In my first book, As Darkness Falls, the dedication reads:
For my parents:
My father, who demonstrated every day of his life what true courage and heroism really are;
My mother, who has a beautiful, giving spirit, and the grace to look beyond the surface of people to their hearts.
My dear Dad passed away on Wednesday last week, a month before his 80th birthday. In those almost 80 rich years, he touched many, many lives with his kindness, gentleness, respect and humour. Every loving Dad is special to his children, and my father is no exception to that. Dad was not famous, or rich or powerful, but he was special to all those who had the privilege of knowing him. I can’t tell you how many times during my life people have quietly said to me how influential he was in their lives, and I heard more of those stories yesterday at his funeral and wake. The chapel was full to overflowing with people.
In looks, he was far from the tall, athletic warrior we often associate with the term ‘hero’ – yet for all who knew him there’s no doubt that he was a hero. Through his example, every day of his life, he taught me – all of us – so much about love, courage, loyalty, and integrity. He was the best of what a man can be, and I think there’s a bit of my Dad in every hero I write.
He loved the bush, and I suspect I’ve inherited my love of the Australian landscape from him; although he lived in cities most of his life, both he and I have always tended to look outwards, to the land beyond the city, and some of my early memories of him are out in the bush, making our way carefully down a steep slope to the river.
His long, rich life is all the more remarkable because he was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta – brittle bones. He broke most of the bones in his body at one time or another, his legs too many times to count. While he participated in some sports in his youth, I cannot remember him ever running, jumping or dancing anything other than a waltz. As his bones deteriorated with age, he needed a walking stick, then crutches, then a wheelchair. Early last year, he broke his right arm. With minimal strength in his left arm, this left him reliant on others for transferring from bed to chair, and for personal care – very hard for a proud man who had done his best to be independent for as long as possible. As his struggles grew and pleasures diminished, he began to contemplate rest, and eventually to yearn for it.
At his funeral yesterday, three daughters, two honorary sons, and two beautiful grandchildren paid tribute to him; nieces and nephews made the long trip from Melbourne; former colleagues from his days in medical research came; friends from all the many community groups he was involved in came to say farewell.
Rest peacefully, Dad. Your legacy will be long-lasting.