Until two years ago, it had been over forty years since I had seen Gay. Back then we ran with the Albert Park mob, a loose collection of teenagers linked through church youth clubs in the western suburbs of Adelaide, South Australia. Yesterday I presided over her funeral service, held in the open air at a favorite park alongside a dam in the Perth foothills.
She had survived cancer for over 18 years, not letting it get in the way of her work as a mother, grandmother, businesswoman, and – more lately – a drug and alcohol counselor in Western Australia’s prison system. As I listened to family members and a work colleague pay tribute, I learned much about Gay since our gang had dissipated and gone our adult ways. Coming from a large family of seven, Gay was destined to be a people person and it was inspiring to hear the extent of her positive impact on so many, particularly through the blows that life had dealt her through early widowhood and the onset of her illness. She would claim that her counseling work helped her rise above her own health battles. Testimonials written by inmates testified to this.
There were some quirky moments during the service that would have appealed to Gay’s wry sense of humour. When two turtle doves were released, an enraged magpie, incensed at invasion of territory, gave chase. For a few moments, the crowd was bemused at the aerial acrobatics that took place.
We missed those unable to fly into Perth because of airline disruption caused by the Venezuela volcanic plume.
I experienced the whole event as a precious occasion, reconnecting with a part of my life that seemed to be drawn forth from the mists of passing time, reconnecting with peers I had not seen since my adolescence, but now approaching retirement age.