Like every other New Zealander, my heart goes out to the family and friends of those who lost their lives at White Island on Monday. Also to all those who have a long and harrowing road to recovery — my thoughts are with you.
What an absolute tragedy. Already questions are being asked about how this could have happened. No doubt fingers will be pointed in all directions as the investigations into this awful event unfolds.
But no matter what happens going forward it's not going to bring those loved ones back.
I just can't imagine how it must be for the families of the White Island victims and those injured who are not even in the country.
One comforting thought for them is that the injured will get the very best of care from our doctors and nurses.
I also want to acknowledge the first responders. What brave people they are.
It's been one hell of a year actually and I for one will not be sorry to see the back of 2019.
This is actually my last column of the year as next week I'm off to my family in Australia for Christmas and I must say I'm counting down the days.
We lost our beautiful mum at the beginning of the year and although she had lived a long and happy life, it's still heart-wrenching.
I keep thinking about Christmas Day and the fact that for the first time in my life she won't be there.
But on a much happier note, for the first time since my two daughters have moved to Australia, which is more than 10 years, I will be spending Christmas with them.
Apparently we are going to the beach for breakfast with a bottle of bubbles and food of course.
Eat, play, swim, eat more, glass of bubbles, eat and play.
Then it's back to number two daughter's home, where more than likely, I might need a little lie down, and after that there will be more food and maybe a few more glasses of bubbles.
Mr Neat is staying put. He's more of a shed man than a beach man.
When I planned this trip it was months away. The year has just flown by and again I have met some fantastic people through my work and spent some happy times with family and friends.
I love hearing people's success stories and we have plenty of those in Hawke's Bay.
Clever people who are not afraid to take a risk and work their butts off to achieve their dreams.
I'm sure I will meet plenty more of them next year.
I'm hoping 2020 will be a much nicer year. I like the sound of 2020. I'm think it must have good feng shui.
Let's hope so. Some nasty things have happened in our beautiful county this year including of course the mosque attacks in Christchurch. It's one of those events where people will forever remember what they were doing when it happened.
I don't want to end my last column on the year on a sad note so to all you lovely readers out there thanks you for your feedback — good and not so good.
If you have an empty chair at your Christmas table this year, remember the good times you shared and raise a glass to them. I know I will be.
Have a Merry Christmas and a very happy and safe New Year.
Linda Hall is assistant editor at Hawke's Bay Today.