I miss this kid. I miss the man that he became and the man he never got a chance to be. My life will never be the same.
Who was he? In the New Zealand lexicon, he was a good keen man. A brother, lover, son, nephew, cousin, uncle, friend.
He was the kid with huge dimples, a tousle-head of curls and a cheeky grin who is smiling in all but one of our childhood photos, who was eager for adventure, even as a two year old, bolting at every opportunity, exploring, making friends with old men in the park.
He grew up into a strong, smiling man, who travelled the world, making new friends everywhere he went.
He had the knack of making you feel like his best friend, someone you’ve known all your life, when you only met him five minutes ago. He’d strike up a conversation with anyone in a bar, or on the street. At a party, he’d notice the person no one else is talking to and try to draw them out. He was kind.
He had a scar just above his left eye, the legacy of jumping off a chair onto a pile of cushions in our grandparents’ sunroom. He was three, he was a superhero, he was supposed to fly, not fall through a glass table.
We all thought he was invincible. Of his death, one friend said it would have been more believable if he’d fallen off a yak into a gorge in the Himalayas and been trampled by a herd of goats after going over a waterfall, having swum away from a swarm of bees. That was how he saw him going – if not, surely they’d be a mainstay in each other’s lives, barbecue mates well into their 80s.
People loved him – you couldn’t help yourself. The term easygoing could have been coined for him. He took everything in his stride. He was fun to be around, quick to laugh – and though he was no storyteller, he could stand up in front of a room full of people and give an off the cuff speech that would hit the mark every time. I was tickled pink he could do that.
He may have been the man who pulled you from the surf when you almost drowned. He may have saved your life.
He loved the sea. He loved to surf. It was the most alive you could feel, he said.
For a lot of people, he was the reassuring voice at the other end of the phone, the man who’d talk them through their computer malfunctions, who’d quickly, calmly, efficiently, without a fuss, get back their missing files, get them back online. He was a gentle man, but give him a computer and he’d soon show it who’s boss.
He was the little boy who used to ask me to cook him cheese fondue as a special treat when we were old enough to stay home alone without a babysitter, the kid who came and stayed with me in my uni halls of residence, who thought it was terrific to go to a Chinese restaurant and eat mounds of sliced white bread and butter, trickled with soy sauce, who was the only other person in my family who really understood what constitutes a good coffee.
He cooked a mean stir fry, and did things with a couple of eggs and a fridge-full of leftovers you wouldn’t believe.
He had a huge appetite, for food, for life, for his beloved Cathlin, whom he followed to London, whom he adored.
Some might say he was a risk taker. I don’t think so. He calculated the risks. He embraced life, sure. He approached everything he did with wide open arms. But his eyes were open too.
He was one of those rare people of whom you can say, ‘he lived his life to the full, every day like it was his last,’ and it’s not a cliché. He was a very special man, much loved by many people, and he is missed.