The line that stands out in the song for me is “all and all it seems to go, but you don’t know what you got till it’s gone”.
Such was the case of a good friend of mine, Mick Robbins. We had only met a half a dozen times, but he still felt like a really good friend. Part of it was the fact that we had both spent a good portion of our lives working in the building industry. Mick was a brickie and I was a carpenter, although I have laid the odd brick or two.
The carpenter I did the greater portion of my time with was also a bricklayer, so within a few years, I was laying bricks, but never in Mick’s category. Mick loved his work and the builders who used him swore by him, at least that’s what I found out later.
A few weeks ago, I traveled down to Wagga Wagga to attend Mick Robbin’s funeral.
Mick was two years younger than me. Cancer is no respecter of persons. Sixty-two is early for a man to die these days. The average man in Australia now dies at 82.6 ears, so Mick died twenty years too soon if you go on that statistic.
Shakespeare said, “The evil that men do lives after them but the good is often interred with their bones”. Many times, at funerals the bones speak loudly and the good can be heard by one and all. Such was the case with Mick.
One of the men who gave a eulogy was a tall lanky bloke called ‘Bird”. Here is part of what he said:
“Mick has been a friend for around 45 years and it was often just Mick, Lyn and myself knocking around together in the early days.
I was a bit of a tear-away when I was younger, but Mick and Lyn always extended their hand to me when needed. I looked up to Mick, even though he was only a year older and a lot shorter because of his level headedness and his ability to always make the right decisions in life.
I always thought that if I could be half as good as Mick, then I was doing okay. Sometimes we wouldn’t speak for 6 months or so but never felt that we ever drifted apart.
I watched Mick and Lyn raise a wonderful family and it was always a good time when we all got together.”
One thing that Bird said really struck me. He said that when Mick met his then girlfriend, Mick told him in no uncertain terms, “She’s a keeper Bird. You’ve got to settle down and get married now”. Bird told me later that Mick’s words not only saved his marriage but also saved his life. I guess it was the tears that gave his truth away.
After Bird spoke a beautiful brunette got up to share. Surrounded by her siblings we heard the bones speak again:
“Mum and Dad started going out when they were 15 years old, then after ten years Mum’s dad took Dad (Pop) to the pub and asked him when he was going to marry his daughter. The first thing that came to his mind was Easter (that way he would never forget the date). So that’s what he told Mums dad, and then Pop came home and said to Mum ‘guess what pet, you’re going to get married’.
Even though we were loved, Dad always made it really clear to us that Mum was his favourite, he called her his sweetheart. They were like two peas in a pod.
Cuppa every afternoon (beer in summer) Mum put it in the freezer 30min before dad got home. If we came out the front we were told to go away. It was their time to chat and catch up.
Every Valentine’s Day Dad would pick Mum a rose from the garden and make her a cup of tea and put it next to her bed before leaving for work.
He always said the best thing about his day was seeing Mum when he got home
Mum would tuck Dad into bed every single night. Even when they weren’t speaking, Dad would still let mum know he was going to bed and she would tuck him in.
The truth is, Mum and Dad really loved each other for better or worse.
The four of us got together this week to talk about what we wanted to share about Dad. We had so many stories, so many funny times and great memories, but more than anything it was some of Dad’s simple character traits that we really loved and will miss the most.
Dad had a strong presence that always made you feel safe.
He was full of integrity, and taught us about responsibility, honesty and a good work ethic.
We all knew that honesty and telling the truth was important. You could get away with a lot of things in the Robbins household, but if you got caught lying…whistle…LOOK OUT!
Dad always made sure we were ok.
On the day of Bec’s wedding Dad had just been through 3 rounds of chemo but he was determined to make sure Bec had the best wedding, walking her down the aisle, doing a great wedding speech and staying until the end.
When Angela was little, she had an asthma reaction to a beautiful jasmine tree in the back yard. Within 24 hours Dad had ripped out the entire tree.
At one point there was talk that someone dodgy had just moved into the units down the road, so Dad drilled my bedroom window shut because it faced onto the street. As in, it was no longer possible to open the window.
He tech-screwed Bec’s P plates onto the bumper of her car so she wouldn’t get fined if they accidently fell off, not onto the number plates, directly onto the bumper. He showed Bec and she was very grateful. Sort of, not really.
Also, Dad was quick to offer to throw a brick at Brett’s ex-girlfriend’s house after a recent break up. He wouldn’t really do that, but it was Dad’s gesture of loyalty.
We had great dad. And we know we did.
In the last few weeks I had some special times with Dad.
I know the other kids also had their own treasured moments with Dad. So did the rest of his family and some good mates.
We have put together some photos of Dad’s great life, so get your tissues out.”
That beautiful brunette was my daughter-in-law and I can testify that every word she spoke was true.
In the last few weeks of his life Mick had an encounter with his heavenly Father. We all have to meet Him some day, but it’s much better to meet Him this side of glory.
After that the love just kept oozing out of Mick. His big burley building mates would come over to visit him. With only a few weeks to go he was flat on his back and couldn’t get off the couch. Mick told them, “Bend down and give me a hug”. They would do so and leave the house bawling their eyes out.
In a way he was preparing them for his death and helping them grieve. Big ‘Bird’ was one of those men. Love is a powerful thing and when it gets hold of you your bones will speak, especially through your children.
Work on being a no-nonsense man like Mick was. Love one woman till you die. Create the time you need to keep love alive with your wife like Mick did. Your children will see it and know it and feel loved too. One day they will speak at your funeral and you can’t argue with bones full of love.
Warwick Marsh has been married to Alison Marsh since 1975; they have five children and nine grandchildren, and he and his wife live in Wollongong in NSW, Australia. He is a family and faith advocate, social reformer, musician, TV producer, writer and public speaker.
Warwick is a leader in the Men’s and Family Movement, and he is well-known in Australia for his advocacy for children, marriage, manhood, family, fatherhood and faith. Warwick is passionate to encourage men to be great fathers and to know the greatest Father of all. The Father in Whom “there is no shadow of turning.”
The Fatherhood Foundation Incorporated trading as Dads4Kids is a Harm Prevention Charity listed under Subdivision 30_EA of the Australian Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 with Tax Deductible Status (DGR) for donations
Dads4Kids – Building Men. Growing Fathers. Changing Generations.