It’s been two years today since I found him, lying with his face to the sun.
He was still warm, probably from the streaming yellow winter sunshine filling his bedroom with a golden light. He wore grey trousers and a Singlet with an unbuttoned shirt over it. On his feet were tattered slip-ons, and he had a happy, relaxed attitude; his left arm placed loosely across his chest in a comfortable position. One imagines he simply lay on his bed to wait and rest. And so he did.
I had been making a surprise video compilation for a friend of ours, to celebrate his impending 50th birthday. Driving around Brisbane over a few weeks to video record various family members and friends, I had spoken to his elderly father only the day before, to ask permission to call around and video his birthday message for his son. He was excited, and insisted he also buy a birthday card for his youngest boy. “I must write him a message!” he laughed, “Come tomorrow, I’ll even unlock the outside gate for you”.
“But you sound so good” I bargained, “why don’t I call around now, it will only take 5 minutes?”
“Tomorrow,” he insisted, “tomorrow I’ll unlock the front gate” he chirped. Having an elderly mother I know how important it is to grab them whilst they are fresh and vibrant, but it was no good, his insistence that I arrive at 9am tomorrow stood firm.
So there I was standing at my friend’s father’s old home, only one block from my own house, knocking on his front door. Sure enough, the front gate had been unlocked and opened. Grinning to myself, I called out. “Hello? Yoo-hoo?” but there was no response, no cheery reply.
Bored, I take photos of his gate, the letterbox, and some flowers.
I wait. A small black bird flies around. Not a crow, not a magpie or peewee, just a small black bird. I take more images.
More knocking. How odd. Perhaps he went to the bathroom? Perhaps he is out the back? I wandered around; knocking on outside walls (is he deaf?) banging on the back kitchen door, peering through windows to an old house, noting the plastic flowers in vases, a statue of Jesus standing in blue and white robes in the far corner of the lounge room, and pictures of family and grandchildren, but no sign of the old man.
Eventually, I ring the other son, the one I had recorded the day before. “I think you’d better come, he’s obviously been up, but now there is no sign of him anywhere, perhaps he’s fallen over?”
Thirty minutes later the eldest son arrives, flustered. He goes into the front room first, stops, and turns to me. Gesturing for me to approach the bedroom, he stands there with his face slumped and his arms hanging down.
He died with his face to the sun. On the chair beside the single, high iron bed, there’s a note.
“When the days make you frown
because they are all the same,
and it's pouring with rain,
I hope you look back, smile at your thoughts, and be glad remembering
just what a good birthday you had.” it reads, a shaky hand determined to show his youngest how much he meant to the old man.
Asking permission to take some images, I photograph the note, and a couple of quick pics of the room, in case there is an inquiry. I wait with the son until the Police arrive, answer some questions, and then I drive home. Such a beautiful day for death.
In a way it was a privilege to be there to find him quickly; with the winters sun on his face.
Rest now, in peace.
Here is the final video: Colin is a fine karaoke singer, so I thought it only natural we should sing to him! It took a lot of phone calls to Cairns, Hobart, and driving all over Brisbane, but I was happy with the results, enjoy.