It is one of life’s truisms that parents shouldn’t have to bury their child.
Yet it happens, every day, and devastated families are left to pick up the pieces and mourn a life cut tragically short.
In the past couple of weeks, I have spent time with Michael and Christine Easton, whose daughter Tamara died at the age of 27 after fighting her whole life against cystic fibrosis.
Anyone who knew her would tell you that Tamara was a fighter.
She stood only about five feet high and was often in pain, but she rarely complained, cared more about the people around her and did it with a cheeky smile.
After Tamara died, people began to pay tribute to her strength, spirit and courage.
Mr and Mrs Easton tell beautiful stories about Tamara’s determination to stick her tongue out at cystic fibrosis and live her life.
They talk about the special bond she shared with her brother and sisters, her happy relationship with fiance Ben White and her devotion to her dog and cat.
Tamara shared a birthday with her older brother Nathan, and Mr Easton will tell you his son always put more effort into his sister's celebrations than his own.
Sisters Helena and Jamie were equally close to “Tam”, who was also a super-cool aunt.
What the Eastons don’t tell you, though, becomes pretty apparent when you spend time with them: They were utterly devoted to their daughter’s care.
Having a child with a chronic illness is immensely difficult.
Children like Tamara spend long periods of time in hospital, either in Wagga or Sydney.
One parent had to be with her, and the other had to try to work and look after the remaining children, who also need a home life.
Even when she was doing well, Tamara’s condition required constant attention.
At times in her life, Mr Easton said, she needed more than 60 tablets a day. He jokes that he nicknamed her his little maraca because he felt she’d rattle from all the pills.
Mrs Easton talks about how much time she and her daughter spent together, and how much they enjoyed the simple joy of shopping together, or going out for lunch.
It takes a special kind of strength to be the parents of a seriously ill child, and Mr and Mrs Easton quietly demonstrated that devotion.
It can be a terribly lonely road, with support and services often thin on the ground, especially in regional areas and in a country with a highly mobile population often separated by huge distances from extended family.
Mr Easton talked about the support he has received not only from family and friends, but from complete strangers, who had simply heard Tamara’s story and wanted to help.
When Tamara was about four, Mr Easton was fundraising for the Make a Wish Foundation.
A reporter from The DA did a story, and happened to ask little Tamara what she would wish for. A teddy bear, was the reply.
When that small comment made it’s way into print, the Easton family was inundated with gifts of teddy bears.
They received so many that Tamara made a special trip to the children’s ward at Wagga Base Hospital to donate some.
This weekend, another very special event is being held to help seriously ill kids.
The annual Night of Knights ball is raising money for two great charities: Country Hope and Give Me 5 for Kids.
Country Hope was started right here in Wagga and it exists to lend a hand to children – and their families – from our region.
The organisation helps hundreds of families with the kind of practical assistance that becomes critical in a tough situation.
When a family is functioning in two halves as one parent stays with the sick child and the other tries to work, pay the mortgage and cares for the other kids, it can be hellishly tough.
But, says Country Hope manager Ellie Webb, practical assistance – from a fuel voucher to help with paying an electricity bill – can considerably ease the burden on families.
Give Me 5 for Kids is an equally pragmatic organisation. It raises money for children’s wards in regional hospitals.
It began as a coin drive on the Central Coast in the 1990s and has now raised $22.3 million nationally, and helped more 40 children’s hospital wards.
No one can take away the pain of families who are facing the challenges posed by a very sick child, but thankfully there are not only wonderful organisations, but also individual people in the community, willing to help make the practicalities easier.
Mr Easton was spot on when he told me that “there are some really kind people in this town”.
And town is right. Wagga might be a city, but it has retained much of the caring-for-others attitudes that are more often seen in smaller communities.