Operation Ginger Send off: The life and misadventures of Shane Wilson
Last week one of my best friends died.
I feel I let him down. I feel I should have done more.
Today we held his final party.
With his mum I wrote his story.
I read this Eulogy to friends and family.
The Misadventures of the Ginger Smurf
On behalf of Shane’s mum Gai, his grandfather Paul, aunt Liz, Graham, Mikey, Adrian and all his friends and family I thank you for coming today and celebrating the life of our cheeky little Ginger Smurf. Gai asked if I would help her tell Shane’s story today, so we combined our powers, and our times with him, to bring the best of him to you.
Before I do though I’d like to take a moment to thank her. Gai this week you’ve welcomed Graham, Mikey and I into your heart and to be part of this difficult and personal journey. You’ve trusted us to drive Operation Ginger Send off, as we dubbed it, and look after you – and no, we’re not sorry for the amount of times we’ve said “EAT!”. We’ve laughed, cried sworn and tried to guess the purpose of so many gadgets and remote controls together, and we are all amazed by your strength. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your son’s, and our friend’s, last party.
Now for anyone who’s ever been to a party, dinner, Christmas or even just a movie with Shane, you probably know that “on time” was not his greatest skill. When planning this last week we joked about him being late for his own service… none of us thought he actually would be. As he’s proven just now with his late arrival, consistency really is key. Just quietly, i think it’s time for a new habit mate. Way back in 1985, expected on 1st of June, he even kept his mother waiting… for about 2 weeks until he finally joined her on June 14. So for Shane, running late really was a lifelong habit.
Although he kept his mother waiting, like he did many of us, he was worth every second her 32 hour labour, and the time we spent with him.
At a whopping 9 pound 8 ounces, he was the biggest baby in the hospital, and just because he had to stand out, he was the only boy. Attention seeking was literally something he was born into. One way to create attention as a child is of course to throw a tantrum. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a ginger throw a tantrum, but Gai tells me the firey spirit is real.
Shane’s biggest tantrums were when he wasn’t winning. Whether it was Ten Pin Bowling, Monopoly or gaming if he wasn’t #1, everyone saw the ginger snap. With a face redder than his hair and his baby blues streaming with tears, he’d follow his mother around, throw himself in front of her, arms and legs flailing about and raise the roof. He made sure that there was no escape, and that his point was clearly made.
Being an only child there is a lot you can get away with; like demanding your mother iron your pyjamas, sending your mother to bed just because you have to go and refusing to eat unless your mum holds your bottle –even though you’re old enough and perfectly capable. I think we’ve all been subject to that dry, sarcastic wit that comes with a sparkle in the eye and cheeky smile. Life and friendship is built on good banter, and Shane’s was up there with the best of us.
He was more that just his getaway smile though. Growing up in humble beginnings south of Wollongong, he made his mother proud by rising above a tough environment and evolving into the ginger we all loved. One achievement that Gai is most proud of is his graduation from the University of Wollongong. Determined to succeed, he was already ahead of the game and working at APRA before his graduation, no easy feat in the world of finance.
From his first statistics class at uni he was hooked on numbers. He had a love of Microsoft excel that frankly… was a bit extreme. I did my best not to judge his passion for a good pivot table or formula, but yeah it was a bit weird mate. I was thankful for his HD’s and teachers pet high marks though, I can barely use the SUM function so it’s handy having a numbers nerd on call. With that love of stats he did apply to work at the ABS but didn’t get in. He was disappointed but I’m glad he didn’t, because we would never have met.
Proud as she was of Shane, one of the toughest days of Gai’s life was when he excitedly packed his bags and headed to Sydney to start the next chapter of his life. As she discovered when she got home, he’d also packed her pots, pans and cupboards.
I’ve been told that at uni, being a ranga wasn’t his greatest joy. High school scars us all I guess; but as he found his feet in Sydney, it’s safe to say he found his ginger pride, embracing it wholeheartedly, claiming it as his own. He didn’t really like other gingers, he liked to be the only one at the party. They were a threat to his stand out feature, luckily for him, dance floors have podiums. As Shane learnt at birth, there is always another way to stand out.
One of my favourite tricks was to introduce him to other gingers, he’d be polite but you knew he was squirming inside. Having to have the last word, of course, as they’d walk away he say in that perfectly dry tone “he’s not ginger, that’s just strawberry blonde”
I’m not going to lie, it’s been a tough week but the love and stories you’ve shared from his childhood, school, uni, his pre beard days (as I call them) and the Potts Point years have helped Gai to see how much Shane was loved by so many and made the week just that bit more bearable. We look forward to hearing many more later.
The things I loved most about Shane were his bubble of personality; the traits we shared including our humour, princess tendencies that only only children can understand.. and shoe size; and the way he cared for his friends. A few of us were lucky enough to share his 30th birthday with him earlier this year and experience that wonderful quality one last time.
As he heads off to the only thing that he’s ever been too early for in his life, I’ll remember the big hearted kid, exploring it all, throwing shade and laughing along with a cheeky smile.
See you next lifetime Ginger Smurf, you’re in our hearts forever.
Tonight, i’m still crying.