The grieving family of a young “loving, beautiful” mum who died in Australia have been moved to tears by the more than $40,000 donated to bring her body home.
Beth Bernet dreamed of moving with her sons Arthur, 6, and Fletcher, 3, back home to Taranaki.
But the 34-year-old died in her sleep in Adelaide on July 16.
Her boys were the first to find her the next morning, and contacted Bernet’s separated husband through a video call.
The family have since been able to arrange Bernet’s return, but have been struggling to pay for the cost, along with that of flying Arthur and Fletcher back for their mother’s funeral.
Speaking to the Herald from her New Plymouth home today, Robyn Bernet said the loss of her daughter had come after an already tough 18 months for the family.
While Bernet had wanted to bring her boys to New Zealand to live permanently, laws under the Hague Convention meant they had to remain in Australia with the boys’ father.
Beth’s death had hit her wider family hard.
“She was fit and healthy, and there’s no reason we can think of that she would have died,” Robyn said.
“We are still waiting on further testing, but I have to wonder about the stress of the last 18 months.”
On the night she died, however, Robyn said her daughter had never appeared happier.
“She was extremely happy that night. We had a Skype and she was laughing so hard,” she said.
“She’d arranged to meet a Tinder date that Friday. She’d been talking to him on the phone but was extremely nervous about it, but a little bit excited.
“That night, she spoke with him for about two hours, said goodnight at about 10pm … and then somewhere during the next few hours, she died.”
Today, Bernet’s family and friends described her as a loving, caring person passionate about music, running and children.
An early childhood teacher, she’d never wanted to be anything else when growing up.
Shay Bernet said his sister was famously protective of he and siblings Joel and Kade.
“She used to ask us, who’s your girlfriend, what does she do?” he said with a laugh.
Robyn added: “She was all about family. She just cared about everyone.”
The big-hearted Beth was also there for her mates when they were going through tough times.
“One of her friends actually just sent me a song that she’d sent them in their time of need, along with some words,” Robyn said.
“That to me says 1000 things about her. She brightened every room she walked into, because she really was that silly creature.”
Long-time friend Sarda’e Palmer-Curd recalled the time Beth invited a bus-load of strangers to their party.
The family plan to meet Beth’s casket at Auckland Airport on Thursday and bring her back to the New Plymouth family home.
Robyn and husband John later plan to lay their daughter to rest in coastal Opunake, where Robyn’s parents are both buried, but first want to fly Arthur and Fletcher home too.
That’s something they accept could take time, given the high demand for flights and the two-week quarantine period on arrival.
Yet they’re grateful that’s even a possibility, thanks to more than $42,000 raised through a Givealittle page set up by Palmer-Curd.
“It would have been a struggle for John and I to pay to bury her,” said Robyn, adding she and her husband had been weighed down with lawyers’ fees over Beth’s custody battle, and helping their daughter support herself and her family in Australia.
“John is also self-employed, and we’ve been hurt by coronavirus.”
She said the family was “overwhelmed” by the outpouring of support and donations, some of which had come from strangers afar as Canada.
“We’ve had people with just $16 in their bank account give us $5… $2 came through yesterday, and I balled,” Palmer-Curd said.
Others had donated as much as $1000.
“I hope people know that helping us bring Beth home, and hopefully her little boys too, is the greatest gift they could have given anyone,” Robyn said.
“We can’t say how grateful we are that Beth could have everything she’d ever want, and deserve, when we lay her down.”