Today is an incredibly sad day. A day of broken hearts for not only me, but many members of my maternal side, (Cummins), of our family. A day that has made me once again realize that in the blink of an eye things can change. A day that God has called another angel home…
I’ve often had the debate of what’s worse – losing someone to death in an unexpected way, like a motor vehicle accident, or after an illness. The answer in short – both are equally bad. Nothing can prepare one for the heartache that lies ahead when someone close to you dies.
There are three things we’ve all heard – “He’s my brother from another mother”, “Cousins are the first friends you have” and “God lets you choose your friends because you can’t choose your family”. For me, those three people were rolled into one, in my cousin, Malcolm.
In my late teens/early twenties, he and I were extremely close. Inseparable almost – if he wasn’t home, the first port of call his mom would try would be our house, and if I wasn’t home, my parents knew I was with him. For the most part we got up to relatively innocent mischief, although there was a time when I was up to no good and he covered for me. It landed us both in hot water, but we got through it – not because we were family, but because we were friends. Besties.
As it is with life for everyone, time passes, priorities change and people that were once an integral part of your existence move on. It just happens, and when you look again, years have passed. This too happened with Malcolm and I. I saw him at his wedding, then again at his father’s eightieth birthday party (his second child, Matthew, had been born already!) and most recently, at his sister-in-law, Angela’s wedding. I did go to see him in the hospital just before he died, but I don’t want to remember him like that – a lifeless shell lying in an impersonal bed attached to machines. The irony is, I don’t want to remember him how I met him either – also a shell of a man thanks to thyroid issues. I remember opening the door at Aunty Cathy’s house, looking at him and telling her there was someone at the door and that I didn’t know who it was. He fought that illness hard and I believe that he fought even harder now (for Jana, Mia and Matthew, and his parents), but it was, heartbreakingly so, simply not meant to be. We may be poorer for not having him with us anymore, but we are richer for having known him.
Now, with certain people you can catch up years after seeing them and it is like no time has passed whatsoever. With others it is awkward; like you’re complete strangers. Malcolm and I caught up on years worth of news at Angela’s wedding, as if no time had passed whatsoever. We laughed. A lot. Mostly over “do you remember” moments.
He used to love to wrestle me to the floor and tickle me until I lost my breath, and countless times I warned him that I would get him back. He never listened, so the one day I latched onto his arm with my teeth and bit him. Hard. When I asked him “do you remember the day I bit you” he laughed, rolled up his sleeve and showed me the scar. I’m sure that through that life lesson he would have taught Mia and Matthew not to bite.
Many a day in December he and I would sit on the wall outside his parents’ home in Reebok, beer in hand, watching the joggers and rating them out of 10. Sometimes he’d even leap off the wall and jog beside the pretty ones for a few metres and then return mumbling about how crazy exercise nuts were.
There are many things I will always remember about him…
- He always used to answer the phone, “Cummins residence, the butler speaking.” It earned him the nickname “Jeeves” with me.
- How he not only got lost, but led a friend of mine on a wild goose chase after my 21st party. “Don’t worry”, he said, “Ian can follow me to your house.” They arrived about two hours later, apparently because “it was dark.” The rest of us managed just fine, but he would not admit that he’d simply got lost. Cummins trait that – we’re all stubborn!
- He introduced me to Jim Croce’s song “Time in a bottle”. I listened to it over and over this morning after having heard the news of his passing.
- His wicked sense of humour and practical jokes. Cummins trait that too. You just need to ask Uncle Bob about rubber spiders in his bed to get an idea. He always appreciated a good joke and always had one to share too. I want to share a joke that he often used to tell, and I apologise in advance to any Catholics that may be offended.
Saint Peter asks the three men: ‘ Did you commit any adultery during your lifetime?’
‘NEVER! I have lived a pure and virtuous life!’, The first man shouts. ‘All right, you may enter heaven en drive a golden Ferrari for eternity!’, Saint Peter says.
The second man says: ‘ Well you know… I’ve had a fling with my secretary. But, I am remorseful’. ‘For this sin, you shall drive a golden Ford for all eternity’, Saint Peter says.
The third man states: ‘ I have not lived faithful. I’ve cheated on my wife at every chance I’ve had. Yet, I am remorseful.’ ‘For this debauchery, you must ride this golden bicycle for all eternity!’, Saint Peter says.
After a few months up in Heaven, the three men gather to talk. The third man looks pale and shocked. ‘What’s up with you? Don’t you like your golden bicycle?’, the two others ask.
‘It’s not that…’, the third man whimpers, ‘ I just saw the Pope pass me by on golden roller skates.’
- How he ferried my friend Naomi and I around. Often he’d take us to the Point, don his wetsuit and paddle out, leaving us in the car to watch the surfers. I always tried to spot him, but surfers all look the same in the water. Like seals…
- That he never raised his voice. Even when angry, he had a very soft approach. And while I didn’t get to experience him parenting his children or spend time with him and Jana as a couple, I’m sure this was a way of life for them with their father, and husband. In short, Malcolm was a gentle giant.
And in closing:
- He was a gentleman, having had an impeccable example in the way his father, Uncle Dick treated his mother Aunty Louise. Whenever we went out together, he would open the car door for me, and if I was cold he would take his jacket off and give it to me. Whenever a woman would walk into the room, he would stand up, and if she was carrying a tray, he would take it from her and set it down. In all the time I knew him, I don’t think there was ever a time that I filled my glass either when we were together. I’m sure that his parents are extremely proud of the man he turned out to be.
Jeeves, you will be sorely missed. By so many. I am heartbroken at your unexpected departure. You have left a great void, which nobody else will be able to fill. but I know you’re probably already serving tea in heaven or trying to steal the wheels off the pope’s roller skates.
“...If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you…”
But I can’t save time… I can only rehash the memories. Rest in Peace. Until we meet again.