“To paint a leaf, you have to sacrifice the whole landscape. It might seem like you’re limiting yourself at first, but after a while you realise that having a quarter-of-an-inch of something you have a better chance of holding on to a certain feeling of the universe than if you pretended to be doing the whole sky.” –Nicole Krauss, the History of Love
They say that suffering Great Loss can carve us into gentler, kinder creatures.
Personally, I wish it were different. I wish eating chocolate or having lazy mornings on the sofa or walking along the river or watching endless episodes of Modern Family or doing any number of things I’d rather do than cope with loss … I wish these things made us somehow Awesomely Amazing People.
Instead we kick and we struggle and we weep and we get knocked down and we get up eventually and we count our blessings that we’re not That Poor Bugger that’s worse off than us, and with Grace and effort, we get a teeny bit softer and a little bit kinder.
I lost my man this year. I lost Greg Parker, the Man-Who-Lived. I still don’t understand what that loss actually means. It is as if for all those years, Greg kept me alive with his Life Force, which burned brighter and stronger even as his body was dying, and now that fire is gone.
The very notion that he is not here – annoying the hell out of me, loving me despite all my faults, helping me find my way (quite literally, as he was my Google Maps), or explaining something I didn’t understand (he was also my Wikipedia) – seems somehow wrong. Like a Great Mistake in the Universe has occurred and I’m waiting for someone to fix it.
I had a dream that he came back. He just suddenly walked into this great big hall which was full of people at the end of a large conference.
Stomp, stomp, clap. Stomp, stomp, clap.
Buddy you’re a young man hard man
Shoutin’ in the street gonna take on the world some day.
Greg’s voice rang out with such power and clarity. He had everyone stomping and clapping to the beat. Then everyone was singing,
We will, we will rock you!
My heart was wildly happy – Greg Parker was back, his voice was back, his electricity, his charisma, his music. Everything was going to be ok. His eyes shone and he was well, and young and vital.
I never felt so cheated in all my life when the sound of dogs barking woke me and I realised it was a dream. I witnessed it – I was there when he came back, and my mind was cruel that morning to have returned him to me and then taken him away. Again.
I loved Greg for three decades. I didn’t realise how profoundly until he died on May 16th this year. 2014.
But I never want to forget this year.
I never want to forget his courage, his compassion, his valour. Valour isn’t something we see very often.
I never want to forget our last family holiday. When we knew that the treatment wasn’t working any longer but death seemed far away and we all thought that Greg would pull another rabbit out of his hat. When he was still able to walk. There was magical light, beautiful horses, family meals, his children and grandchildren and beloved son-in-law around him. Laughter. Long walks.
I never want to forget his last show. Greg was actually only 8 weeks away from dying, but we didn’t know that. He wanted to say goodbye, to offer his music one last time. We called the show From Our Hearts to Yours. I never want to forget seeing 1000 people standing up and clapping as he wept and said how much he had loved serving us, how much he loved us, how thankful he was for everything, even the cancer, and for each and every person in his life – and he named each of us. Or that his painful, beautiful efforts were captured so sweetly in a story done by the 7.30 Report, immortalised forever on film.
I never want to forget how he wept when I promised that after he was gone, I would hold a concert in his name, calling it From Our Hearts to Yours – The Greg Parker Memorial Concert.
I never want to forget finding this house that I now live in, this amazing house that I was going to nurse him in comfort for the months or year that I imagined he had. I wasn’t to know that he would die only four days after we moved in. So instead, this magical garden, this light-filled home, and my walks by the river across the road have offered me peace and respite.
I never want to forget the tributes that were collected by my loving sister from all over the world to come together in this book, read aloud to him by Mary, as they both wept, only days before he died. Or the beautiful people that filled every corner of this house with flowers afterward, and the 600+ people that came to honour his life at his wonderful, love-filled, unforgettable funeral.
I never want to forget the kindness of my friends and family. Of Greg’s sister Terri’s constant presence in those difficult last weeks, of my sisters’ love and food and prayers, of all the friends who sacrificed time and energy to come to my aid. Of my niece Shanthi who not only helped us move house that weekend before he died, but who moved in with her husband and young children, and helped me put one foot in front of the other in those first grief coloured, post-Greg weeks when I barely remembered that I had feet.
I never want to forget the agonising pain of losing someone you love that much, because without it I would not have known how much I loved.
I never want to forget taking to the mountains with Mary, and the healing whiteness of our first experience in the snow or the feeling of holding Greg’s oldest daughter Rachel to my heart and stroking her beautiful blonde hair, knowing we were linked forever in our loss of her beloved Daddle.
I never want to forget how Mary held me close when she found me shaking and weeping and how she helped contain my grief with her love and wisdom. (Or that my baby girl graduated this year, won and award for her photography, took her first solo overseas trip, climbed a mountain in Greg’s name. She is basically Awesome).
I never want to forget the painting my friend Phil Doncon created only days after Greg died, of a sunset and an ocean. “Mal,” he said, “I reckon this is the ‘Sea of Light’ that Greg plunged into”.
And I never want to forget coming home to my students, who welcomed my announcement that I was teaching again after an 8 month break by booking out all my workshops in 3 days. Sharing their awe and wonder they feel when they rediscover their creativity fills me with joy. Every. Single. Time. They are a constant reminder to me that making art is a gesture of hope.
A dear friend wrote recently how 2014 has been a difficult year. A lot of pain and a lot of loss. She wanted December to move on quickly so she could forget this year. I agreed almost as a reflex. But ever since then a little voice inside has said,
“No, Malini. You don’t ever want to forget this year.”
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