As I write this, Sir Edmund Hillary’s funeral procession is making its way down a rainy Queen Streetpacked with well wishers in Auckland City. I don’t recall anything like this in my lifetime in New Zealand. People lined up for hours in the wind and rain last night for the opportunity to pay their respects in the cathedral where he lay in state. Today his cortege is being greeted by 10’s of thousands of people, quietly clapping and a few throwing flowers on the bonnet of his hearse. I doubt that I will see something like this again in my lifetime.
Many discussions have taken place about whether there are many people in the world who have given back many hundred fold for what they have enjoyed in their lives. Sir Ed never made a fuss about it and he certainly would not approve of what is happening today although he would understand and respect a nation’s wishes to honour him. There are very few people alive today who would be held in similar esteem.
A sad footnote is that other than the Governor General, there are no members of the royal family here to pay their respects. This is one more nail removed from the respect for the British Commonwealth. He was Knighted and conquered Everest on the day of the Queen’s coronation. He was a true Statesman, but not important enough for the Royals to come and acknowledge, that disrespect will be remembered with disappointment.
The TV coverage has been running all day and tomorrow’s newspapers will show a country, not so much mourning the loss of a great man, but celebrating his life. Rest in peace Sir Ed, a true Kiwi bloke, eager to enjoy the adventures of mother earth and even more eager to do good for others, for good’s sake.