5 September, 2008, Mt Eliza, Victoria, Australia
First of all, please let me say that we have done Carey proud with such an incredible turnout to see her off in style. It comes as no surprise, but I know one thing for certain. She’d sit back, survey the scene and feel really loved. Thanks again.
The fact that Carey was such a perfectly balanced character was no accident. Carey had a simply wonderful upbringing from a loving family. She loved to spend time with her father, Roy, whenever she could, enjoyed a very special and close relationship with her lovely mother Lois and took great pride in the love she had for sister Louise and brother Nigel, both of whom equally loved to have their doting little sister around. Her delight in having a close family never wavered and the lessons learned in that warm and secure environment supplied her with the blueprint she took into her own marriage and motherhood. It was totally based on love and security and she learnt that early in life.
Fast forward to 1984. When I first lay eyes on Carey. She was 18 years old and an apprentice at a printing company at which we both worked. Apart from being, as we all know, absolutely striking to look at, her manner, her seemingly effortless elegance struck me the minute I saw her. And life was never going to be the same. I knew it right then, but it took me a while to convince her of the same thing. In fact two years of pretty determined pursuit! It’s history now that she relented and decided that, for some strange reason, I was worth investigation. She had discovered beer right about that time and I can’t help but feel there could be some correlation between the two occurrences!
Carey took it all in her stride. This was a path she was choosing and she was to embrace that choice, through thick and thin. I like to think she is still embracing it, in that ageless, classy way. Because Carey had the most wonderful virtue of being unburdened by ego. She simply never saw it necessary to inform those around her of her undoubted abilities. I’m sure most present will recognise how, when speaking with Kez, she would sincerely want to know what was happening in your life, only touching on her own trials or triumphs as a matter of course in the conversation. Even then, she would understate her own achievements, not because she had to, but it was her natural way. And she had achievements. Many, many achievements. In fact, it was failure that was the stranger to Carey. It was this care for others that set Carey apart from most. That genuine way of hers, the really wanting to know, to listen. To really listen. She made every person she called ‘friend’ feel special. She made me feel special. Every day. She still makes me feel special.
Back to the story… We became inseparable. We became known for our ability to fully enjoy a party, but it was Carey that was the principal in that. When other mates were getting a tug on the sleeve from their partners at around 1am to hit the road, more than once it was whispered in my ear as they made their reluctant way from a venue, ‘I wish I had a chick like yours’. ‘Keep wishin’ pal’, I’d think to myself as Kez would race from the dance floor, grab me around the shirt collar and rush me back so we could bust a few of our trademark messy moves to Soft Cell’s Tainted Love or some such ‘big-haired ‘80s classic. All the while those gleaming white teeth shining from that so freely-given smile. So we moved through life, married, ate bacon and eggs and read the papers on a Sunday, worked hard, played hard.
And then Spencer arrived… Home-Brand anyone? Carey was a natural mother. We had no idea that was going to be the case, but, once again, failure never turned down Carey Street. This was just another example of her wonderful attribute of celebrating what life brought her. She took to it with the same enthusiasm she approached everything. Angus was on the scene by this time too, and her clear blue eyes were given yet another reason to sparkle. And the next phase of Carey’s wonderful life hove into view. Carey loves her children. In fact, who doesn’t? They became her focus. She happily gave up a career that she’d built on ability and ethic, made her life around our little family, became involved with all their activities and loved every second of it.
It was about this time that it became obvious that our little house in Burwood would split its seams with the addition of Gus. Enter Mount Eliza. Moving to Mount Eliza saw Carey blossom even further. It was within days of our shifting in that she had friends in the area. Most have gone on to become lifelong mates, people that stick true. Because they are the types of people that Carey attracted. It was no fluke that the friends we have made since our move down here in 1999 are so wonderful. People always have wanted to be near Carey and that is why her being gone is so difficult for all of us. There is simply no replacement for her. We are just going to have to keep her spirit alive. We will one day remember her and do it without a tinge of sadness. We will smile like she did. Like she wants us to. That day will come. It’s just not today… or tomorrow.
It was not long after this, in 2001 that Carey was diagnosed with cancer. It shook the foundations of Team Leech, but it was Carey that first arrived at the pragmatic approach she took all the way through her illness. She was to have a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery and she would push on. She did just that. In fact, she never allowed cancer to define her. Yes, she had it, but her life was filled with quality was her approach. Bravery. It’s a word that is used flippantly, but I have seen bravery that has no words. But she would never tell you about it. It was part of her day, but not once was there a complaint. It was simply inspirational. As I said, words are inadequate, but they are all I have. Carey overcame the disease that first time. She was active beyond belief, played sport, taught swimming to kids that flourished under her understanding tutelage, her life was on track. She attended all the children’s events, organised a goodly amount of them, ate, drank and danced. Her life was good again, and she considered that her cancer was behind her.
Until that day in August of 2005. It was back and it was back in a bad way. What was Carey’s approach? ‘I’ll have treatment and we’ll push on’. Still, she stood in its way and dared it. Still, she remained unfrightened. If courage was enough, well cancer never stood a chance. But cancer is not like that. It’s a sneaky coward that finds other ways. We know how she attended chemotherapy once a week for two and a half years, how she became loved by the patients and nurses there, how she made even that daunting grind a way to bring happiness. It took her slowly, but she kept on. We finally arrived at a point where it was obvious it was going to take her life. With bravery, she informed the boys. Then she set about making everything in the house understandable and easier for us, should she leave. It became her number one priority. Spencer, Angus and myself. Not herself. Us.
In February of this year, she was given weeks to live. As we know, it took until August 30 to claim her. And she passed with the same dignity and truth with which she had led her life. I’ve never felt prouder than I did holding her hand as she was released. And it was beautiful. Even through the period leading up to all but her final days, she laughed, she even danced. Her intellect and humour still defined her. The sparkle had dimmed, but it was still there in those beautiful eyes. Spencer and Angus bravely coped and loved her all the more. They are very special little boys and why wouldn’t they be, having had the privilege of being able to claim this wonderful person as their mother. Carey knows how much they love her and miss her, but she also knows that the agony will pass for the boys, she has delivered them of such emotional and intellectual sophistication. Another of her wonderful, wonderful gifts.
At home, we have a picture of Kez. It’s 1988, she is aboard a galloping horse in Egypt, her long natural blonde hair streaming and cascading behind her, with the pyramids outside Cairo supplying a dramatic backdrop. It’s just a photo of her as a 21 year old girl, in an album at our house, but, this is but one of the images of Carey that define the happiness and unaffected lust for life and all its experiences that she lived every day of her packed life. I will always see that shot in my mind, and feel the freedom she experienced at that moment. I like to believe that she feels just such freedom today and will forever more. I love you Carey. Like you loved me. Ride on my beautiful darling. Until we meet again. Greg.