It’s been more than a week now. I drove home last Friday afternoon up the Waringah Expressway. I was enjoying the sunshine and the clear blue Sydney sky – and the fact that the air conditioning was keeping the humidity at bay. The traffic was light which was surprising since these 6 or so lanes of traffic can get pretty clogged on this side of the bridge. So I glanced at the clock thinking it was earlier than usual. Well, it was but the clock jolted me for another reason, that being the 5.40 I read on the dial. Suddenly the day was less bright as it occurred to me that this was about the same time last week you were enjoying the last minutes of that plane flight. That it was exactly this time a week ago you were enduring something that should never be suffered alone. Away from all your friends and those who have declared their compassion and love for you this week.
You will be delighted to know that such is the memory most have of you. Enjoying life to the full and revelling in anything that was tactile, sensory and dangerous. And of course if it was slightly irresponsible in some way there was an added measure of delight that lit you up. But damn you, last week was thoroughly miserable. I waded through the week feeling a constant knot in my gut and was thoroughly demotivated. I made a checklist of things that needed doing and ploughed through them. Some of my colleagues noticed. Fortunately most did not.
You would enjoy the fact that (ironically) last week I kept turning up things that reminded me of things we did together. I was looking for an old residential address on a bill so I could file a claim – its a long story. Your CV fell out of the file. The one we wrote at the end of 1997 when you were finally convinced that leaving the military was a real option. It was not put into action for another twelve months or more. It is an impressive read even after all this time. You made the time in the Pilbara sound like it was a critical qualification for any future employer. It made me laugh. Then I put it on the dining room table where it still sits. I can’t bring myself put it away. The next file upended the training business plan we wrote. That made me grin too – I won’t divulge where the guts of it came from but you turned up with a massive fax which we turned into a plan. It is probably just as well we never turned that into substance (someone would be chasing us for breach of copyright) but considered it an iterative or instructional exercise. Later in the week I pulled a postcard off the wall at work. From you at Gettysburg. We spoke for hours about the Civil War and Gettysburg was one place I encouraged you to visit. There was your chicken scrawl handwriting telling me you had gotten there at last. I pinned it back but see it every day now when for months I simply walked past it.
I have told maybe fifteen or so folk about what has happened. Everyone has been appalled. But there has been something cathartic and healing in the telling. Something bitter-sweet as the instant memories people have of you and your madness were fond, affectionate and sometimes hilarious. I have spoken with people who have separated from me for some time. Spoken with others from whom I have drifted. And with others still whom I do not know directly but who I know knew and loved you. Laughter and tears. And more tears. From grown men all around the world. You would be a bit abashed. If the overall tenor of the week has been black and depressed the light and bright tone has come from all these reconnections. Thanks mate. Sadly those two or three I told who did not know you were dismissive of the event. I am not sure what to make of that. Maybe I caught them at the wrong time but the end result is that most of last week was spent keeping all this to myself. You would relate to that – the malaise of being a bloke!
You know my world view. Better than most. And would not be surprised that I did share with some sympathetic friends on Thursday evening what had happened. They prayed for Shauna that night and for your parents. I know you never minded that and had an idle curiosity about God. Grace at our table when you stayed with us with a wrecked knee was something you enjoyed. I was encouraged that Thursday night by the fact that somehow, even though Shauna has never met these people, she was being supported and encouraged. I hope she was.
I love you still my friend
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