Monday, February 20, 2006

Pers: On putting the dead to rest

Kerry Packer had told someone that "the day his father, Frank Packer, died was the happiest of his life".
Kerry Packer was the richest man in Australia. He died on 26th December 2005, apparently deciding his time had come, and not to fight it anymore. He received a "taxpayer-funded" memorial service at Sydney Opera House. Why? Any government would do it for the most money-powered man in the country. I have my doubts it would survive a taxpayer vote, though (at last count, 72% said no in an informal poll)*. In his absence, it's likely others would have filled his niche, quite possibly with less venality.
Why rejoice over his father's death? I came up with two reasons:
1) Getting free hands on the money/power; or
2) Resenting his father's control over him.
- however, the posting below suggests a history of emotional and physical violence played a part. That certainly makes reconciliation more difficult.
Yet there remains a certain poverty of spirit. If you have a problem with your father, simple: get out from under him. As soon as you're old enough. If you lust after his money or power, think more deeply: that’s not what life is about. Getting out of his shadow can be healing. For yourself, and for the relationship.
I have to give some credit here to Lachlan Murdoch, son of Rupert. Recently he did an about face, returning to Sydney and leaving his father’s large, dark shadow behind.

My father died on 1st February, 2006. All my family has had problems with him, no question about that. But for me, that was long ago and far away; time and distance have helped in the healing. Now is the time to acknowledge the small positives.

Until recently, I thought that death was for the living, and what mattered was those left behind. If this is true, I shouldn’t care who goes to a funeral - we all travel through our own set of feelings, be it a long journey, a circuit or outright convolution.
However, I now find I care more than expected, and I don’t easily know why. I do know that whatever ill I do between now and death, I would like some appreciation, acknowledgement for what was good in me, in what I had done in the past. I think there's always room for that.
Sometimes lack of healing gets in the way.

I spoke some words at a meeting of his Quaker friends, in memorial. In preparing my thoughts, I was trying to be positive – honest and positive. Others mentioned good little things about him. But afterwards, I realised my words were not all I’d expected. They sound like I was enumerating only indirect benefits of his life, and little inherently positive.

I did what I had to do, once around the world and I was about to do it a second time. But yes, it's a very personal experience. You can't travel for someone else, and you can't tell someone else to make the journey.

*Here's another perspective on the Packer funeral, from Richard Walsh. Certainly not what I'd have expected from a long-time Packer executive.

1 comment:

RadiantDay said...

Frank Packer treated his sons appallingly, with frequent beatings or ignoring the two boys altogether. Kerry Packer was sent to boarding school at five, not soon after contracted polio etc etc "until you've walked a mile in my moccasins..." Indian proverb