Lou’s Eulogy: 25 January 2019

A year on, I thought I would post Lou’s Eulogy. I actually haven’t been able to read it again, yet. I’ve uploaded it to preserve it for the kids and for anyone that wishes to read it.

Hi Everyone,

Wow!

Thank you for coming today. I hope that if I ever die prematurely that I will get half this sized crowd out at my farewell. It’s remarkable. But such a sendoff is only fitting for someone that made zero enemies, was energetic, fun, caring, likeable, loveable and irresistibly beautiful, inside and out.

I’ve always prided myself on speeches and ensured that I am well prepared. Putting pen to paper at 4 pm yesterday when I had family and friends due at 5 isn’t ideal. To tell you truth, I couldn’t find the motivation to do it any earlier, as my time here now is essentially a goodbye.

Making the slideshow took way longer than expected too. That was emotional. I let Conks know the song I wanted and that I would fit some photos to the song length. Two days ago I was like; “Jon, can we make it two songs? I’m having trouble culling all these nice pics of Lou. At 3 pm yesterday I called John again and said “Conks, can we make it three songs mate?”

I came to conclusion last night, for my own benefit, we have an amazing singer in Reigan and her guitarist Rhys, and the photos of Lou accompanied by a beautiful voice is much more entertaining than me up here on a mic.

While Lou’s health spiralled in her last living week, we were very fortunate the right sequence of events occurred in as good an order as we could have hoped.

Her final days were filled with 24/7 love and care. Having my mum and sister in Germany helped us give Lou the attention she deserved. Lou’s parents were with her all day, holding her hand, talking to her and telling her that they loved her. I was able to do the same through the night.

Two days before she left us, I brought the kids in to see her. Both Noah and Evie kissed and cuddled their mum and told her they loved her multiple times. It was heartbreaking to watch but a much­needed event for Lou and the kids. Noah and Evie can go to their own graves knowing they cuddled and kissed their mum and expressed their love at the very end of her journey.

On that second last night, I kept telling Lou that her sister was on her way. I was even giving her updates by the hour. During the night she would have periods where she seemed a little stressed………………… Because she wasn’t conscious I was unaware if it was pain or she was going through an instinctive fighting moment.

Now in reflection, I think she was stressed that I was talking too much and being way too affectionate. She probably just wanted to rest.

I would kiss Lou and be like: “Lou, Elysia is going to be here in 12 hours, she can’t wait to see you, she loves you so much………………………………….. Lou, Elysia is going be here in 11

hours, she loves you, your mum and dad love you, Noah and Evie love you, I love you…………… and so on.

I have zero doubt that Lou made a final heroic charge to ensure she could spend her last living day with her sister and best friend.

That final night, as with the previous final days, I held her hand for eight hours straight. I would normally fall into a deep sleep when Lou did and then wake when she seemed stressed or potentially in pain. She was really restless for an hour or so around 4 am. While I was being a chatterbox and probably keeping her from sleeping peacefully, I did tell her I was worried she was in pain and if her pain and stress were unbearable, she didn’t have to fight for her family any more, she needed to do what is best for herself.

I felt her breathing pattern change while I was sleeping at 7:30 am. I propped up onto my elbow to look at her face, she took two more short breaths and then peacefully relaxed. I just cuddled her and cried. I kept her company and held her until her parents and sister arrived so we could all say our final goodbyes.

Nobody wants to say goodbye to their most important person in the world, but as far as goodbyes go, it was a nice end to a tragic story.

A story that deserved so many more pages.

So. On this EXACT day, 8 years ago, in fact, in just a couple of hours from now, I asked Louise to marry me.

Extraordinary coincidence.

For those that don’t know. I had a proposal­poem published in a local American newspaper paper and gave her the opened paper to read on­top of one of the most picturesque ski mountains, situated above Lou and I’s favourite little town, which is Telluride, Colorado.

The first 15 verses of the poem are about Telluride, its history and why we love the place so much. The last five verses are more or less the proposal component. The conclusion of the poem reads like this:

We are in many ways different, certain things evoke a disparate connect, for instance, you prefer a cruisy carve, further to the west, your favourite run, Prospect. Where I’m in my element, on the Gold Hill chutes, the mountains ever so steep; but it’s in these words of suggestion that I take a bigger leap.

It’s the dissimilar pieces in our exclusive lives that join us together, so time to commit, and pledge to take care of you forever. I love you all the flakes that cover the Western San Juan, although I never doubted it, you are officially now the one.

There will always be challenges that try to divide, but I have no uncertainty we will conquer, by walking together, step by step, side by side.

So it’s in this setting that I think it’s fitting, do you need to reposition? Perhaps you should be sitting; all I need is both ears a brief moment to listen, for it’s today, right here, right now I have an exciting proposition; if you treasure something, then it should be kept, I am expecting a “yes” here, so you better accept.

Without hesitation, I propose this question, in this magic place, our favourite destination, I shout out loud, will you be my companion? It is echoed throughout this surrounding box canyon. In our favourite little town, Louise Maree DeCelis, I do confide, I am asking you to be my bride, right here, right now, in Telluride!

Firstly, don’t think by publishing a poem in the paper that I’m romantic in any way. This approach allowed me to propose without having to utter a single word. Plus it allowed me to have my full face ski helmet on, as well as skis connected to my feet so I couldn’t take a knee. Ensuring the whole process wasn’t too personal and emotional. I could pop the question, get my “yes” and then execute a bump­run under chair nine.

The main point I want to make from the verses I just read is; the line:

“There will always be challenges that try to divide, but I have no uncertainty we will conquer, by walking together, step by step, side by side.”

Having an immediate family member with a terminal illness is going to be one of the biggest challenges to endure with the potential to divide. Louise and I didn’t have one frictional moment in the last seven months of her life, not one stoush. It may have been much longer than that but

I was very aware of the fact that when her cancer went metastatic, we were, even more, rock-solid. Several doctors or health care professionals specifically asked about my own strain and also about the health of our relationship, it was like they expected our union to be challenged.

When couples pledge their marriage, they promise to look after each other in ‘sickness and in health.’ We gave the “sickness” component of that commitment a good run for its money. The first time Lou stayed with my family in Newcastle eleven years ago, I had just been discharged from a couple of weeks in the hospital and unfortunately, we would continue this theme over the years. Eventually with Lou casting a big shadow over any of my accident/health­related issues, taking on more pain and suffering than anyone I know. And somehow always doing this as she stepped out of a fashion magazine, with beauty and style.

As far as forty­year­old couples go, the fact that we had to care, feed and bathe each other due to injury or sickness, and we only grew stronger was a testament to our committed and undiluted love for each other.

I am proud of that.

We also conquered side­by­side too. Her looks combined with her personality and heart ensured we got beautiful children inside and out. Our business (up until two years ago) was a north­pointing trajectory of success. We were happy people that made the most of our opportunities.

If you had asked me before I started working with Louise in our own business; “would you work with your wife?” I would have said “no thanks.” But when Lou was on bed rest for over a month with Evie, she was bored and asked if she could help with anything. I gave her a bunch of tasks to do and she ploughed through them way more efficiently than I ever could. I kept giving her more work that she did it with ease.

Within a month or so, even when Evie was fresh on the ground, I basically said; “you’re the boss of my business now, I will move into a functional role and you can be in charge.

Hey, I’d already done that in the family home many years before, so it only made sense to do it at work too.

In my wedding speech (and I thank Lynda for retrieving it from the bin at the reception on our wedding night, and I also I thank Jon for collecting it yesterday afternoon from Lynda’s so I could find some writing inspiration for this eulogy)

The majority of the speech was based around a key theme: ‘Family and Friends’:

And I will read a few sentences out from my wedding speech, verbatim: So this is what I said on the 20th April 2012.

“One of the biggest wins for Lou and I, is the assimilation of our own family and friends, the unification, gelling, integration and diffusion of both sides.

The biggest asset we have among our friendships, and as a group, is the support and encouragement we offer each other. Even when we are unaware we are giving it.”

My wedding speech continues with……..

“Unfortunately, life doesn’t always go to plan. Marriages may fail, people get sick, economies and poor decisions may bankrupt some of us or at worst we lose people close to us. We will be thrown speed bumps or mountains to climb, most importantly it’s not necessarily the material success achieved that mitigates such hurdles, it’s the family success that is the underlying strength. I have no doubt that this key ingredient is the core connector that brings quality people together, like this congregation here today. (which was the wedding congregation)

It continues….

I wholeheartedly thank all of my friends, my closest friends which is you, for your friendship.”

…………………………….

Now. I didn’t have all of you at my wedding but the message and the wholehearted thank you, to my friends and Lou’s friends is the same today, for this congregation of Lou’s village, as it was on our wedding day 7 years ago.

I have been getting genuine and overwhelmingly positive feedback from friends and family on the way I handled our ugly cancer journey, how I supported Lou and how I was even an inspiration through my supportive effort in her fight.

The truth is, I couldn’t have done it without you. I know I have thanked everyone multiple times in my blog and fundraiser video speeches but I would like to thank you in person today. The only reason I could put all the energy I could muster, into Louise and the kids while she went to war with cancer, is because of everyone here. The collective support of small and large never­ending gestures, from all of you, enabled me to give Louise, Noah and Evie the undivided attention needed to make our best attempt of winning.

Louise, the kids and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts. No matter how small or large the gesture may have been, the collective force of everyone’s love here today, truly carried us.

I will get around to thanking key people when time prevails. Some people have done some amazing things. For today, I’m just going to thank the McConkey family.

Another paragraph in my wedding speech that was addressed to John and Elysia, said;

“Who else would let me walk into their house, severely hungover, eat all their food, sleep on the couch for a few hours, not say a single word and just leave?”

……………..

Well, there are three of us doing that now (the kids drink less booze and they talk a little more) but we’re so fortunate we have a home and family that is an extension of our own. This is not just a thank you for the support of Louise and I during our fight but I am thanking you for the role you have already enthusiastically taken on board, which is bumping your immediate family numbers from six to nine.

Noah has already confused a lot of people, and this even before Lou go sick, when someone says; “do you have any brothers or sisters Noah? And Noah starts counting in his hands; Joshua, Sadie, Billie, Evie, Georgie…..

Thank you to John, Elysia, Sadie, Billie and Georgia for being the family we need to survive this tough time.

The only other person I have time to thank today is my wife, Louise.

Before Lou Lou got sick, I would question her ticker. The main reason for this is that she really didn’t like physical exercise. In fact, Lou has left us and I have never actually seen what her run looked like.

Lou had quite a unique walk. I never told her this, by the way, it wouldn’t have been worth my trouble. But I always wondered what her run would look like. I guess It’s something I will never know.

When she got sick she showed bravery and heart that I now emulate and have been inspired by. Any doubts I had on her mental strength were squashed. I knew she had strength in her when she chose to take on Noah and Evie’s birth without any pain relief.

But her fight against cancer was another level. While she fought so hard for all of us, I know her biggest motivator was her children. She did everything in her power to fight for them. Everything. She tried so hard.

I mentioned all the torture and suffering that Lou endured in one if my fundraising videos. It pains me today and I will forever feel anguish over the suffering she absorbed. She always kept fighting. She fought to the very last breath.

Louise never said, “why me?” She thought her situation was extremely cruel to the kids but she never questioned the unfairness of the ugly disease. She just got on with it.

Noah and Evie, you will probably get fed up with everyone here telling stories about your mum’s courage and how much she loved you and how hard she tried to stay on this earth to care for you until you had kids of your own. The love she had for you was impenetrable and immense.

Louise; You always told me that you wanted to die first and that you didn’t want to live any days without me. I know you didn’t mean it this early but I am so glad you are free from torment, pain, suffering and emotional torture.

I thank you for the short time that we had, the unconditional love that you gave me, the beautiful children that you gifted me.

I thank you for crafting me into a much more mature and sensible person. You somehow cultivated this by having me grow into a father I am proud to be, somewhere diluting my wild streak but still letting me be me.

Lou,

Noah, Evie’s and my life will never be the same. You are irreplaceable. But the bravery we have inherited from the example that you demonstrated, will be enough for us to make it as a family of three (nine). To beat the odds. To not just survive but eventually thrive as individuals that are respected by everyone we come in contact with. Just as you achieved in your short but impactful life.

Beautiful warrior, I love you, Elysia and Jon love you, your mum and dad love you, Noad and Evie love you, your family, friends and village love you.

Rest in peace, my love.

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