4 December 2016, Melbourne, Australia
My dad led a remarkable life and was a remarkable man. And that is what we remember today. There is the pain of loosing him. And it runs deep. But there is also the joy of celebration in his life that was. He, in his abundance of love, touched many people, not least of us his family, but also beyond and into the community; here in Australia and forth into the larger world.
His roots started here in Melbourne, studying at "The Con" and playing here joyfully with school friends and music veterans alike. He then travelled for study at Berkeley and landing in the American 70's, immersing himself in slick Jazz and piping hot rock 'n roll. He thrived in the madness and challenge of it all and went on to collaborate and tour with some of the world’s musical greats including Jean Luc Ponte, Maynard Furgueson and Frank Zappa. But to speak plainly, I think one of the most significant musical experiences of his life happened relatively recently. Certainly the one I was most privy to. The Melbourne Symphony orchestra performed Dad's Environmental Symphony and I shared first hand in what it meant to him. To share his work with his home city and to have it received in such a way. To have the opportunity to share it with his beloved home community and to have people on their feet cheering and feeling. It was an experience that moved him as he moved others. We stood in the wings as the performance came to an end, as the final bars were played, and as the audience rose to their feet and as the energy in the room cracked and as the smiles on the orchestra members’ faces gleamed; and he turned to me and said "...you know... this is what I've always wanted." I knew at that moment that even though he was aware he might be leaving this world, he also knew he'd done things that he was mighty thrilled to have done, and even though he could have done them for another 100 years, if his time had to be now, he could be at peace with that. And I think we can take his lead on that one.
Dad's family of course was his pride and joy. The gem of seeing him smile in contentment at simply having the family together for a meal; indulging in that most basic and gracious of pleasures; food and chosen company. And well, he chose none to be closer than his family.
My Grandfather Eddy, who took hold of his artistic gene and grew it throughout the generations to Dad, and to me and to my daughter. My father and he bonded especially deeply in grandpa's twilight years where they spent many hours together speaking of the past, and of the future. Healing and sharing. Musically they shared a unique and vibrant bond through their careers and in these later years, dad and grandpa still played together often and dad encouraged him to keep performing all the way through his difficulties with Parkinson's. And so their musical joy kept on flowing.
His darling mother Anne, still here with us today. He was the light of her life, and continues to illuminate it even if now a little dimmed. He spoke often of his memories of a wonderful childhood in which he always felt nurtured and loved. And it was clear that his mother was a beautiful guiding soul to him, who protected him, and celebrated him.
My mum Christine, and dad, were soulmates. It’s hard to elaborate on what this meant to them. I perhaps am the one who knows most being their only offspring and having been present for so much of their love-filled lives together. We are all at loss without him. But perhaps no more than his angel partner, my mother. The passion they shared and the love and joy that blossomed between them and stretched its great boughs out over our heads and sheltered me from the dark, and inspired us to be reckless and excited and fun and daring and part of the world. That is quiet now and remains on in our hearts and in my mother. She can now carry that beacon for us. We all will a little. But his joy touched her in a unique way, as did hers touch him. And that is a torch that endures beyond death. For it is eternal.
As for me. There is not a great deal to say really. He is my Dad. He is the man who thought me to love. And I'll miss him, and he knows it. And I feel him with me. And it's ok. And it hurts very badly. But he is the one who taught me not just to love people, who are here, for a time, but that they also must leave. He taught and inspired me to love life, and living. And that is what we are left with. Thank you.