This past week my world has been turned upside down. Today we laid to rest my youngest brother. While we are trying to make sense of things, today I shared these words at a small celebration of my little brother’s short life in a letter to his 3 children- my nephews and niece.
I share them with you today to both celebrate my memories of someone I love and to hopefully ensure these words are never lost, no matter where life takes us.
Dearest Kayden, Lilly and Sandon,
On this very sad day I went to write a letter to your dad but the thing is, in my mind your Dad is still that little boy- my baby brother- with that cheeky grin, too much energy and a skateboard under his arm. In my mind he is small, barely a teenager- he is fun, fearless, smart and loving.
When I moved away from home and headed off to university your Dad was only about 13 years old. And in my mind that is how I will always remember him.
So today, I thought I might share with you kids just a little more about your Dad as he will always be for me.
Your Dad, Gareth, was my baby brother- I can’t even remember why but I used to call him ‘Henri’- it was short for Henrietta. I think it was because I always wanted a sister.
The first 5 or so years of your Dad’s life he had to endure many a weekend ‘dance concert’, ‘tea party’ or ‘play’ in our garage and I suspect he and your Uncle Lincoln will hate me telling you, but almost every week I would dress them both in my tutu collection complete with long beads and bracelets. You see your Dad and your Uncle were like real life baby dolls on those days! They were much more fun than those silly dolls in my cupboard!
Your Dad, your Uncle Lincoln and I were so very lucky to enjoy no end of adventures when we were kids. Every weekend saw your grandparents driving us around the country side to make sure we could do all sorts of sports- dancing for me, swimming for your Dad and of course Surf Club for us all.
Your Uncle Lincoln and your Dad were both great at almost any sport they touched- both winning no end of medals in swimming and surf lifesaving. But your Dad was the true sporting star in our family- there was nothing he couldn’t do- and whilst your Uncle Lincoln and I have tried and tried, we could never really manage to work out how to stand on a surf board.
Your Dad spent almost every afternoon after school flying down our driveway on his skateboard and as he got older of course his skateboard became a surfboard. Your Dad was a champion runner too- winning no end of cross country titles. I was always happy to make the bus trip to the district Comp where I remember puffing my way to the end of the race but your Dad would always make it to State with no training and without hardly even trying-he was just a natural athlete in everything he did.
Your Dad and your Uncle Lincoln were like two peas in a pod. Your Dad might have been the little brother, but let me assure you- he happily led his big brother astray all of the time! Make sure you ask Uncle Lincoln to one day tell you just who started the fire in the backyard of our brand new house the weekend we moved in. Your Dad would just smile and say ‘well at least we met the neighbours’.
Your Dad and I were so lucky to have grown up with parents who did everything they could to give us the best chance in life- They encouraged us to believe that no dream was too big, that we could do anything and together they showed us how.
It saddens me more than you will ever know to see that my baby brother- that cheeky, happy teenager that I left at home in 1996 never gave himself the proper chance to live his dreams.
But I am eternally grateful for the years I did have with your Dad in our family- the memories that will be with me for life and I hope I can share them with you three in the years to come.
Kayden, my beautiful nephew- you are like a brother to my daughter London. From the moment you both met, when London was only days old, you have together shared a beautiful bond. I am so very grateful you have come into our lives along with your beautiful mum Jamie-Lee. I know you don’t always love my ‘changing rules’ but I do love your depth of soul and I see in you much of your Dad as I remember him.
Lilly and Sandon I have no doubt that your Dad lives within you too. Smile when you see the waves, the sunset or a fishing rod as that might just be your Dad showing you he is there.
There seems so much I want to say, but so little that can be done now and I only wish for each of you that you stand strong in life, carve out your own path, chase your dreams and find happiness along the way as that is all I ever wished for your Dad.
Gareth, I am so very sorry that my beautiful baby brother cannot be here to see all of these people who love you, but do know, wherever you are, you will never be forgotten.
In memory of my beautiful baby brother, Gareth Kenyon Rayward 25.01.1983 – 04.10.2016