Home – the precious space of memory

Interestingly, when I recieved the two prompt words for today – Precious, and Street – my thoughts drifted to a eulogy. It was a eulogy I wrote for my uncle, almost two years ago now. He died almost exactly the same way as my mother … from a heart-attack, with no warning. He was my cousin Trudy’s father. Trudy is like a sister to me. I flew over to Byron Bay for the funeral. My uncle was a loved and respected man, with a huge personality, much like my mum. Many people got up to speak, and offer anecdotes of love and humour. I spoke last. I offer my eulogy here because it is a testament to something that is most precious to me – my home – which I hope will make sense to you once you read it.

My name is Rebecca, and I am John’s niece. My honouring of my uncle begins and ends with my house – for I am lucky enough to live in the house in Bunbury where John grew up. The reason the little blue house on the hill is so very precious to me, is because of the etchings left by those wonderful souls who inhabited it before me – my grammy and gramps, my mum, and my two uncles. 

The humble little kitchen table still stands in the same spot, and it is my favourite place in the world. That table has been a hub of laughter, love and joy for my family, always made so much more vibrant by my Uncle John’s placement there, as he relayed countless anecdotes and humorous stories, and listened with upmost delight to those of others.

Our family have had so many wonderful gatherings in that house – Murray Family Christmas’, and birthdays, always feasts of epic proportions, where ten or more people would squash themselves around the little table, which was alive with love and laughter.

Before the house was mine, occasionally I would be there by myself, perhaps when mum was out socialising or shopping. Sometimes Uncle John would surprise me with a visit. I would sit, perched on my chair on the front veranda, soaking up the sun, the sublime view of the beach, and the remarkable healing properties of that house, as I smoked and sipped my morning coffee.

I would spot him, ambling down the path from the beach. It was always an ungodly hour. But I didn’t care. My face breaks into a smile, as I see him begin to steadily tackle the incline of the driveway, in his white polo, budgie smugglers, and crocs.

As he negotiates the rickety stairs, he says, ‘Get me fifteen rounds of sandwiches and tell me your latest accomplishments, starting with the most prestigious to the least – I’ll have ham and pickle’. 

These words are out of his mouth before he has even made it to the top of the stairs. When he finally does, his brilliant blue eyes twinkle with affection, as he gives me a warm embrace, filled with love, ‘Hello darling. Geez, you’re looking good love’.

He has already had his morning rendezvous with the ocean, for he carries that divine scent of cologne mixed with saltwater. I love the way he smells. 

‘Now, about those sandwiches’, he says, as he makes his way into the little kitchen and sits down at the table. As I prepare the sandwiches, I relay the progress of my studies, sure to add in a few pertinent funny sentiments. His laugh fills the entire space with merriment.

With the slightest hint of trepidation in his voice, he then turns his attention to my love life. He asks how such and such is going, and I relay a summary of my latest hideous break-up. He listens with upmost attention, and then raises his eyebrow in that familiar look of high disapproval, as he taps his fingers on the table. He leans back, folds his arms, and calmly says, ‘Is that right love? Well, I may have some contacts in the Vietnam underground – so you just tell Uncle John if you want me to arrange for both his legs to be broken.’

He chuckles, but I am quite certain that he could arrange it if necessary. It’s tempting, but I decline, as I chuckle along with him. Even through the humour, there is a most precious sense of protectiveness that makes me feel safe, even in the darkest of hours. His jokes fill my world with mirth, yet there is a beautiful sensitivity and fragility to him that emanates from those pale blue eyes. I love the layers that his momentous personality embodies.  

He doesn’t linger for long after he has got the general gist of my life. He tells me what book to read, along with a succinct detailing of the entire life story of the writer and a few words of deep insight into the subject matter.

As I lead him to the door, he chuckles affectionately and embraces me again. ‘How much are you pulling on the scales love?’ he asks, as he simultaneously gingerly renegotiates the stairs. And then he’s off, to pack as much into the rest of his day as possible, leaving his scent and his merriment with me, making my day that much better.

Those unexpected visits, when we would sit together at the kitchen table, though the conversation was always succinct and straight to the point, were my favourite times with him.   

He has left his mark upon that kitchen table, that house, and upon my heart. The sense of fun, respect and joy lives on at that table, despite the emptiness of its chairs – for many of those who came to revel there have passed on. But now others have arrived to take their place – me, my husband Ross, and my own tiny little miracles, my son August and my daughter Ellie. Indeed, our family is alight with the joyous fire of a new generation. In my house, as my children laugh and grow, I see the humour, the love of life, and the pride that my uncle embodied.

John spread himself through his family and his plethora of friends with vigour and endless generosity. He was a monumental individual, with a big, awe-inspiring personality that gave to so many – there were few he didn’t have time for. He was a fabulous uncle whom I adored, along with all his other nieces and nephews. He was an amazing brother to mum and to Chris, who both worshipped him. He was a great dad and a wonderful poppy to his litter of grandchildren. He was a constant source of amusement and he had a great sense of fun and zest for life. Every fibre of his being embodied humour, and he took a beautiful childlike pride in delighting and amusing those around him. He was a dearly loved friend, who was loyal to a fault, and he was a respected colleague to many. He had such a deep connection to Bunbury, particularly the beach there, and the view of those rolling waves outside my kitchen window will be a supremely beautiful reminder of all the good times I had with him.

I will treasure the memory of my time with him for all my days. And, in this time of grief, I will find comfort in the knowledge that he is certainly now in the absolute BEST of company, in the utopia of the next world, indulging in good food and wine, and eternal good cheer, with those that have gone before him, and hopefully with not a single giant hairy spider in sight.

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