Happy birthday dude.
Happy 40th. Fucking 40, that’s all. That’s how old you were meant to be today.
But you’re not, you’re not here and you haven’t been for a while. There are times when it still hasn’t sunk in you know.
There are times that James and I look at each other when something poignant happens and go “just wait till we can tell Andy” before the smiles drop from our faces and one of us reminds the other that we can’t.
I have so many memories and stories I could bust out here. At the moment I am sitting not far from the last place I saw you. The last time you came over before we never saw you again was in this cottage.
It was a night-time visit and the kids were asleep and I didn’t want you to wake them. You were always so loud, larger than life-those aspects of your gregarious personality where my favourites bit I was in “mum-mode” and “don’t you dare wake those kids I just battled to sleep” mode.
I remember watching you and James talk here in the cottage and thinking, “fuck, sending you guys down there only cost me the opportunity of talking to you too”. I remember in that moment and many, many times since thinking, I wish I didn’t do that. We never had the chance to see you again after that.
And it wasn’t much longer than that I got that fateful phone call from Katie. We knew something must have happened as both James and I had a few missed calls from people. But we had no idea. Nothing prepares you for those calls.
But as soon as Katie answered and spoke, it hit me. She had the same nature to her voice as Mum had when she called about Dad. That tone, that quality to it that was of someone having to tell someone else something completely heart-breaking when they hadn’t yet got themselves around the words yet.
Unlike the call from mum which I can remember almost word for word what was said, I can’t with Katie. Of course my heart sank and on her behalf too when she told me you had died but it was my heart skipping a few beats-just stopping momentarily when I thought of Eden. Your beautiful little girl Eden.
I was in my mid-twenties when my dad died, she’s just a little girl. And I’m sure some of my thoughts and grief I felt for her where projected from my own, not that distant experience, but that confusion and shock and complete inability for her poor broken wee heart to take in the situation was just written all over her face the minute I saw her a few days later.
And even if some of it might have been projected, fuck I was glad to have thought about some of the things that pulled me through when it was my face that looked like that. When it was me who was the one who just couldn’t get over the shock that I don’t have my dad around anymore-even as unfair as it seems that other people do.
So while you had the second least ordinary and normal service and send off (and I only say second because it came after my Dad’s equally strange by normal standards, loud music blaring and photo slide shows like yours), this time was different, unlike at dads where I got into character, it was a performance, there was even a “jeans and tee” blues brothers inspired dress code that helped in that aspect haha and I had to speak!
This time ALL my attention was on Eden. As soon as the procession was made in, some music played and people started talking, she got restless. It’s a really hard thing little people at funerals and I know lots of people have various takes on this.
I remember with conversations about this on “mummy groups” that at some funerals there may be outside expectations that it wouldn’t be appropriate for children to be present, particularly little ones – but I guess ones view on that probably depends on how they view funerals and what the purpose is. And yours, well it featured the breakbeat music you used to DJ and mix and a lot like dads, it was a true celebration of your life and your friends and family did you proud.
Beyond that though, I have always believed children should be included in these rituals and events- to not let them be part of it may rob them of the opportunity for closure and peace that they have had the chance to say some goodbyes in some sense, even if it is later on in their journeys and lives that they gain appreciation for it.
Anyway I did the one thing that sure helped me when I couldn’t cope and I was 26, but it didn’t matter because the thing that helped most was bubbles. I wish I could say this was the only time in 2016 I found myself focused on a group of children (my sons peers) with one of their parents now dead and tried to shield the youth of the room somewhat from the shock and sorrow of the adults around them with bubbles, but it wasn’t.
See to me it’s important for them to be there, but I have also many times been that child at a funeral with the overwhelming sense that something horrible I didn’t understand was happening and also, “why is no one telling me anything?!”
Just blowing bubbles. Because I have had to stipulate this in times before I will again here now. I mean good old fashioned soapy water bubbles, not champagne.
You can learn a lot about life and death and magic and faith and the beauty of the world from bubbles.
The ephemeral nature. The various sizes and shapes and colours. The fact they both appear and disappear again like magic. The unpredictability. Even just the deep breath you have to take to blow them in the first place.
Bubbles. That’s always been my first solution to overwhelming grief.
So we blew bubbles, who doesn’t fucking love bubbles? I mean if I ever meet someone who doesn’t like bubbles, I would be very interested in their life story – I can’t think of a reason someone could hate bubbles!
Anyway, I digress, we blew bubbles for you. Lots of us looked out for both Katie and Eden for you and lots of us continue to do so. I hope they realise how many of us will forever do that for them and for you because you did so much for all of us.
And I know you would have then and today too feel soo fucking proud of them. We are too. And it wasn’t even a year ago we lost you.
But today’s your birthday, and it’s a big one.
One of the milestone ones we were meant to get inappropriately wasted for, one we were meant to be loud and talk shit and be obnoxious, as long as it was kind, no one was getting hurt and its fun, let’s do it – lets push the fucking boundaries.
Cause we saw the world the same way-like a big fucking party that shouldn’t be taken too seriously all the time.
Man I am currently reliving some amazing memories and stories from someone else’s head line grabbing 40th birthday party not that many years back which we all shared together!
We have been thinking and talking about you a lot lately too. Some of the stuff I cope flack for in life, for being high energy, fast paced, in ya face, “larger than life”- they were all character traits we shared.
They were the lessons passed to me by my grandfather and father, from my elders, but when I lost them, there you were. Helping me “fight battles” when we didn’t think the people who needed to hear certain messages were listening.
There you were helping me reassure James as I helped you reassure Katie that it was all good. That the way they saw the problem, the way they viewed the world was true and valid and needed to be a complimentary one and for balance, but the way we saw it was all good too.
And while I remember they were continuing conversations about the really heavy stressful shit we were all going through together-you and I proceeded to pretend to race the giant stuffed dinosaurs of Josh’s while Eden and Josh laughed their heads off and started pushing us off to have their own turns.
Just to change the mood. To remember the fun.
And I miss that person to have those times with me now. I miss the people who balanced my crazy way of viewing the world cause they are all “up there” or wherever the fuck your spirits go or whatever.
So tell my Dad, I can clearly remember the mayhem his 40th birthday was – god that’s another story completely- but can you tell him, I expect him to do even better for you today because we can’t and that, well that’s really hard. For all of us.
And me, well with my fractured fucking ribs even blowing bubbles hurts, but that’s what I’ll be doing, even if I can’t be with Eden and am still hiding away from my own family and the world in my little recovery hut. I’ll be blowing bubbles and thinking of you and all the stories and experiences we shared that I could never put into writing!
And we will, like normal, have a tequila shot in your honour my friend-just don’t tell my doctor 😉
Happy birthday buddy – miss ya loads
The Skylight Trust page has sooo many better resources than a simple bubbles answer by the way and they provide an amazing service I have called on and used for both myself and others, particularly when it comes to explaining death to children. I can’t recommend them more highly. – http://skylight.org.nz/