Saturday, May 01, 2010

Only the good die young

Rex and I, midnight screening of Star Wars. I was no match for his skill with The Force

Sadness is compounded when you have to bury people before their time. Dr Rex Stubbs OAM was a friend and a mentor to me. He died last weekend and the funeral was Thursday. He was 60.

Rex typified for me the model of a community minded man, a lot like my grandfather did in my earlier life. Rex just seemed to be everywhere. He served on Hawkesbury Council for 26 years, and spent ten of those as Mayor. He was my GP, he was a local historian, and he was a patron of the arts. He was, in a cynical and thankless age, a Good Man. I shall miss him so.

But he was also a friend. I remember on many occasions where he saw my interests in history or local politics overlapping with his, he always offered his quiet and deliberative encouragement. That encouragement will stay with me all my life. Those who knew him well said at the funeral that they never once heard him raise his voice, and I believe it.

But there was a vein of humour as well. Rex was a proud sci-fi buff and I always thought it was a hoot when I was organising midnight screenings of Star Wars premieres for my youth group and there he was, turning up with a bunch of young people (some in dressing gowns), fighting with plastic light sabres, his wry smile winking over the top of his glasses.

It was often like that. Usually when someone was being too pompous, Rex would glance at us, over his glasses, and the wordless look he gave let us in on the joke, and you felt you were with him, and there was... an understanding.

Too much of what passes for politics these days is bled dry of any humanity. It’s all calculation and ambition. Rex genuinely looked down from the mayor’s chair through the lens of history, rather than merely an eye to the next intrigue, with a genuine appreciation for the heritage and history of the shire he served. He was a man of soul in an increasingly soulless avocation. If there's anything I choose to take away from Rex's influence in my life, it's that. People matter. History matters.

I read somewhere recently that all people die three times. We die once when we draw our last breath. We die again when our earthly remains return to the earth and lose their form, and we die a third time when our name is spoken aloud for the last time. This idea affects me very much. When will we all die that last time? When will we be invoked in conversation or recollection a last time, or the cadence of our voice, or the values we transmit to others, be lost to living memory? After how many years? In that sense, many die quickly, and some are still with us centuries on.

I have a hunch Rex will be with us for a very long time.

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