Saturday 13 October 2012

Death and other stuff

This dying thing strikes me as a bit of a design flaw. One minute you're laughing and loving and contributing, the next 200 people are crammed into a university auditorium picking over your life.

Today I went to the memorial service of the man for whom I was asked to write an obituary, a task that caused me no end of angst not only because I hadn't written an obit since journo school but also because he was such a major figure in the NZ film industry. As we were milling around, admiring Euan's animation sketches and pencil drawings, a man I'd never met came up to me and told me how much he'd enjoyed the obit. The fact that he was a fellow writer made my confidence rise up in delight that I'd done credit to Euan's memory.

Today was, as one of the Animator's former colleagues said, like a giant reunion; there was the liberal dispensing of hugs and kisses, of shrieks of delight at those who had travelled from the US and Australia, from all over NZ, at those whose lives had taken them on different trajectories. And laughter. Lots of laughter at the photos that looped on the giant screen, of Euan and a young Animator, of TV series and television adverts they'd  worked on, of careers in the ascendant.

And so we laughed and wept as the war stories and tributes came from brothers, cousins, former business partners and colleagues. We shared tissues and wiped away the mascara that streaked across our faces. The adjectives 'kind', 'inspiring' and 'generous' were shoved up against Euan's name time and again, not in a superficial that's-what-you're-supposed-to-say-at-memorials kind of way, but by people whose lives were profoundly changed by proximity to Euan's orbit. One bloke in a smart suit who'd jetted in from somewhere exotic spoke of being a young design graduate who couldn't catch a break from anyone. Euan, however, hired him and spent years nurturing and moulding his talent, to the point where he went on to become an award-winning producer.

The last to speak was Euan's widow, Viv, an amazingly courageous woman who recounted her 33-year journey with her husband, from their meeting at Camden Tube Station on their travels in the 70s, their two children and his showreel-dripping career to the cancer that clutched at him two years ago. By the time she mentioned Euan's generosity to the end - of the 72-year-old woman and 30-year-old man who are now benefitting from his donated corneas - we were all sniffling into tissues.

Later, as we stood around tables groaning with Euan's favourite vegetarian food (including his infamous wheatgrass shots) and drank glasses of velvety red wine, we shared our favourite anecedotes of the man whose memory we had braved the rain to celebrate. I told two of the speakers how well they'd spoken, how their words touched me and made my eyes leak.

As I type this, the gathering has moved onto a downtown bar; the Animator has joined them but tonight I feel an overwhelming need to be alone with my dog, a glass of wine and my Uggs. Death, they say, is the train that eventually pulls into everyone's station, but tonight I feel as though I've been run over by it.



  1. Very moving.


  2. Thanks hon. Things like that can come out of left field and really shake you up. But so, so glad I got to pay my respects..




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