A Warm Fire and an Open Book

Many years ago we lived on the south coast of New South Wales, in a cottage which was only a stone’s throw from the ocean. The summers were beautiful, hot and humid during the day, but as the sun went down so did the temperature, which meant the nights were nearly always comfortable. We spent those days at the beach, eating cold meats and salad, taking bush walks. Our hair was bleached from the sun; our skin was golden, even though we lathered sunscreen over ourselves.

But this memory relates to a cold winter’s night, when the wind was howling outside, shaking the windows with anger, and rain pelted against the glass trying to force its way inside.

Oblivious to the horrid conditions outside, three people lived inside the cottage. Those people were Barry, Gary and myself. While the storm threatened endlessly outside, we were snug, warm and content inside. The combustion heater roared and a huge pile of cut wood stood piled neatly on the hearth.

Gary and I sat near the fire, in silence, each absorbed in a book. We had been quiet for some time, reading. The silence between us was a comfortable one. I remember looking up as Barry wandered into the room. He paused for a moment, and then disappeared into his bedroom. Moments later he reappeared, book in one hand, dragging a chair with the other. The chair was usually used in his bedroom so that he was comfortable when he sat playing games on the Playstation. This night he had other plans, he had decided to join me and Gary in front of the fire.

He positioned the chair, sat down and opened his book. None of us spoke. We all smiled at each other before lowering our eyes to our books. Barry read a Goosebumps book. I read Tomorrow When the War Began. Gary read a book written by Jeffrey Archer.

That was the beginning of a new routine. Every night, we came together around the fire and read quietly. It was a peaceful time that I’ll never forget.

Of course, new routines come and go and this one was pushed aside with the coming of spring, when a warm fire was no longer needed. Then we all started a new routine. But that’s another story, for another time.

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Four Years Later People Still Remember

Some people will forget over time or will let the memories fade. There are many reasons for this but the main one is self preservation. I know it will happen and I accept it. Other people will never forget, even if they wanted to. For instance, there are images etched into my older son’s memory that he doesn’t want to remember, but they are there to stay. And then there are those who were closest to Barry who never want to forget and are scared that his image may slip from their memories. I fall into this category.

Barry played a part in many people’s lives. He may have only touched some lives briefly, yet with others he left a lasting impression. The one thing I’ve come to accept is that everyone who knew him, remembers him differently to me. Although I am his mother, I accept that I didn’t know every part of his personality. He didn’t want me to know every side of him. He kept his secrets, just like I keep mine. That realisation was hard for me to acknowledge at first, but in reality I’m aware that we don’t show everyone the same face. The Barry I knew is not the same Barry his mates knew, who is not the same Barry as his girlfriends knew, who is not the same Barry as a stranger met. Barry, like everyone, was complex and that’s exactly how it should be. That’s what makes us human.

But what has this got to do with the title of this post? Everything.

We lost Barry four years and five days ago. For me, it was a time of sadness with the main question being – what would he have been doing today? Would he have been in a serious relationship, married even? What he have had a child by now? Or, would he be living with mates with the world at his feet and fun to be had in every direction? For me, saying I miss him seems silly because how could I not miss my beloved son.

However, in all the sadness, I discovered other people also remember and miss him. Of course, I had hoped this was true but to have it confirmed was like taking the best medicine available when you’re sick as a dog and then feeling almost healthy again. It gladdened my heart. Yes, it brought tears to my eyes but it’s OK to cry. In fact, I believe it’s a good source of release and encourage it.

Below are a collection of excerpts of the tributes made on 18 May 2010:

barry, i just watched ur video, and i nearly cried over it but it brought back so many great memories, i wish u were still hear to be with ur family and friends, we all miss u so very much, when ever i was down u seemed to make me happy and smile again with ur stupid jokes and laughter…

Daniel, Barry’s brother

My friend and my brother! Havent been the same person since u left. Miss u bazza! Love ur best mate matt.

Matt

♥ ♥ Miss u Barry… I wish u were still with us, i will never forget you. ♥ ♥ ♥

Dusanka

it’s been 4 years today since we lost you and i still miss you every day
your smile will never be forgotten, you truly were a special person.
i know i’ll see you again one day but until then rest in peace little cousin, you will never be forgotten. xx

Stephanie

This is in memory of the good who die young & we look at u now smiling down from above, We no that u see us now, we no u hear us grieve,This lyf is far 2 short already, & u were 2 young 2 leave. U were d best that we’ve eva known,So believe that U’ll stay with us as we now grow alone. If there’s 1 thing we’ll remember …4 now & 4ever after, D thing everyone talks about is ur unending laughter…

Laurinda

4 yrs have past since u left us but not a day goes past wen i dont think of u….love u always n forever……kuni n heffa foreva

Natalee

I can barely type as the tears well up just thinking about you today Barry. We are all the richer for having known you and now the sadder for having lost you. The memory of you lives on in all of us and we miss you very much.

Lyn

You were an awsome person, a great friend. And always fun to b arround. It was a plesure knowing u, youre one of a kind, RIP my lil friend 🙂 Thinking of you………..

Nada

4 years has past but there will be one memory i will never forget and dat was meetin u bazza…….greatest bloke to know and a champion of a friend. never forgotten u baz m8 RIP

Matt

I can’t believe it has been 4 years… It seems like yesterday we were walkin thru the plaza with Barry on a Thursday night yelling out stupid shit embarrasing each other…

Blake

Its been 4 years bazza but still i see you everyday , you were a great mate and allways will be there isnt a day that goes past where i dont laugh at something cuz it reminds me of you…

Shane

Rest In Peace Bazza and we’ll have a drink together, the day we meet again.

Joshua

4 years baz, i dont even have words to type, not one person u met didnt smile. u were my mate and still are my mate, 4eva, i will never forget u and the memories we hold…

Chris

4 years ago already. Feels like just yesterday we were all back at school mucking up and socializing with each other. Words can’t explain how much we all do miss u Barry but we all no we will see each other again one day…

Dave

Living Memories

When my children were growing up we were never in a position to purchase a video camera. Such an object was considered a luxury that we simply could not afford and by the time our situation changed, it was too late, as the boys were much older and didn’t want a video camera shoved in their faces every time they moved. And I have to admit that neither did I.

My brother, although only two years younger than me, started a family a number of years later and he was eager to, and able to, document the growth of his daughters. Naturally, being a family, that spilled over to my sons.

Last Christmas, my brother presented me with a DVD as a memento of Barry’s life…and his first Christmas in heaven. I was unable to watch the DVD at the time and put it away for another time. On Saturday, the time to watch it came.

I sat in the bedroom and watched it on my laptop (I was supposed to be working). When Gary discovered me hiding away, he grew anxious…concerned that the living memories would upset me. I quickly promised to turn the DVD off if that were to happen.

It didn’t.

For two hours I sat and watched the passing fashions in clothes and hair styles with amusement. I smiled as pets that are no longer with us nosed their way into the spot light, their tails wagging and with their big brown eyes and cute faces. I laughed as a younger version of me moved about looking like a complete drip. And, more importantly, I laughed and smiled at the sight of my gorgeous little boys as they talked, played and interacted with other family members.

We were never well off, but the DVD brought back some memories which proved we always were capable of making our own fun. Here are a couple of photos to prove it. They were taken in my parent’s backyard on Father’s Day in September 1992. We had such fun that day. The looks on our faces in the second photo is priceless.

Father's Day 1992

Father's Day 1992

Parents lose their children early in life. As soon as they reach the teen years, the youngsters are moving away from their parents emotionally and the parents suffer a sense of loss then. This is nature’s way of preparing a family for separation, when the child (now a young adult) moves out of home. I believe this is the reason I was able to watch the DVD without getting upset. I had already dealt with the loss of my little boy, now I have to deal with the loss of the man he had grown into.

Within minutes of watching the DVD, we had a visitor arrive. I stood talking about the images that were fresh in my mind, telling stories to a visitor who actually never met Barry, but the visitor smiled and said I looked happy and it was good to see. In grief, we know when it’s the right time to move forward. We cannot make that move unless we are truly ready. I’m ready to start sifting through Barry’s life and documenting it. And that will be my next project.

On Saturday night, I climbed into bed and turned the light out. As soon as the room plunged into darkness, the tears spilled down my face. This shocked me, because I truly felt alright leading up to that moment, but obviously the wound is not healed and I needed to shed some tears before I could fall asleep and that’s what I did. A few minutes past, I wiped the tears away and whispered goodnight to Barry and then I closed my eyes and drifted off into the world of dreams.

Even with the tears, I feel the DVD will become an important part of my future. In truth, I would give everything I own if it meant I could have Barry back, but that isn’t the way things work. I have to be content with the memories, living (video images) and still (photos). With the approaching of Barry’s birthday and the placement of his ashes on that day, I feel it’s important to focus on Barry’s life…not his death. This is the way forward for me. Life.

Photographs and Memories

I found the following photograph and comment on Gary’s Floralscape account. It says everything I can’t say right now for fear of breaking apart.

Karen & Gary

Comment by Gary:

This photo was taken on the 17th May, 2006. We were trying out Karen’s new camera.

We were celebrating breaking a 6 month diet. Karen had lost 14 kilo and I had lost 24 kilo and we were looking forward to a new, bright future.

Little did we know that the next evening on the 18th we would receive a phone call that would see our world come tumbling down around us and change our lives completely.

Barry, Karen’s 18 year old son had taken his own life.

Leading up to the anniversary of your short life Barry, we want you to know that we love you, we miss you every day, we never stop talking about you and you will always be a part of our lives.

May Peace be upon you my dear friend for all eternity.

Edit 12 May 2007: Gary decided to delete the photo and comment from his flickr account, so I have uploaded the photo to mine instead. However, the original comment can no longer be seen.

King of the Road

By accident, I found myself listening to a song that brought back memories tonight – King of the Road by Roger Miller.

Many years ago, Barry stayed with his Nan and Grandad for a week. Both his father and I had to work, Daniel returned to school after the long Christmas break, but Barry’s school had another week off. We didn’t feel comfortable leaving Barry at home on his own, so he stayed with his grandparents (who, at the time, lived three hours away).

Grandparents spoil their grandchildren. Everyone knows this. It’s their job. Whatever isn’t allowed at home is suddenly okay. My parents didn’t want Barry to be bored, so they entertained him the best they could. Barry was allowed to stay up late. He gave my mother lessons on the Nintendo (he loved watching her scream with laughter). They bought scratchies and let him do the scratching – even though he was only ten and scratchies are considered betting. He kept winning small amounts of money, which was promptly used to get more tickets. They played cards and I’m told that Barry won way too often – much to his grandparent’s annoyance. And Barry and his grandfather learned a dance routine.

When we drove to my parents for the weekend, to pick Barry up, they put on a performance for us. They each had their own section of dance and song. They had us in stitches with laughter. The resemblance between the two of them was amazing, even though there was a fifty year age gap. The whole family sang the chorus at the top of their voices and believe me, this would have made the neighbours miserable, because we can’t sing and we are all tone deaf.

On returning home, Barry drove me crazy with “Grandad said…” or “Nan let me…” or “I was allowed over Nan and Grandad’s, why aren’t I allowed now.” I had words with my parents about that (jokingly). They just laughed and told me they had done their job well.

King of the Road became a favoured song. Every time we heard it, we would all break into song and then laugh until our stomachs hurt.

Hearing the song tonight made me remember…and it made me smile. Did it make you smile too, Barry?

The Letters

Before Barry left this world, he went through his things and threw a lot of stuff out. Why? Did he want to save me the trouble? Did he dislike the thought of his family rummaging through his things? We will never know.

We do know that he chose carefully how he would go about his job. To anyone who walked into his room, nothing was amiss. Nothing had changed. But if that person delved deeper, and opened a drawer, they (meaning us; meaning me) would more than likely find the drawer empty. Obviously, I never went through his drawers, because I had no idea what he had done and what he was planning. I respected his privacy.

The few drawers with something left inside were few – his underwear and socks; some magazine pictures of his ideals Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnny Depp and Jennifer Love Hewitt (from his younger days); a pencil case and some lolly wrappers (which I haven’t been able to throw away), and a few other small items.

All the important items, apart from the things I had in a folder kept elsewhere and the things on show in his bedroom, had been trashed.

When he went to England with his dad, Barry and I exchanged a few letters. As it happened, a few months prior to Barry’s death, I came across the letters Barry had written to me. I remember telling Barry about them. He seemed surprised that I had kept them and asked if he could see them.

He never gave them back, but I wasn’t concerned. Not then, because I didn’t know what was going on in his head and what would soon happen .

Three months later, Barry was gone and so was most of the things in his room. I remembered the letters and got upset because I no longer had those personal words he had written just for me.

A month after losing Barry, while searching my room for something else, I found a strange envelope. I had never seen the envelope before. Upon opening it, I found four letters inside – the two I had sent to Barry and the two he had sent to me all those years ago when he was in England.

Barry had known I would treasure those letters forever. I had already proven myself in that regard. Just as he proved to me he cared, because he also had kept my letters, even though he didn’t tell me at the time.

Barry was careful in his planning, he was good at keeping secrets, and he broke my heart with his actions, but he showed me that he cared enough to not throw away those letters when he placed them somewhere he knew I’d find them when the time was right. I’ll be forever grateful for that.

A Friend’s Memory

Yesterday, I invited you to Meet the Family. Afterwards, I settled back and went through the photos on both sites. A trip down memory lane, as they say.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered two comments had been made on my photos. Both were made long ago and I apologise to Fiona and Deborah for not acknowledging their words. I only found them yesterday. This is an area where Flickr could improved its service, I believe.

Anyway, Fiona, a friend of Barry’s left a memory in her comment and I am honoured to share that with you today. Below is a photo of Fiona and Barry together at a party. This photo was in Barry’s personal collection on his computer. Under the photo you’ll be able to read Fiona’s comment.

Thank you, Fiona, for sharing this with me and thank you for that last sentence…it brought tears to my eyes.

FionA aNd BaRRy

Hi, im fiona, thats me in the photo with Barry. Ive been reading your blogs for a few weeks now, so I thought Id tell you about this night. In this photo we were at Leesas party, which Barry invited me to. Before we went there I told him to make sure he didnt leave me by myself because I wouldnt know that many people, and he said he wouldnt. He did stay with me most of the night, except for when he and Matt went to get his car to drive around but he told me he would come back and get me once he got his car. And he did. So Barry and Matt came back and picked up Karina, Nicole and myself. We drove around for a while, even going to Mt druitt..not sure why we went there though! We then headed back to Leesas as i had to get back to the party in time for when my mum picked me up..I still have the message he sent me that night after the party saying ”See i didnt dog you, im a nice guy” and he was a nice guy. haha i got a message from him a few days after the party saying someone asked him if i was his girlfriend because they saw us together..it was pretty funny. I’ll always remember him as a fun happy guy. I remember when I used to always see him at the plaza when i was in about yr8 and I thought he was one of the funniest boys! You raised a great young man who could make anyone laugh.

Message of Love

We live in the centre of a city. It’s a hive of activity in every direction, yet our street is a dead end, which means it’s usually quiet as only residents have any reason to use the street. At the end of the street is an alley, which takes residents around to the main shopping area of our city. The alley is paved and we walk through there often. For me, it is at least once a week. For Gary, three or four times a week. And for Daniel, he walks through that alley every day.

Imagine my surprise when one rainy day, Gary and I were running along the path trying to make it to shelter when I suddenly noticed something I had never seen before. Something I had walked over hundreds of times, but never registered in my mind. A message that was so obviously from Barry, that I still find it difficult to believe that I had not noticed it before.

I think I noticed it this day, because the rain water filled the cracks and made the message stand out tenfold. I remember standing in the rain and staring at my son’s hand writing, months after I had lost him to suicide, a smile spreading across my face.

Barry had defaced Council property, leaving a message of love behind, and I want to share that message with you today.

I-Love-Nat

Nat was Barry’s first girlfriend. Well, the first girlfriend he told me about anyway. And from what Natalee tells me, I believe she was his first, although I know he “liked” other girls prior to asking Natalee out. Barry and Nat were together for about 18 months from the age of 15. He thought the world of her…and her family. And they thought the world of him.

I was grateful then, and I’m grateful now, for the way Natalee’s family “adopted” Barry and made him one of their own. It was a happy time for Barry, which I’m sure he treasured. I saw the difference that association had on him and his confidence. The writing in the pavement is only one reminder of his time with Natalee. Barry wrote his feelings for her in his school books, on his school bag, on his cap, even on his wardrobe (in thick, black, permanent marker – which didn’t go down well with me, at the time).

This morning I pulled out an old shoebox filled with computer disks and upon opening the lid found another “I love Nat” written in chalk on the inside of the lid. It reminded me of the message in the alley and that is why I felt the need to write this post. I’m scared the little reminders will one day disappear, so I need to document them so that I won’t forget.

Here are some photos of Barry and Nat. The one to the left was taken at the Year 10 Formal in 2003 and the one to the right at the Year 12 Formal in 2005. Barry didn’t take Natalee to the Year 12 Formal, he had another girlfriend then, named Tara, but the two girls were friends. The long photo at the bottom of the set shows Tara, Barry and Natalee. I’m told Barry felt like a film star that afternoon, with cameras flashing in every direction and a girl hanging off each arm, so he adopted that “cool” look he was famous for.

Barry & Natalee

Tara, Barry and Natalee

A Tribute to Barry Henderson

Gary has been working hard on our family photos lately. He has been adding different effects, cleaning up the backgrounds, optimising the area used and the quality (where he can). This has taken many hours of work and he has started an online photo album called Floralscape where he shows a small portion of what he has done.

The following photo of Barry has been given a cartoon effect and two people where removed. It came up so well that we had it enlarged and framed. It looks great in the wooden frame and everyone who sees it, comments on how good it looks and how different it is.

Barry Andrew Henderson

And whilst the quality of the next photo isn’t the greatest, I love the photo itself because this is exactly how I saw Barry every day. Happy! Gary took this still from a documentary Barry made for a school project. The video was entitled “Kuni” and if you want to see a series of stills from the video just follow the link (I love looking at these as I can almost see him moving about and laughing – much like the photos in the Harry Potter movies).

Barry Henderson 2004

Switched On

Whilst visiting with my parents today, I made a statement that reminded me that Barry and I shared strong feelings about Christmas, but we were very different when it came to the music we listened to on that special day.

Let’s face it, there are only so many Christmas songs to listen to. For me, I like traditional Christmas music playing in the background. We may hear the same song several times during the day, but it sounds different because each singer tries to make it their own. They give the songs their own special twist – classical, country, rock, instrumental, pop. My favourites are White Christmas and O Holy Night.

Barry enjoyed the same songs, but with a difference. He like them “switched on”. In other words, he liked traditional songs recorded with the modern techno boom boom rhythm behind it. We own a CD called Switched On Christmas. I used to hide it and put on the nice, mellow sounds of Christmas cheer. Barry used to find it and change the soft, mellow sounds to loud, head banging noise! His favourites were Little Drummer Boy and O Holy Night.

I’d let a couple of songs play and then I’d change it back to the mellow. He’d let a few songs play and then he’d change it back to the up-tempo stuff. And we’d continue to do this for most of the day until we were both sick of the songs and, to Gary’s great relief, turned the music off altogether.

Today, I pulled out Switched On Christmas and held it in my hands and thought about Christmas’ past. This year, I guess I won’t have to hide the CD because there’s no one to go hunting for it. But this year, I’ll voluntarily put the CD on and will let a few songs bounce of the walls of the house in memory of Barry.