I took this photo of you one morning while you were doing your usual thing of watching TV, smoking, drinking your thick black coffee and doing your quotes. You were one of the few men I ever knew who could multi task, but it was your intelligence that attracted me to you, although it was eclipsed by mine... and you hated that. Your quirky little smile intrigued me and I found out later (because you wouldn't openly laugh) that you were ashamed to show your nicotine stained teeth. But you wouldn't stop smoking, despite me nagging you for all of that time I knew you. You were such a funny, deep, private, fastidious OCD man with a penchant for light beer and a propensity to lie through those stained teeth.
It was so hard being your friend. Hard when you kept me at arms distance from all but the most intimate parts of you and your life for most of the 6+ years I knew and cared for you. That wasn't fair and you did admit that towards the end. Thank you for that because my life would have turned out quite differently if you hadn't pushed me far away. I wouldn't have moved to Euroa, my house wouldn't have burned down and I wouldn't have lost almost everything I love and treasure. But that happened. All of it happened. And now you're gone and that part of my life I spent with you gone as well. I don't regret it. I learned a lot about myself through the way you treated me. Most of all, I guess, I learned to put myself first. Your famous "It's ALL about me" attitude rubbed off in the end.
When you were diagnosed with lung cancer, I grieved. I'd walked that road with friends and loved ones and I knew how it ended. I knew you were tough and I knew you were tenacious. For you to have hung on for so long despite the odds was a reflection of your determination and your strength and stubbornness but mostly of your fear. But despite that fear (or maybe because of it), you held onto the life you had and you breathed into it with all your courage. When you finally decided to go home after that little conversation we had in late December last year, I thought that I would never see you again and I was right. We talked a lot but I never got to see you one last time. I'd made plans to come and see you in July but that wasn't to be - you slipped away before I could get there and in a way I'm glad, because I'll remember you as living.
I'll always see you in my hearts eye as the man who bounced into a room with a smile to light up my day, whose words could wound me, whose arms could hold me. I will always remember standing at the kitchen arguing over the correct way to chop up a capsicum and whether sauvignon blanc was better than chardonnay. I'll always remember you asking if I wanted to go out for dinner and then us both pissing ourselves laughing and making stew, or a roast, or something wholesome and healthy in the kitchen because we both preferred our own cooking. I smile when I remember you drinking champagne and how, after two glasses, you were hilariously drunk and danced me all over the house while we played music and sang loudly and I'll remember you throwing up for hours and hours afterwards - you never could hold your wine. You taught me how to make silverbeet "Greek style".I'd steal your mothers home done olives when you weren't looking. I watched you eat an entire box of chocolates and a whole packet of biscuits in one sitting - I'll always be stunned that you didn't throw up half way through... I remember making the fishtank backdrop, the arguments, the laughter, the making up. I'll always remember barbies on the back verandah and all the other things we did in the time I was allowed to be your best friend. You called me that so many times. So many times you shared with me your darkest secrets and as I encouraged you to let in the light, you continuously shut me down. It must've been hard to lie for so long, but then, I was a blinded believer in you, Stath.
I'll always remember the freezing cold nights when you were too lazy to fix the switch on the ducted heating system (which was outside and down the stairs) and you'd nag me until I'd go out into the cold (usually wet) night to do the deed. Well you finally got that switch fixed, didn't you? Albeit a little too late. And you finished painting your house and fixing up the front gates.... and... now you're gone. You're gone and that chapter of my life is closing. I'm glad you are no longer in pain. I'm glad you're free of the indignities of cancer and of your body failing you. I'm glad you're free of all that. I'm glad I'll never have to confront you with all the lies you told me over the 6 years I knew you. I'm sad that I'll never see you again.
So when you go to your rest today, I can't be there. It's not how I choose to remember you.
I choose to remember how you changed my life.
I choose to remember that I did love you
although you could never love me.
Goodbye, Stath, thank you for everything. RIP
How can this be?
I have lived each and every one of those 365 days since my life was destroyed in a short, horrific, devastating moment of time.
And yet, it's like it happened yesterday...
How is that possible?
Today, twelve months since the catastrophic fire that changed my life and the lives of many people around me, I take the day to reflect and mourn but I also take the moment to give thanks for all that I have right now in this minute.
Nothing will ever change the way I feel about what I lost that day.
Every day I am reminded of the little things that are gone, my treasures, my mementos, my collections, my paintings, my life's work, my precious little bits and bobs that meant nothing to anyone else but me. All gone but a few small things that sit in a sooty box waiting for me to have the heart and courage to open it and clean them off.
Every day I am reminded of the possibilities and probabilities that died with that fire. The relationships that will never be. The work that will never be completed. The loss of friends. The loss of business opportunities that were never realised. The loss of my home, my connections to another place.
Every day I awake knowing that I have the opportunity to start again.
Until today, I have not been able to face that knowledge, nor accept that it is so. I have not been able to look forward - my mind has always been half turned towards that not so distant past. But now it is time.
It is time to turn fully and face towards the light of the future. Time to embrace the new possibilities and probabilities. Time to let go of the pain and the hurt. Time to let go of all the things that are now, long gone. Time to let go of my grief.
I'm going to spend the day in the garden.
And watch for signs of hope.
Blessings and love, always.