When their father disappeared and their mother died less than a month later, the Hartley siblings were left in limbo - emotionally and financially.
But a stranger's random act of kindness has eased their burden - an act so generous the trio are forever indebted.
The lives of Leigh Hanson, 28, her brother Will, 23, and sister Anna, 18, were turned upside down on February 16 last year when their father Kevin failed to return from a fishing trip.
The 54-year-old told his youngest daughter, who was 17 at the time and living with her parents in Bulls, he was off to his favourite spot at Scotts Ferry Beach in the Manawatū.
He was seen on Parewanui Rd on his red quad bike but has not been seen since.
"Everybody has their own assumptions of what happened [to Dad]," Will told the Herald on Sunday.
"Me and my sisters talk about it all the time and we just have no clue. Whether it's that he's hurt himself or whether he's gone missing. The hardest thing for us three is we have no idea."
Kevin's wife of 30 years Joanne was grief-stricken. She died suddenly on March 14.
"We always say Mum died of a broken heart," Will said.
"She loved Dad so much. They were childhood sweethearts. When we first found out, Mum was just shutting off everybody.
"Where Dad went missing is where he went all the time so it's not a surprise that he went there. Did Mum know? We don't know."
Joanne's death and Kevin's disappearance were referred by police to Coroner Christopher Devonport but after the coroner's accidental death in January the cases must be reassigned.
After the double tragedy, the siblings found themselves negotiating their mother's will, dealing with the police and lawyers and in a legal battle unable to access their parents' finances because their father has not been declared legally dead.
They were faced with paying a crippling mortgage on the family home which they are legally not allowed to sell. It was a difficult future ahead for a young mum, a teenage schoolgirl and a young man in his first job.
"Because Dad is legally not dead we can't access anything," said Will.
"So us three kids have an estate we can't touch ... and all Mum's stuff goes to Dad as he's the next of kin."
Amid the chaos, a stranger stepped in.
"Did you know that you can just go to a bank and pay someone's mortgage? Someone did that so it was a huge stress relief for us," Will said.
"We don't know who. It's incredible. But we've actually decided that once we get access to [our parents'] estate, and find out who it is, we're going to pay it back."
The family discovered anyone was allowed to pay off a mortgage if the donor knew the bank and the name it was under.
Will said without closure over his father's disappearance the siblings could not move on.
"We have no conclusion. We've never found him. It's quite hard on all three of us."
He said the ramifications were daunting and the grief sometimes overwhelming.
"We feel like we're running a marathon with everything going on around us, but everything keeps freezing. We feel like we're running but at a standstill."
A Givealittle page was started for the family, which includes Leigh's husband Daniel Hanson and their now 15-month-old son Lucas, that raised almost $20,000.
But Will, who has moved to Wellington for work, said they won't use the money unless their father was found.
"Ambiguous loss is what we are going through with Dad. Obviously we could get a phone call tomorrow that he's found, but it's that day-to-day 'What if?'.
"Do you put your life on hold and wait or do you carry on like my Mum and Dad would have wanted us to?"
Leigh and Hanson sold their house and moved back to the family home, taking Anna under their wing.
The teenager dropped out of her final year at high school to cope with the double tragedy but has since completed Year 13.
"With Mum's and Dad's house we can't sell it. We have no choice but for my sisters to be there."
Will said his father, an engineer, and mother - a St John worker - raised their children as a tight-knit unit and the siblings get together as often as possible to remember their parents.
"They were very giving parents. They did so much for the community."
The family held a one-year memorial for Kevin on February 16.
Will said the family was grateful for baby Lucas, who was just a few weeks old when his grandfather disappeared.
"He came at the right time. He literally is the light of the whole situation and he keeps us going."
In private they like to listen to their father's favourite music and toast their mother with a glass of her favourite wine, to keep their memory alive.
"Just because it's been a year doesn't mean it gets any easier. It's a day-to-day struggle. We still want our Mum and Dad to guide us. We're still young."
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
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