Today I went to the funeral of an old next door neighbour. He would have been 20 next month. He killed himself by putting his belt around his neck and hanging himself on the back of the bathroom door. Noone had any idea he was sad let alone depressed enough to do such a thing. He didn’t die straight away. It took a couple of days. It meant his parents got to hold his hand and say goodbye.
I sat in this church packed with close to 400 people today, my baby kicking away inside (yes, still inside). Young faces, too many young, drawn, desolate, confused faces. Pictures of him projected up onto the wall, smiling, laughing, waving, being happy, being young.
All I could think about was that this was not what this crowd of 19 year olds should be contending with. This is not a realm they should have to be experiencing. And yet, when it came time to talk about the guy called Phil, his friends stood up and spoke with grace, humility, humour and honour. They told stories about his love of surfing, his ability to get naked faster than anyone and streak anywhere, his love and focus on his friends. Over and over it was said, Phil didn’t want accolades or awards, he just wanted to be a part of it. He just wanted to be in the thick of it.
His dad spoke. And cried. The energy of the church was almost overwhelming as he quoted Bob Dylan:
Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’,I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest,
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden,
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
Where black is the color, where none is the number,
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’,
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’,
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard,
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.
I hadn’t seen him in over 10 years, but he was born about a few months after we moved in next door. He weeed on me. I learnt how to put cloth nappies on a baby on Phil. I learnt the trick of running the pin through your hair to make it pass through the nappy more easily. I babysat him and his siblings. His sister was meant to start her HSC today.
These photos, on the wall, of the biggest blue-eyed boy as a small child, a young boy, a teenager. And now he is gone. And the world, his world, will never know why.
As his Dad said, in one insane moment…