I wrote the following post on December 26th, 2015. And it has been sitting in my drafts waiting to be posted. I know I wrote about the art installation but I feel like standing here was a pivotal moment for me and so here it is.
I stood in front of ‘185 Chairs’ today in Christchurch, New Zealand. Little did I know that when I stood there, I would break down in tears standing in what felt like a completely abandoned city. Feeling… Abandoned. Alone. Sad.
I never knew about this temporary art installation that has been set up in this beautiful coastal town of Christchurch. In fact, this city was only on my radar because it was printed in bigger font when you looked at the map of New Zealand. I convinced Candice to make a pit stop in this city with me on our way through the South Island. We made the spontaneous decision to go to this art installation because we were looking for something to do. According to the tour maps, it was close to the Christchurch cathedral and the Transitional Church so we stopped by.
When we walked up, the installation was hanging out in the shadow of an abandoned building across the street from what looked like the abandoned Transitional Church. Note that we visited on Boxing Day which is a National Holiday in New Zealand so the gate pulled down in the entrance of the church could have just signified it was closed for the day. As we walked up to the installation, the first chair that Candice noticed was the car seat sitting front and center by the flowers.
We stopped and read the history of the installation. This was created as a memorial to each of the lives lost in the February 2011 earthquake that Christchurch is still recovering from. Each chair is unique in the way that it represents a life lost. It was heartbreaking to see desks, wheel chairs, car seats, stools, chairs. Just chairs in general. I think what was really sad to me was that I only knew this earthquake happened because I was planning a stop I the city. Otherwise I’m not sure I would have known that this city had been destroyed just a few years ago.
What really got me was reading what was left at the memorial.
I read them and wept. I wept because I have lost two people. I wept because I was overcome with this incredible wave of sadness. I wept because I can relate and never in my life have I wished so badly I couldn’t.
You never expect to be overcome with so much emotion so unexpectedly but it happened. I stood there, in this quiet town and wept. I wept for the city, for the lives lost, the sadness you can feel in the abandoned buildings, but mainly I wept because in that moment I was brought back to moments I have tried to forget.