When you’re dealing with parents growing old and getting crook, as all of us in our ’40s undoubtedly are, you’re always struggling for perspective, for meaning and sometimes you get an unexpected clarion call.
On the weekend I got an email from Maz Larkin thanking me for a post I wrote a year ago about the death of her beautiful son Gus to brain cancer at age 15. She had been sent it from a friend on the one year anniversary of his death on October 24, 2013. She pointed me to a video tribute made to Gus that is now on the Cure Brain Cancer website here.
She also reminded me that this weekend right around the country you can walk for a cure; there are literally hundreds of walks on – so maybe try to do one or donate a few bucks.
Brain cancer is shit. We’d be far better off without it.
So following is the blog I posted the day of Gus Larkin’s funeral on October 30, 2013; I hope it’s worth reading again or for the first time. I did and cried like a baby. But somehow it also filled me with hope and so did Maz’s amazing note this week. It’s pretty amazing how strong we can be.
RIP Gusman – I wish I knew you better
Original post, posted on October 30, 2013
I didn’t know Gus Larkin real well. Met him a few times, seemed like a good kid – son of a mate, funny bastard, quirky sense of humour, loved the Simpsons. Nothing unusual about any of that. I got to know Gus a whole lot better today at his funeral. Gus Larkin passed away last week aged 15, courtesy of a horrible brain tumor, as if there is any other kind.
Gus lived shorter than all of us would want, he suffered more than most of us could imagine, yet he did it with the strength and attitude all of us would covet. He was an ordinary kid at 11 when he had a bit of blurred vision. That was 2010, he was tested and the news every parent dreaded was delivered. What made this impossibly worse was that at almost exactly the same time, in fact within the very same month, his old man, my mate Gav Larkin, founder of RUOK Day, was also diagnosed with an entirely unrelated Lymphoma. Gav died in September 2011, Gus went to join him last Thursday.
Today was impossibly difficult. It was hard enough for us, the congregation at the church in Waverley, but for Maz, Gav’s wife and Gus’ mum – well you just can’t fathom it. You simply can’t put any of your feelings into words; whether written or spoken.
And when Gus’ sister Josie spoke, and she spoke incredibly beautifully as anyone who knows her knew she would, she said that this one – burying her brother, was even harder than the last one, burying her beloved father – you just had to ask yourself – how can this be allowed to happen? How can life be so brutal, so unkind, so impossibly sad?
And when Maz spoke, so gently, so beautifully about cradling Gus in her arms at his birth and just 15 short years later, at his death – your heart just fair dinkum broke. In half. Shattered.
I’m not a religious bloke, so I’m not sure God is going to do it for me, but the Catholic father said something that resonated. He said “Trust”. You just have to have Trust and you have to believe that somehow things will get better. For Trust, read faith. And regardless of your denomination of faith, faith is the thing that binds us. Faith that somehow, something good can come of such tragedy.
I’ve never felt so despairing at a funeral. I’ve seen a few off in their ‘40s and plenty in their ‘80s, but seeing off a 15 year old is gut-wrenching. Your whole body aches, your head throbs and hours later your eyes still sting. As a mate said as we exited the church; “15 year olds should be at birthday parties, not funerals.”
To Maz and Josie and Van and all their extended family all we can do is extend ridiculous, sincere and wholly unfulfilling commiserations. From what I knew and now know of Gus, or the Gusman, is that he was awesome. That he celebrated every day – every sunrise and sunset; that he saw the great in every day. That he lived and fought and loved and celebrated as hard in his 15 years as many do in eight or nine decades might say something. What? I have no idea.
His was not a life fulfilled, it was a life cut well and truly short. But it WAS a life well lived. He was surrounded by love and heartbreak and joy and real, genuine sadness. He never reached the potential he might have, given time, maturity and worldliness, but he gave his short 15 years everything he had. And maybe we just have to trust someone or something or some entity that, that’s enough… Because let’s be honest – what other option is there?
One option is to donate money right here www.cureforlife.org.au