Songwriter's touching tribute after school friend's death helps grieving family heal

Musician Jasper Hawkins wrote the song Letter to My Mother after the death of his school friend Ben Rose.
Christian Tjandrawinata

Musician Jasper Hawkins wrote the song Letter to My Mother after the death of his school friend Ben Rose.

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.

Ben Rose with his dog Max pictured on a proposed new walking track in the Coromandel.

Rose died when he crashed his car ...

Ben Rose with his dog Max pictured on a proposed new walking track in the Coromandel. Rose died when he crashed his car off a one-way bridge in the Coromandel on October 29.

Hawkins said the news of Ben's death had been devastating.

READ MORE: * Coromandel crash victim 'left an imprint' on many, sister says 

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."

Ad Feedback

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.

 - Stuff


Ad Feedback
special offers

Million dollar wind fall

The winning ticket in Wednesday night's $1 million draw was sold at Countdown Browns Bay on Auckland's North Shore.

Mid-week celebrations for a lucky Aucklander after Lotto win.

Children love the taniwha

Mahi Pai at Manukau Institute of Technology.

More than 1500 South Auckland youngsters were treated to the very popular Mahi Pai taniwha performance over Māori Language Week.

Wide Awake at Hawkins Theatre

Hawkins Theatre is staging the play Wide Awake.

An award winning children's play is hitting the stage in Papakura.

Counselling for crash witnesses

The car hit five students then crashed into a fence.

"Traumatised" witness saw children, bags and paper flying as car slammed into students near bus stop.


Eli gains loyal, helpful friend video

Six-year-old Eli Burkhalter with  his new assistance dog Taffy.

Taffy the golden labrador is a welcome companion for six-year-old Waikanae boy.

Kids sick on synthetics

Synthetic drugs, often mixed with dried leaves resembling cannabis, have claimed at least 20 lives in New Zealand this ...

Youngest was just 5 as three Porirua kids taken to hospital severely ill.

SH1 blockage cleared

NZTA advised of delays on around the Paremata roundabout and Mana on State Highway 1 after a three-car crash at Plimmerton.

Minor delays continue after a two-car crash near Plimmerton.

Capital train strike likely

Capital commuters are likely to face disruptions as rail workers prepare to strike.

Disruptions ahead for Wellington rail commuters as employment dispute boils over.


'Bound together by cancer' video

Christchurch father of two  Kevin "Chalky" Carr received the news that his pancreatic cancer was back  and his prognosis ...

This time last week, cancer patient Chalky Carr had never met Isla Lunn. Now he's raising $100,000 for the 7-year-old.

Service 'horrific' video

Michelle Bishop is upset at the service received by funeral home Poppy Funerals following the death of her daughter ...

Woman calls for funeral industry to be regulated after ongoing problems following her daughter's death.

Bike theft at bottle-point

Two friends were robbed of their bikes at bottle-point near Papanui High School.

The two robbers fled on bikes stolen from men in Northcote, Christchurch.

Car used in kidnapping found video

The vehicle that was stolen from Andrew Cameron's home near Hanmer Springs, a silver 2017 Nissan X-Trail, is loaded onto ...

A vehicle stolen after a Canterbury man was hit in the face with a pistol and kidnapped from his home has been found 120km away.


Seven daring ducklings rescued 

The rescue operation saw the safe retrieval of seven ducklings from a Whitianga drain.

It took half an hour to rescue the seven ducklings from the depths of the drain.

Cocaine, cash found

The armed offenders squad helped execute a search warrant in Te Aroha.

Seven searches in Te Aroha were undertaken netting cocaine, cash and five arrests in a pre-dawn raid.

Historic pub killing set for trial

Chris Bush was shot and killed in October 1987.

Two men to stand trial next year over the murder of pub manager Chris Bush 30 years ago.

Kiwis want water levy

Farmers protested perceived attacks from politicians in Morrinsville on Monday, September 18. A new survey shows the ...

The majority of Kiwis want to see farmers pay for water use, a new survey shows.


Ngā Manu Kōrero begins

Dr Ruakere Hond addressed the manuhiri (visitors).

Students from 52 schools across Aotearoa have arrived in New Plymouth for a speech competition.

Principal search

Lynda Stuart, president of the NZEI, said there are ore principal vacancies than usual.

Four schools are looking for principals, and another four are looking for deputies and assistants.

The 'hero' in the beauty aisle

Shane White's training kicked into action as soon as he got to the man who collapsed in the beauty aisle.

Ian Foreman collapsed in a New Plymouth supermarket only for the produce manager to save his life.

Truck rolls, spills load of urea

A truck rolled on Opunake Rd, spilling urea, and blocking the area to traffic.

Truck and trailer unit rolls and spills load.


The final debate video

From left, Greens candidate Thomas Nash, NZ First MP Darroch Ball, National candidate Adrienne Pearce, Money Free Party ...

Palmerston North candidates battle over mental health and Manawatū Gorge at final debate.

MP flees farmers

Labour candidate for Palmerston North Iain Lees-Galloway left a farmer meeting about irrigation tax early.

Labour MP claims he was "physically pushed" and his van rammed.

Suspected armed robbery at BP

The BP service station in Main St, Palmerston North, has had another suspected aggravated robbery.

Two people are believed to have carried weapons into a BP and robbed it in Palmerston North.

Debate strikes useful balance

The Manawatu Standard candidates debate was broadcast live on Facebook.

OPINION: Election campaign meeting mixes information with humour and differences.


'What's a candidate?' video

Birchwood School students from left Jacob 8, Talei 9, Mia 8, talk to Stuff about their thoughts on the election and politics.

They can't legally vote until 2029, but they still have strong views on the election.

Earthquake jolts NZ

The quake was centred 30 kilometres northeast of Seddon.

Central New Zealand jolted by a short and sharp earthquake.

Power back on

A power outage on Wednesday afternoon has affected residents in Richmond, Brightwater, Wakefield and Mapua.

Power has been restored to 12,000 homes and businesses after a Transpower fault. 

Kea shooter sentenced

A man's been sentenced to 200 hours community work for killing a kea.

A man who shot at kea who were damaging his property has been sentenced to community work.


Dinner's in the bag

Sous chef Emily Hulburt, 5, helps out in the kitchen preparing a 'My Food Bag' recipe.

By her own admission, reporter Paula Hulburt is a whizz with a microwave. As the first delivery of My Food Bags arrive in Blenheim, she took one for a test drive.

Earthquake jolts NZ

The quake was centred 30 kilometres northeast of Seddon.

Central New Zealand jolted by a short and sharp earthquake.

Cafe confrontation

Prime Minister Bill English stopped in at BV Gourmet in Blenheim on the campaign trail on Tuesday. (File photo)

PM's coffee break gatecrashed as Labour candidate accuses National supporters of ripping down billboards.

Weather closes newly-fixed rail line

The Main North Line between Picton and Christchurch has been closed due to bad weather, just days after its post-quake ...

Just a single train managed to traverse the newly-repaired rail line from Christchurch to Picton before bad weather closed it again.

South Canterbury

Men's health focus of campaign

Jonty Penney from Timaru is participating in the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride to raise funds for men,s health.

Two Timaru men are taking the health message on the road.

Flow-on concerns

David Hurst, from A J Engineering in Washdyke, is concerned about the impact of the water levy.

S Canty businesses concerned about impact of Labour's water levy, spokesman says concerns unjustified.

New Mackenzie CEO

New Mackenzie council chief executive Suzette van

A current staff member will take on the top job at the Mackenzie District Council.

'He's a hero,' neighbour says

The remains of the Waipopo property on Wednesday afternoon.

Waipopo man who rescued wife from fire would have used 'every bit of strength'.


Search for missing man

Missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe.

More than 30 ground searchers, three search dogs and an aerial search have failed to find any further sign of missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe

Serial sea lion killer at large video

A sea lion found shot on a Catlins beach in Southland in April.

A serial killer may be targeting New Zealand sea lions, with a $5000 reward on offer in exchange for the culprit.

Fired while on sick leave

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has ordered Oamaru-based P&W Painters (PWP) to compensate former employee Paul ...

Company that unfairly fired brush hand while on sick leave also had to compensate an ex-staffer who was called a "baby killer".

Kidnapping duo plead guilty

Nick Miles, 24, and Gary Michael Wilson, 46, have admitted kidnapping a man and dumping him on the outskirts of Dunedin.

Two men kidnapped and dumped another man on the outskirts on Dunedin.


Youth organisations make appeal

Sam Balloch was one of dozens of volunteers seeking signatures for a petition to keep Number 10 One Stop Shop and ...

Number 10 Youth One Stop Shop and the Invercargill Secondary Schools Network are gathering support for their petition to remain at their current location.

Pound in clear

An animal group and the Invercargill City Council are at odds about how a dog was treated. (File photo)

Ministry for Primary Industries clears the Invercargill City Council over captive bolt use.

Forestry gets favour: ES

Nicol Horrell, chairman of Environment Southland.

''Forestry operators will be able to operate at lower environmental standards than other resource users in Southland."

Quake off Southland coast

A magnitude 5.8 quake struck near Southland.

A 5.8 earthquake hit off the coast of Southland - but its shaking was unnoticeable, GeoNet says.

Ad Feedback