These words headlined the newspaper story of the death of my younger cousin – John Kelly. I didn’t write about him in my last blog, even though I mentioned going to Sydney for a conference – which is where he lived. I needed time to think. John, an experienced climber was, just after Christmas helping to take young people mountaineering. He fell and died immediately. His wife Cathy had, bleary in the early morning light, heard him say ‘goodbye’. He left the house and never walked back in. A hugely shocking death – shaking to the foundations the lives of his children, family and friends. I wasn’t close to him, but I admired him hugely. My mum adored him – he flirted with her and made her feel wonderful. He and Cathy had often stayed with her when they were travelling. He was a young, tall golden god. As a lawyer he fought for justice and as a man he fought for the sanctity of love and a closeness of family. He and Cathy had been together since teenagers.
He was strong, opinionated, funny, mischievous; he burnt so brightly many people were drawn to his flame and longed to linger within his light. Cathy told me that 1,500 people turned up at his funeral. One man later stood up to say that when he saw all those people he couldn’t understand who they were “I thought I was his best friend!” Somehow when his light was beamed on you, you felt you were the only one who mattered.
We all so often, almost everyday now, are shocked at someone’s death. We immediately resolve to live our lives well, in mindfulness everyday. But as the days pass we slip back into our old ways.
If your friends could have 3 words to describe your life, what would they choose?
The journalist covering John’s life chose the ‘scream them from the rooftops’ words – LIFE – he loved life, he laughed, teased, roller coasted, cried, engaged, took risks, tried new things…….an endless list. LOVE. Such love for his family, huge spirituality. I am sure sometimes his love would muffle or swamp – but at other times I am sure he liberated his family through his love. JUSTICE – he was a lawyer, he hated unfairness and relished his fights for change. I am sure he often felt he didn’t do enough for the causes he believed in – but he was aware of how much the marginalised, the vulnerable and unlucky need us, the lucky ones, to fight for them.
I would like to think that as a result of reflecting on John’s death that I will try harder to be a better person. But I won’t unless I build in reflection time so that it becomes part of my daily routine and not grab time out of the blue when I am shocked or in despair.
To live life in the present, mindfully, will help us all to be kinder to ourselves and others. I believe the light in some people lights up some others. So John, I thought about you with love and admiration. I was only in your city for 2 days but I took a bike and rode around it because the city of itself reminded me of you. It was bustling, vibrant, welcoming, fun, edgy, fast moving, gloriously surprising, youthful and golden.
You are a golden haired, golden hearted giant of a man whose warmth and commitment to life, love and justice will be deeply missed by those of us now temporarily in the cold shadows till we can breathe calmly and allow your light to revive us once more.
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