24 August 2015, Melbourne, Australia
Thanks all for coming. Cal would have loved this except I reckon he would have thought there was too much talk, not enough action. He was a man who liked to get straight to the point which is maybe why we liked each other so much.
Thanks to Brad. Benno. Andy. Sam. Thanks to Eleanor. What a wonderfully strong and kind woman she is. Thanks to Henry, who has inherited two great qualities from his father – a wicked sense of humour and also courage. Last Friday he was in the moment as best he could and stared death in the face and held its hand and also didn’t back away from his emotions, so good on him for that.
I want to talk some more about courage. In one of his final gestures Cal stipulated something for today which took great courage. He told Eleanor there were to be under no circumstances any tea lights.
Which takes a lot of guts in this day and age of activated almonds. Imagine. No tealights at a memorial. It’s like even in death he can still open my eyes to a whole new way of living.
Seriously though – courage. We know he had loads of it in living with the disease for so long and submitting to the nasty treatments in the hope they would help. But it’s not courage from a fighting point of view. It wasn’t a battle because he didn’t choose to be in it. And it wasn’t a fight because it just lived in him. It was just there everyday and so his was perfect everyday courage. Rainer Rilke was an Austrian poet in the early 1900s and he said that real courage is facing the strange and the inexplicable like when love is offered out of the blue or when death comes. But he also said courage is better seen in people who however modestly or privately are brave enough to make a mark on the world, to create something. To do it their own way.
I was talking to Cal’s mum Julia the other day. We let loose a whole lot of balloons that were red and blue, the Demons colours. They flew towards the sea by the way. It took a lot of courage and inner strength to keep barracking for Melbourne but he did. It’s like the tealights – NO TEALIGHTS! GO DEES!
Anyway I asked Julia if he was always the same. Funny and forthright and 100% sure of the odd way he went about things. He was described this week by his friend Louise as a loveable loudmouth and I reckon that’s about right. Julia said, yes, yes, he was always the same. She said Cal was a bit younger than his brother who also died too soon and his sisters and so a lot of the time it was just him and his mum tootling around and she loved that. Except if she told him not to do something as a little kid he would do it more. So she had to adopt a kind of reverse psychology to avoid anti-social behaviour. She said he had a scar on his chin from an incident when he was quite young in Scotland on a trike which he took down a hilly road at extreme speed, presumably because he was told not to or told it couldn’t be done. Julia said above all when he was little Cal was fun.
And by now we know the famous story of Cal leaving the hospital a couple of weeks ago to go out on the town. But that’s not all, he went with the two Shaun’s, Holt and Miljoen. Even in a healthy specimen that takes some constitution. At this point he could barely eat and was spewing up something brown and liquidy on the hour, but he went out and had a laugh with his great mates and sometime during the night ate an egg and bacon Mcmuffin – just to see where he was really at, he said. Like a canary in a coalmine, testing the gas. He got back to the Alfred at 2am. He said to me I don’t feel so good Johnsty. It must have been the McMuffin.
Then when he came home here last week things went downhill pretty quickly which was a blessing but also a curse. But mostly a blessing I think. We got him here to the surf club the day before he died and it was a flawless day with blue sky and warmish for the first time since last Autumn and it was offshore and 3-4 foot, and we got him up here and between mini morphine naps he watched the surfers one last time and it was pretty beautiful, but also sad. That night he was in strife and the next morning too and then what happened was he stumbled in the bedroom trying to get from the hospital bed to the dunny and we propped him up and put him in his own bed and suddenly he wasn’t agitated anymore, and there it was that he died not long later. It was of course all a cunning plan to get back into his own bed, he planned it meticulously I’m sure and it worked, he won, what a cheek.
So what I want you all to know was it was a good death. He was at home, he wasn’t in pain and he wasn’t alone. For that we should be grateful.
So he had courage of the best kind. And I guess what people like this offer to others is inspiration and that’s how I feel about Cal. Every time I saw him I felt better and felt energised and excited by new ideas or new thoughts. He did a really nice thing for my son Kit when he turned ten; he gave him some drumsticks because he knew Kit played the drums and the drumsticks belonged to Tre Cool, the Green Day drummer. Not exactly sure how Cal acquired them but as always he would have found a way, legally or illegally.
I found that inspiring. Just a simple act of generosity and thoughtfulness. There are some incredibly talented musicians in this room today and I know that they would also say they found Cal inspiring. Some have told me that straight up. It was almost as if he could will you on to greatness, or allow you to be the best that you could be. These are rare virtues. I will miss him so so much. My wife Penny said to me the other night when I was down in the dumps – he really helped you didn’t he? And I said yeah he really helped me.
But I guess this is where we stand up and smile like he always did and be true, like he always was.