a wooden box with an oversize marrow, grown in our garden. But I was dreaming. That was never going to happen. If she had conformed to any of these norms, she would have lost her quintessential Jane-ness.

That quintessential Jane-ness - that strength of belief, crystal clear set of values and standing up for what matters - meant she was often a trailblazer. This came through most strongly in her activism. Jane told us this was a legacy of the holocaust. She could not standby, if an injustice was occurring, and wait to see if someone else would intervene. If she saw a wrong in the world, she set out to right-it. The Vietnam War, feminism, the Springbok tour, Maori Sovereignty. The list could go on and on. In our household it felt like Friday nights were more often spent on protest marches in Queen St than having family dinners.

Perhaps of all the campaigns and causes Jane as involved in, her fight to expose the mistreatment of psychiatric patients at Oakley Hospital in the 1980s, was the most risky for her on a personal level. While others she worked with were willing to stand by and let patients receive ECT without anaesthetic and without their consent, Mum put her professional career and to a degree, her personal safety on the line to fight for decency. Others finally joined her and not only did practices change, but Oakley was eventually shut down. A victory for Jane's dogged determination to stand by her belief that these practices were wrong and her willingness to take a risk.

Mum's activism didn't let up after she moved to the Anzac Valley Road lifestyle block/farm in Waitakere. I remember being involved with a protest about the location of a new cellphone mast in the neighbourhood, and her committed work to foreground the health concerns of residents under the then-Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's campaign to eradicate the Painted Apple Moth using low-altitude aerial spraying, in the early 2000s.

When she moved to Wellington, she participated in the hikoi against the Foreshore and Seabed bill becoming law, the same bit of legislation she theorised boiled Dad's blood such that he had the stroke.

Her politics were not only global, abstract and large-scale. She believed in thinking global, but acting local. With her friend Kathleen, she began a guerilla campaign to plant fruit trees on public grounds along walking routes to local schools in Khandallah and Ngaio, with the intent that children could freely munch healthy, locally grown fruit on their way to and from school. The council now offers residents a fruit tree to plant on their own berms for that purpose. Radical change in action.

Despite all this radical action and determination to make a positive change in the word, mum told us her most important role was as a carer - to us as children and then, in recent years to Herewini after he had his stroke. She told us that she loved being a mother, that it was the most important and fulfilling job of her life. Once again, we see the importance of Jane's personal beliefs, not a societal expectation, driving her action. Jane said, when we were infants and she was up with us in the middle of the night, she didn't feel resentful, she felt like she was part of a special club. While she was a feminist to her core, she talked passionately about how she felt that sometimes women were being pushed to behave in the same way as men, rather than having the freedom to choose, with the risk that women felt they had to have and do it all. However, she valued parenting - and later grandparenting - so she simply made it her priority.

Caring for Herewini also came from a deep-seated belief that she had committed to loving him til death do us part, in sickness and in health and however challenging that was, she wasn't giving up. It's hard to articulate firstly, how difficult it can be to care for a stroke victim, especially someone like Dad who had such a cruel combination of challenges and setbacks, while still being in many ways so much himself. Secondly, it's hard to put into words how painful and difficult this phase of her life was in part, having lost (in her words) the love of her life, while still having much of him.

Mum's caring and love for Herewini never dwindled despite the changes he underwent over the thirteen years after he suffered the stroke. She and I, with huge amounts of help from Polly, and wonderful visits from friends and family, cared for him at home for two and a half years until she had her first cancer scare. Jane then visited him every day at the rest homes he was in from then on. She tolerated the dementia-addled phone calls with the good, sweet ones, and met him with immeasurable patience and kindness.

Jane had a belief in kindness. Not a sickly-sweet kind of kindness, but a kindness born from the belief that each person is innately good and deserving. That meant that her caring extended well beyond her role in caring for her family. She was supportive, wise and a considerate listener - both with her friends and in her professional life as a family therapist, mediator, facilitator and supervisor.

For an introvert, she was a remarkably sociable person. She had a large network of friends from many walks of life. How many people received a shabbat shalom' text from Jane on a Friday afternoon? How many people have cried on her shoulder or sought her advice, in person or down the phone? So many people have talked about how valuable her friendship was to them, and the role of her sound judgement and insight in helping them and their development.

Jane became a deeply spiritual person as the years progressed. She taught herself Hebrew, and was actively involved in weekly study groups as well as her own exploration of Jewish texts. She didn't particularly need to conform to organised religion in order to practice Judaism - she spoke of being able to pray in her garden more easily than in a synagogue. She taught my boys their bar mitzvah parashot, working away week after week with them over a period of 1-2 years. What a gift for a grandmother to be able to pass on to her grandsons.

As Polly mentioned, spirituality also was present in her commitment to and the pleasure she took in the natural world. She was an avid gardener and organic farmer, trying her hand (along with Herewini) at growing celeriac, a huge olive grove which just saw maturity before they moved, etrogim, numerous vegetable patches, fruit orchards, raising chickens, growing potatoes and kumara, protecting them from the pukeko which stalked our fields, figs --- etc. She loved the walks in the forests of Waitakere - the track at Goldie's Bush, the West Coast beaches, of which Te Henga was her favourite. She maintained an impossibly bountiful garden in her ever-shrinking Ngaio section and enjoyed all the walks around Wellington when she lived there, too.

Jane's spirituality also framed how she approached death. Her calm acceptance of the process of dying was astounding. I think it caught people off guard. How could she not be weeping and wailing? How could she not be clinging on to us - her adored and adoring family, friends and colleagues? She did want Hik and I by her side in that last few weeks, however she was not clinging to us either. A couple of weeks ago, I said to her that if she was no longer able to talk, I would sit by her side and hold her hand. She said to me, Thank you darling, but if I need to let go of your hand, I will.

So now we're farewelling her - not the memories and experiences we have had with Jane, nor of the lessons we have learnt from her sage advice. We just have to let go of the physical side of her, the bit that she rather bluntly (and characteristically) describes as just compost.