23 December 2017, Melbourne, Australia
It’s said that our lives are but a gentle wind that quickly passes. But in passing, a wind touches all in its path. And so it was with Tim’s life: in some way he touched all of us here today, and many others beside.
I once remarked to his mum that Tim struck me as the Kennedy of the family: • Absurdly good looking • Smart • And infused with an ethos of public service. An ethos of public service is a fine thing in a person, showing an underlying quality of generosity. Everyone today in their remarks have referred in some way to the spirit of generosity that characterised Tim. He was generous in his personal relations with other people and with that he was gentle and humourous, which is not at all to say soft.
This generosity was evident, of course, in his working life, where his commitment was to social justice. We’ve heard today of his time at Jesuit Social Services and then for the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, particularly in the South Pacific but also Africa. Robert Kennedy said that some men see things as they are and ask “why?’. But I dream of things that never were and ask “why not?”
Looking at Tim’s life, you can see that see that Tim asked a further indispensable question: How? In addressing the how question, Tim brought an invaluable quality to the table. His whip smart sister Melissa described Tim as being whip smart. Let’s call it “curiosity”. Tim was curious about the world around him.
You can see on his Facebook posts his curiosity about the natural world and, indeed, his wonderment. And he was both curious and questioning about the interaction of people and the way life works. He recognised that, outside the privileged enclave of the Western world, the way the world works is pretty harsh. By any measure, Tim would be regarded as socially and politically progressive. Mick, his grandad, his Sopa, would have been proud of this. But equally Mick would have been proud of Tim’s open mind, his practical bent.
Tim didn’t blindly accept nostrums: he would actively play the devil’s advocate to test both his own understanding and that of the person he was talking with. I have to admit that was a bit annoying – he was always so damned reasonable about it. So Tim wasn’t a slave to any particular ideology, unless you classify “commitment to social justice” as ideology. Tim recognised that there are gradations in every social situation and that perceptions need to be so filtered, responses need to be nuanced and appropriate to the situation.
In particular, he understood cultural context: the way we perceive property, wealth, income and their apportionment is not the way, say, Fijians see these things. Let’s just say that Tim was committed to both empowering the communities he worked in and with, and to achieving a better and fairer economic distribution for the labour of these communities.
Tim was fortunate in his early life. Ro and Gavin provided a loving and caring environment and imbued in Tim the values and qualities which we are commemorating today. The Sheehan-Martyn family, the Martyn-Sheehan family – Ro and Gavin – have an extraordinary conception of and commitment to family. That was of such benefit to Tim growing up and carried over into Tim’s adult life.
Tim was a big personality and he needed in his life an equally big personality to sustain him. He found that person in Sarah – and I assume that it worked the other way: Tim sustained Sarah. Tim and Sarah created a life together and then came Sizzy. There’s no way that words can capture or portray that love Tim had for Sizzy. To you Sarah, I say you were born and remain a Gwonyama but when you married Tim, you became also a member of the Martyn family…and by association so too of the Sheehans and Lowreys. You’re one of us Sarah, always know that and make sure Sizzy understands that as he grows up.
A couple of years ago Tim took this photo of a sunset over the ocean, off Broome.
It’s a unique moment in time, as seen and captured by Tim, but the moment has passed by, like a gentle wind. The photo put me in mind of a line from the Buddhist Heart Sutra:
gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate …gone, gone, gone to the further shore, gone completely to the further shore.
Tim has gone from us to the further shore. It is profoundly sad that we won’t feel again the gentle wind that was Tim’s life among us. But just as Tim’s photo captured a unique moment in time, our minds carry our memories of Tim’s unique life and our hearts carry continuing love for him.
So it is. Requiescat in Pace
Timothy Trant Martyn 23 February 1979 - 12 December 2017