Award after girl's death bittersweet
Every morning Scott Barker has "a bit of a cry" remembering his 12-year-old daughter, Amanda, who died from meningococcal disease last month.
A Father's Day kiss on the cheek, the day before she died, remains his most tender memory.
Last night, six weeks after her death, Mr Barker and Amanda's mum Lisa Crook accepted a posthumous award on their daughter's behalf, after a short story she had written was judged the best in Wellington.
The unexpected prize, while making her parents proud, also renewed their grief, Mr Barker said.
"We are very proud of her. Sadly she's not here to accept the award herself . . . [but] it's kind of like she lives on, in a way."
He had laminated a copy of the short story "for safe keeping".
Amanda, a pupil at Evans Bay Intermediate School, died suddenly on September 4. She had enjoyed an eventful weekend, with a disco on Friday and a friend's party on the Saturday.
She spent Sunday with her dad for Father's Day, followed by burgers for dinner with her granddad.
On Monday, she felt "a little bit sick" and had the day off school. At 3pm she developed a rash, and by 5pm she was dead.
Mr Barker said the loss of his daughter had been agony.
"It's still very difficult. It's still raw. I think of her many, many times a day.
"I still have a bit of a cry each day, especially in the morning, when I realise she's gone. She was my righthand man in a lot of situations. I miss her dearly."
But he was able to take solace from his final day with her.
"I'll remember parts of that [Father's Day] weekend forever. She gave me a kiss on the cheek that night as part of saying goodnight. That last kiss goodbye from her . . . I'll never forget that."
Mr Barker and Ms Crook were joined by Amanda's grandparents and the principal of her school, Wendy Esera, when they accepted their daughter's prize.
Mrs Esera said the award was a credit to Amanda's academic ability.
"She was one of those kids that was multi-talented. And that's what makes it even more tragic than tragic. She loved anything creative. This is just such a beautiful thing for her to win."
Competition judge John McIntyre, owner of The Children's Bookshop, in Kilbirnie, said Amanda's story about a Wellington family's reaction to the declaration of war with Germany was a justified winner.
"I was aware of the situation but I was very careful about not making a decision on sympathy. The more stories I read the more I kept getting drawn back to her story.
"It's a skilful combination of research and her imagination to construct an interesting story," he said.
Her prize, $100 in book vouchers, was donated to her school.
Ms Crook said finding out Amanda had won, just three weeks after she had died, had been a shock.
"It was sad and it was frustrating . . . it just reminded us of all the stuff she could have done but can't do any more."
The Dominion Post