Songwriter's touching tribute after school friend's death helps grieving family heal
When musician Jasper Hawkins heard about the death of his school friend Ben Rose, he felt compelled to pick up his guitar.
Now, the song he wrote as an instinctive response to the 27-year-old's sudden death has helped Ben's family in their grief, and been aired on a national radio show.
Ben died after his car crashed off a one-way bridge at Whenuakite, on the Coromandel Peninsula in October 2015.
Hawkins said the news of Ben's death had been devastating.
Within minutes of hearing the news, a song had begun to take shape in his mind.
"I literally just picked up a guitar and started playing around, I think three hours later I had this song in its entirety."
The result is called Letter to My Mother, which much to Hawkins surprise was featured on Jesse Mulligan's RNZ show earlier this month.
Ben was born and raised in Nelson and together with Hawkins, attended Grove Street Kindergarten, Hampden Street Primary School and Nelson College.
"I just thought he was a really nice guy, I always enjoyed it when we met up and there would always be great chats."
Both were into music. Hawkins remembers working with Ben on the band room at Nelson College and that he had a great sense of humour.
"I just remember all these great qualities and I think that was the thing for me, I sort of came to the realisation it doesn't matter how close you are to people for whatever reason, it was just a sad thing to happen to such a nice person."
Hawkins recorded the song professionally and thought about sending a copy to the family, but he wasn't sure how it would be received. He didn't know them, but after thinking over it in the weeks after Ben's death, he decided to reach out.
"I deliberated for a while and ended up writing [Ben's mum] a card and just said I hope that you will take this in the spirit that it is intended and it turned out she was so grateful for it and said it has been a huge help in their grief.
"I got a beautiful response from her, she was so, so thankful and it was more than I expected to be honest."
Ben's mum Chrissie Rose said when she opened the card with the song from Jasper, she didn't know what to expect. She certainly didn't expect to hear a professionally finished, wonderful sounding piece of music.
"Words cannot fully express what this song and Jasper's kindness means to me and my husband and how it has helped our family in our grief," she wrote in her letter to Jesse Mulligan.
"I wish to bring to your attention and share some of the story behind it in the hope some good will come of it for a remarkable young man named Jasper Hawkins."
When she listened to the song for the first time in the weeks after Ben's death, Chrissie said she couldn't stop crying.
It was a pivotal moment in her grief, the first time she had allowed herself to stop and really mourn the loss of her son.
Letter to My Mother begins with the lyrics, "I'm lost for words, I'm sorry it's done, I broke your heart, I didn't mean to mum".
"I can't be the son you asked of me, but I tell you one thing I'll leave my legacy."
Chrissie said she had wondered if part of Ben's legacy was in the song that Hawkins had created.
"Jasper is such a lovely guy, so thoughtful and talented that this is like making lemonade out of lemons, you just get so bombarded with the bad stuff it's nice to celebrate the good stuff.
"I think this song needs to be shared because it could possibly help others like it has helped us."
Hawkins now lives in Auckland and he returned to Nelson last year for a show at The Boathouse. It was the first time he performed Letter to My Mother and he invited Ben's family to be there.
"That was a pretty moving moment, it was pretty full on because it was quite fresh at the time."
Since then, he has been working on music for his upcoming album which will also feature the tribute to Ben. He is returning to Nelson in December for a show featuring a band and string quartet.