I have never really thought I had heroes. I remember when I was in high school there was a fad of “friendship books”. It’s kind of funny, because I had only a small group of friends at school but ALL my classmates wanted me in their book because it was a numbers game, and every “friend” was one to add to the total tally of popularity. Anyway, those books all had a query in them about who your hero was. I always put my Aunt, or my Mum, amazing women who deserved it, but I never really even thought I knew what a hero was to me. What makes someone worthy of my admiration? It felt biased and untrue to list my close family. They were my loves, not my heroes.
I realised recently though that I do have heroes. It took losing two of them to know it, realising I was devastated the world had lost them, and even more devastated that I had never had the chance to meet them and express my admiration for them.
Bryce Courtenay and Peter Harvey could count themselves amongst my heroes.
Bryce Courtney was a former marketing man turned award winning novelist who wrote some of the richest and most meaningful Australian tales I have ever read. I haven’t even read a fraction of his work but I think a part of me somehow thought we would meet. Without me even consciously thinking about it I thought I would have the chance to tell him how he inspired me, and I was heartbroken when I realised that was not to be. Mr Courtenay revealed he was dying with stomach cancer in September last year and he was gone less than 2 months later, before I had even a moment to process what was being lost.
Peter Harvey was an Australian journalist, well known for his dry wit, intelligence, integrity, tenacity and deep, rumbling voice. I don’t recall specific moments of him, I just know that he crossed my TV screen many times across my childhood, a warm presence who you stopped and listened to through the disasters, the world events and the investigative news arcs.
Mr Harvey, in recent years, presented the “mail bag” on 60 Minutes and I loved watching him enjoy having the licence to be opinionated, calling idiots for what they were, heroes for what they were, and dropping golden lines such as “I’ve warned you before about the looney left having too much say in running the country…”.
When I read that he had died after a short battle with pancreatic cancer just last month, a literally shed tears standing outside an icecream store in shock. My heroes, I realised, were falling.
This post will not do these men justice. No post that I have seen has. But it will serve as a testament that they were loved and admired and considered heroes. Heroes of literature, journalism, story telling and Australia.
Their deaths have reminded me that life is short. Not just my life, but the lives of those I love and admire, those I idolise and want to recognise. I have other heroes that I have taken for granted that I will one day shake the hand of: John Marsden, Jackie French, Ita Buttrose, Sandra Sully. There may be more I can’t think of now, who I must remember before I get the shock that they have gone before I even tried to meet them.
And last year I was thrilled to meet someone I admire deeply, Mr Jeff Corbett, a journalist come opinion columnist at my local paper the Newcastle Herald. I had interacted with Mr Corbett on and off on the paper’s online blog, and was thrilled to be invited to his house to meet him and the blog regulars for his retirement gathering. He is a great man, strong on opinions and strong on richness of life. I will email him soon for advice on starting my first garden. His is a wonder to behold.
Meeting Jeff, and realising that I would never, ever meet Peter or Bryce, has humbled me and reminded me there are more things to put on bucket lists than mountains to be climbed and planes to be flown.
I have heroes, and they deserve to know what they mean to me. And I deserve to feel the joy of making their acquaintance.