New Year always seems such a time for hope. Hope that it will bring everything from world peace to weight loss. Hope that the New Year is kind. Hope that those New Year gods will smile on yourself and those you love and cherish.
For me it’s also a weird combination of celebration and anticipation as well as loss.
On New Year’s Day 2011, I lost my great friend Michael Ward.
I’m sure I’m not alone as I anticipate what a New Year will bring and at the same time mourn those who have been. Those who loved us.
This is the story of our last days together.
Our New Year and the Impossible Sized Hat
I have an impossible sized hat sitting on my bedside table.
I’ve always loved hats but I can’t take any credit for this one – it’s all down to Michael and our last shopping excursion on Christmas Eve.
It was our habit, if you can have habits while living in a hospice for months on end, to spend Fridays together wandering the streets of Darlo, drinking coffee and ‘chatting’. Or in those later days, sitting quietly in that room overlooking the rooftops of eastern Sydney.
But Michael was up for a Christmas Eve adventure so on that particularly Friday in December we ventured out of the peace and into the world. The noise, colour and smells of Oxford Street awaited us. That Christmas Eve was like so many other days we spent together in those limbo days that seemed so long. And now so short.
We sat and drank coffee in a ramshackle bookshop and we talked and talked. (Well I talked, Michael had long lost the ability to speak so he wrote in a beautiful sloping script while I peered over his shoulder and responded to those neat and eloquent words.)
Michael and I met when we were 14 and we’d spent a lifetime chatting to each other. But on those Friday afternoon, Darlo days the talk invariably turned to family
At the heart of all our hours of conversations were Michael’s hopes for his beautiful children, Irena and Max.
His great, great love for them and the steely confidence that he had raised two very good human beings who, despite their young age, would go into the world and flourish. He was so enormously sad to be leaving them but oh so proud.
So much was said in those days and on that afternoon but it all came down to the same thing. Love.
Finally, as always, it was time to return to that other world.
Arm in arm, another of our habits, we ventured back into Oxford street to shop. It was eerily quiet for Christmas Eve.