by dahl2013

The night after his death Rowan was returned to Balclutha. Chris and Francis went to formally identify him. They walked into the Chapel of Rest and their first sighting of Rowie was the back of his head – with that moment they both knew the terrible sinking feeling that every single little hope, however ridiculous, of him still being alive had just flown out the window. His hair, all ruffled and sticking up as it always did was completely recognisable, even from 5 metres away. Francis described that moment some weeks later to me and the picture is indelibly printed in my mind.

So many pictures are indelibly imprinted in my head. These pictures come to me when I least expect them and send me into a bit of a spin again. I don’t get the shortness of breath and panic fight or flight reaction that used to accompany these pictures any more. I am learning to deal with them. I have trained myself to move on rapidly from these to happier pictures; ones of him laughing at some bizarre YouTube video; some cat antics that he had come across.

His sense of humour was keen, intense, stimulating. It was extremely difficult not to react to his sense of fun – his amusement and happiness were infectious. At times he knew that it was inappropriate to bubble up with delight but found it very difficult to check his merriment and however cross you were a moment before, you found yourself cracking and the same sense of hilarity overtaking you.

He was a good mimic and the stories he told were punctuated with lively impersonations of those involved in the revelry. He found bizarre songs to sing at me! He found strange musical pieces on YouTube that he danced along to with great enthusiasm and comic skill.

He was charming. He could charm the birds from the trees! On waking from a post-operative anaesthetic his nurse introduced herself to him in the recovery room; he sat bolt upright in bed and held out his hand to shake hers! She was hugely amused by this and told me that in all her years of nursing she had never been charmed quite so much by anyone!

I’m not entirely sure but I think I can probably say without being corrected that he was never deliberately rude to anyone. He could relate to all age groups with ease and enjoyed mixing with older people as much as with his peers.

Maybe twenty months down the track my perceptions have been tainted – but looking at him from here, he was pretty awesome!

For a youngster he had a pretty amazing understanding of how others were feeling; an intuition that was pretty remarkable for one so young. He could sense when I had self-doubt. He interpreted his father’s moods for me and explained them with mindboggling accuracy! He hurt for Francis – whenever he saw people taking Francis for granted or being critical of his big brother he would hurt hard enough for the both of them! He had an attuned eye for the ‘lame dog’ and brought them home time and time again.

‘How can we forget someone who gave us so much to remember’?

Aimee is doing the 10 day Spirit of New Zealand trip early next year. She has to fly up to Auckland by herself and get from the airport in Auckland to the dock.

Reading this reminded me of Rowie’s journey. I put him on the plane in Dunedin; had a quick text conversation with him in Christchurch before he got the connecting flight to Auckland. Had an even quicker text conversation when he arrived in Auckland; caught up with him as he got to the dock, had a frantic text from him 10 minutes later to say ‘Bye, they taking my phone now’! Arghh!! I remember posting on Facebook :

Have I had my left leg cut off? No, just lost my youngest son for 10 days to The Spirit of Adventure Sailing Boat!! How will I survive without him?’

Well Rowie, on 26 December 2012, some four months later, I lost all four limbs and my heart broke in two as you disappeared out of reach for an eternity. I have survived without you. Chris and Francis have survived too. Our lives are all the richer for having known you my beautiful buddy.