Do You Remember?

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Nick Norris. A great family man and inspiring leader.
Nick Norris. A great family man and inspiring leader.

Think back to that time. That special time that only you can remember. Focus a little closer. Can you see it now? Do you remember?

Sometimes, it would seem that all we have left are delicate memories, maybe corroded by time. They remain in your head. You can write about them, but they can’t be seen by another because they are your memories.

What was it that you remember the most? A smell, the fragrance of flowers or the distinctive aroma of coffee; maybe it was hot and humid and you can remember the sweat pressing against your shirt; and maybe also the sounds, the mumble of crowds disturbing the moment in the background, the sound of the person in your memories; can you remember the colours as if it was yesterday, see the face of the person at the centre of the memories, their smile and their laugh. Do you remember?

It was with some mild anxiety that I searched for a video I made at Kuala Lumpur airport in early October last year. I had just completed the third leg of the 10 City Bridge Run and was headed to Osaka. I travelled to KL by bus from Singapore because it was cheaper, and even though the flights were inexpensive, the reality was that I almost has no money to even buy food.

Sitting in the departure lounge in Kuala Lumpur, I remembered Nick Norris, my uncle who was tragically killed about MH17 a year ago today along with three of his grandchildren. Kuala Lumpur was his destination on that fateful flight which never arrived. Wreckage and debris scattered across a previously unknown Ukrainian field, with no special respect given for human life.

So why this post? It is my first post after being absent from this site for a few months, but I will write about that later. Today, is a tribute to Nick Norris, and my brother Stephen. Stephen attended the memorial service for Nick’s three grandchildren in Perth with my mother last year. For my mother, that will have been a bittersweet memory, as in December my brother would also die.

When I was in the Army, I was deployed on a tour of Rifle Company Butterworth, located close to Penang. We trained across Malaysia and Singapore, engaging in some excellent jungle warfare and urban terrain exercises. My credit card was scammed while I was in Malaysia, and my brother showed his true generous spirit to always nurture others by covering the debt until the bank could reaccredit my account after the fraud had occurred. Nick would have leant back in his chair and laughed approvingly with his infectious roar if I ever told him the story, and would have been entirely pleased to see my brother and I helping each other out.

Almost everyone remembers the MH17 incident. It was a tragic incident that took on national significance, and even forced the outcome of negotiations at the United Nations. Before that, most people didn’t know where the Ukraine was, or that there was a conflict with Russia. It even led to Tony Abbott promising to shirt-front Putin at the G20 last year. Serious stuff. And today, a memorial service in excellent taste in Canberra. A fitting tribute. Love conquers hate. Do you remember?

I wanted to upload this video of the reflection I made in the departure lounge of Kuala Lumpur airport last October for you all here tonight, but when I searched my external hard-drive, it seems it is the one file that for some reason had not been properly transferred. I can’t find it. It was slightly distressing, and caused me some minor anxiety. I felt like I had betrayed my memories of Nick. I had cheated myself of a public expression of the tribute I thought was so important to make. And I thought how stupid was I not to post it there and then back in October.

But I also came to realise that it didn’t actually matter. Who is going to see it or even read these words? Crafting a message-in-a-bottle to be thrown into the amorphous mass of the interwebs. I stopped and thought: what really matters here? Did I remember? How would I remember? Those are personal memories I have of Nick and my brother. We weren’t always that close, but we were family. I can’t show you that on a video.

Remembering those we care for ought not to be reduced to an exercise of humblebrag. Tributes and legacy are incredibly important, and it is we who give them meaning, even if that meaning is only an individual experience.

So tonight, I’m asking you to just stop and remember for a minute. Everyone has a story, even though it might not be shared. Treasure yours, and respect the other.


One thought on “Do You Remember?

    pengenie said:
    July 17, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    A beautiful and evocative piece Matt, for it’s more than words…

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