On Sunday the 6th July I received the worst phone call I have ever received. My brother Chris had been killed in a hit and run accident in Dimbulah, the night before!
I was absolutely devastated. When mum died I told him to get out of my life and not contact me until he had sorted himself out. He must have gone "well fuck you then" because he never once contacted me. If it hadn't been for the problems with his girls I don't think we would have contacted each other! However I did see him at the family meeting and we spoke a few times on the phone since then.
I realised at the funeral, which was held at Mareeba, and the wake, which was held where he lived at Dimbulah, that he had this whole other life that I didn't know about. He may not have been the son his parents would have wanted, I think he would have always drank too much, smoked too much and lived from pay-to-pay.
My brother died an honest man, a man with pride and someone who was respected by lots of people. There were about 80-100 people at his funeral. I read the eulogy, his best mate Tony Thomson (a really wonderful, genuine person) also wrote and read something and another mate read a lovely poem. His employers also said some lovely things about him. I had so many people introduce themselves to me - friends, past employers. It was a really good send off, lots of emotion, lots of tears, lots of stories - Chris would have been proud!!!
I wish things had been different, I wish his life had been different. What I can find solace in is that I did get the opportunity to talk to him these last 6 months and that he lived in a place he felt was home with good friends and more specifically a friend called Tony who was like a brother to him for the last 5 years.
Chris was born 29 February 1968 to Elizabeth & Glen Ward. He was a premature baby and suffered severe asthma, so bad that as a toddler he spent a lot of time in Zavier Home for seriously ill children.
I don’t think Chris had too many happy child memories. From a very young age he seemed to be on the wrong side of everything - he was always in the shit - it was just the depth that varied.
Mum once told me that she took him to a psychiatrist when he was younger and he said by the time this child is 21 he will either be a millionaire or in jail. Unfortunately it was the latter!
Chris didn‘t easily connect with people but he did with animals.. As a child he would regularly come home with dogs that just happened to follow him home - I remember on one occasion he actually forgot to remove the lead off the dog.
I guess for him animals never judged him or questioned him and their loyalty to him was unwavering. I know Chopper, meant a lot to him and one of his best mates Tony will take good care of him. He also told me about Pigpig - she was meant for the spit for his 40th, but got a reprieve due to the floods. She’s still going strong now, and given the way he spoke about her, I highly doubt that she would have ended up on the xmas table!
If there was something other then animals that was a constant in Chris’s life it was music. Music for him was a given for any occasions. He could loose himself in music and he liked a large range of music from AC/DC to Slim Dusty!
I don’t know if many of you would know this, but Chris was an extremely good rally driver and could drive anything with an engine and drive it like a pro! Now I’d don’t like to dwell on how he developed these skills, I’m just going to go with it was a natural talent!
Without a doubt the birth of his two daughters, Tatjana Candice on January 31 1991 and Shantelle Maree on 11 October 1993 were his biggest achievements! Chris struggled with life, so it is not surprising that he struggled with being a parent! He didn’t always show it well, but he loved his girls. And you may not realise it now, Tatjana and Shantelle but your dad did all that he could to ensure that you were both placed in the best possible family environment.
Chris had a very turbulent life with demons constantly nipping at his heals - he didn‘t always make the right choices. Chris lived in “his story” for a long time, however it’s clear that a few years ago he started to break the cycle that had dictated his life.
I am so proud of him as I know our mother would be, for doing that because what that did for him was it gave him self worth which was something that he had never had before. With this came friends, good friends and you were so important to him. I can’t begin to tell you what this meant to him, you were his family. He didn’t often use your names - he just called you “his mates”.
Although Chris and I had our differences he always knew that my husband Arthur never judged him. Most of you will know that until recently Dad and I had not spoken to Chris for several years. However, more by luck then anything else I was able to re-connect with Chris late last year. I am so thankful for this opportunity because I was able to see the positive changes that Chris had made in his life.
I discovered a man who was extremely proud of his knowledge and skill at growing organic mangoes, mandarins and bananas, a man who was somewhat anal retentive about cleaning his house and someone who was proud of the fact that he worked for a living!
If we choose our own lives based on the lessons we need to learn in this life - well Chris sure picked a tough one with some harsh lessons!
I don’t doubt that the minute he left us he felt a peace that he never experience in this life time. He’s waiting for us on the other side - so until then big brother.