You were born in 1936 and had met Bill when you were in your early twenties. He was a little older. You braved society's intolerances and dared to love. You found yourselves traveling overseas in a Morris Minor van/kombi van. You were two young men from working class backgrounds travelling europe and sleeping on a mattress in the back of the van. I recently heard that on that trip you and Bill had suits kept under the mattress, to keep them pressed so that you could attend evenings at the opera or theater in style. I wasn't surprised at hearing that, in fact I smiled from ear to ear, it was so you. Many years later upon returning back to Australia, you brought a house together and made it your home. You had so many wonderful stories and whenever you shared any of them with me, you glowed as did I. Your joy was infectious. I hoped that I would one day have as wonderful memories to share.
Stan, you have been such a significant person in my life. You generously gave me honest and sage like advice. You laughed alongside of me, you encouraged me, you showed real interest in my life and where I was heading. You comforted me over my own relationship struggles. You made me realise how we all have to work at things in a relationship, how we have to compromise and that you must never, never forget to have fun. You gave me tips on the what and the how. You told me things like, "when you can, wink or smile at your partner across a crowded room" or "when you can, wherever you are, steal a touch or gently squeeze his hand". You told me that it was important to make the man I loved feel special and important. You shared what you and Bill had done for each other. You told me that it will get tough at times and be hard, but you work at it. You said that if you value the relationship and your partner, that if you really loved them, then you will put the effort in. I guess that's why you and Bill were together for fifty years, with death the only force powerful enough to separate you, at least for now. You always said that before you died, you wanted to see me attached and happy. I loved your support of me and I drank it up. You were a friend, a mentor, a grand fatherly figure, a gentle man and a gentleman. Everything about you was as genuine as it was generous.
As you became sicker, I kept meaning to visit. On one of the few visits I did make, you played me Nilsson's 'Without you'. You sang along and told me that you missed Bill. Tears welled up in both of our eyes.
When I visited you in hospice, you said that before you died, you wanted to thank me for my friendship and for being in your life, Though I had practiced my thanks to you all the way in to the hospice, I lamely replied "and the same to you", I may as well have said 'ditto' or "right back at ya!". I don't know why I was at a loss for words, as I had so much to say in response. You had done so much for me, been a role model for me to aspire to. You still are. When I stood waiting for the tram after leaving the hospice, for some unknown reason I started singing 'Amazing grace' and cried. I turned my back to the traffic to hide my tears. I wanted to go back inside to tell you how important you are to me and that I loved you, but I didn't want to make this all about me. You were dying, you were in pain and you had long known how I felt about you.
I am saddened that you are gone, not just for me, but for all those that will never get to meet you and be blessed by having such an amazing man in their lives. You are from a time of manners, a time of grace, graciousness, humility and family. You manged to carry those values into the present and to share them with us all. You modeled them for us and reminded us of their importance and of the need of them still in todays world. All the while when I was with you, you laughed, you smiled and your blue eyes twinkled. I am comforted in knowing that your pain has ended and more importantly, that you and Bill are reunited.
Stan, thank you for being a kind and generous human being and for being my friend. Men like you are few and far between. In the time you have been with us, you have brought happiness to many. You have lent a kind ear and given many an encouraging word. You have been kind. Because of you, I am a better person. Because of you, I want to become an even better person still. You are in my heart and I'll never forget you.
matthew laurence schiavello.
"What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life,
and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.
All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier."
(Extract from section six of Walt Whitman's 'Song of myself'.)