My father passed away in the early hours of last Wednesday after twelve years of Alzheimer’s disease. B and I flew up to Rockhampton that same day, through the worst turbulence that we had ever experienced, the wind tossing the Virgin 737 around like a toy. I think I am cured of my desire for further flights, at least for the near future.
Dad’s passing was not unexpected, there had been many close calls earlier in the year, and in some ways there was a feeling of relief that his suffering had finally ended. Maybe it will hit me further later, but I feel like I had already said many of my goodbyes when I could no longer talk with him about all the interests we shared.
The funeral was held at 3pm on the Friday. It was an Anglican service. Dad had started going to church sometime after the effects of the Alzheimers began to be felt. The rest of my family have also undergone some sort of a conversion. Personally, I felt like it was something of a betrayal, because Dad had spent most of his life as an atheist strongly opposed to the church. The constant attributment of achievement and the overcoming of personal trials to God rather than through self-belief and determination rankled. However, I guess it eased the pain for the others in my family.
As firstborn son I delivered the first part of the eulogy and the next eldest brother, David, completed it. The text of my section follows:
Trevor, Dad would be so grateful to see all his friends and family gathered here today. It is in the memories that others hold of us and in the achievements in our lives that we find immortality. Each of us here holds something of Dad’s life within them. We would like to take this time to reflect on the Dad’s life and our wonderful memories of it.
Dad was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, 1939. As soon as he was old enough he moved away from South Africa and the apartheit he so despised, first to study in England, and then on to New Zealand. There he met his first wife Anita Hargreaves with whom he had two daughters, Lorraine and Susan. They moved to Brisbane, but went their separate ways.
It was in a tea room of Darwin Hospital that Barbara, Mum, and Dad first layed eyes on each other. After discovering that Mum could accompany him on the piano romance blossomed and they married, settling down in Melbourne where they raised three boys. While in Melbourne Dad’s interests and hobbies lead to many lasting friendships. Foremost amongst these was a love of trains that dated back to childhood. He even "borrowed" my first birthday present of a model railway, building it up into a system he was loathe to let me touch! That said, it was an interest we both shared!
Dad lecturered in psychology at Queen Victoria and Children’s hospitals and it was while riding back one night on his motorcycle that he was struck down by a taxi. He ended up in hospital with spinal injuries, the surgeon warning him that he may not be able to walk again.
However, Dad was never one to give up. He walked out of that hospital, then proceeded to show that he was still as capable as before his accident by chopping down two tall pine trees in the back yard. He got back on his motorcycle and drove out into the country, determined to prove to himself that he would not let the accident get the better of him. Sadly, the pain was something he had to live with for the rest of his life, but he was determined never to let it, or any other medical complication, stop him from getting the best out of life.
Never content with his level of knowledge, Dad studied electronics, opening up his own repair workshop in the backyard. He never advertised, yet was always busy, simply through word of mouth. Not for him, the sloppy solders, the lame excuses of unfinished or poorly executed work of many of his competitors. Dad took pride in his work and in providing the best service possible for his clients, something I’m certain those of you who have studied singing with him would attest to.
Between his electronics, psychology lectures and local community work, Dad was a busy man. Yet he tried his best to make time for his family. In the evenings he and I would go out to the backyard and throw balls against a board to sharpen my fielding skills – he loved his cricket and would be listening in to it now if he could. Then he would return to his workshop to continue the VCR and TV repairs.
So concerned were Mum and Dad the we get a good education that they pulled us out of school to teach us at home. Then, succumbing to his wunderlust and a desire to see more of his dearly loved adopted country, he packed us into the caravan and set off on a tour of the country. We didn’t quite circumnavigate the country, ending up here in Central Queensland and gaining another daughter, Katherine.
The times we spent exploring the countryside, visiting museums, mines, National Parks were the best education young kids could have. Be it peering into microscope at water from a creek, exploring a hundred year old mining settlement, cracking open a rock in the Flinder’s Ranges to show a millions year old fossil, or gazing through a telescope to view a billions of years old comet, Dad was always so eager to share his innate curiosity about the universe with his children.
Dad, I remember the excitement of us gathering around the TV to watch the results from the latest space mission, of visiting the astronomical observatories as a family on our grand tours through Western New South Wales. I wish I had a chance to tell you what it was like there, and of the discoveries that they are making.
I know you would have taken to sharing your knowledge and stories on the web with the same relish that you took to desktop publishing. It saddens me that we cannot fly together across a simulated Melbourne landscape, nor ride together on a steam train across the Southern Highlands or a TGV in France.
But for all the regrets I know that you got the most out of life that you possibly could, never giving up your thirst to experience and explore life. It was but one of so many lessons you taught us about life. Never accept anything on faith, always search for a rational explanation or a motivation. Always keep learning, and share your knowledge with others. Take pride in what you do and be honest in your dealings with others. And most importantly on all, do the very best that you can for those that you love.
Thank you Dad. I miss you.