Today is the 16th anniversary of the day we met, 5th January 2001, upstairs at what was then the Opera Bar in Wellington. It seemed right today that I should finally publish the speech I gave at your funeral. It wasn’t my best work, it certainly wasn’t my worst (school speeches anyone), however it was straight from the heart, and the heart knows what it wants to express, and what is dear to it. In saying that, it was incredibly difficult to stand up and deliver these words, in front of all those who loved you. But I so badly wanted to do it, for you, because you deserved the very best we all could offer. And I believe you gave me the strength to get through that shaky and teary few minutes (or was it only seconds?) As did my dad, hovering close by. How lucky am I that so many have my back. So here it is:
The first time I met Nige I ID’ed him.
We almost didn’t meet. It was a friend of his, Joe, that came up to us girls at Opera Bar in Wellington and convinced us all to come upstairs and talk to him and his mates. I was dragging my feet but tagged along. And there, in a now familiar position stretched out in a chair with his feet up, was Nige. He was cute alright but looked far too young for my 26 years. However after some interrogation I viewed his driver’s license and discovered he was 18 months older than me! Great genes. And his denim ones weren’t too bad either.
I remember when I realised this guy was different. Our first date was at the botanical gardens, where I shunned his offer to take me out for a flash dinner and we hung out under the trees drinking red wine and munching on cashew nuts. Poor guys must have been starving! But perhaps secretly glad not to have had to dip into his student bank account. Anyway we were lying there looking up at the trees and I was thinking about what a cool pattern the branches of two neighbouring trees were making when he voiced exactly that opinion. He later on sealed the deal by grabbing my hand and dragging me up to the carter observatory to look at the stars. Anyone who knows me well knows that he couldn’t have chosen a better plan.
I learned so much from Nige during our years together. I was kind of socially awkward and I watched with interest how people were drawn to Nige and how instant connections were made. I began to copy him and lo and behold it worked. Everybody loved Nige. He was just goodness personified and so nice and fun to be with. He just felt like home. Nige was seriously handsome. I remember saying to my friend Kath, “do you think he’s too good looking for me?” I just couldn’t quite believe I had him.
Nige was never one to shy away from things. His was courageous and honest and tackled things head on without fear. I greatly admired him for this. He taught me how to face my fears. He had this wonderful mix of confidence and humbleness that was just irresistible.
We had plenty of ups and downs, both having fiery temperaments and strong minds. But as soon as we had a good shout and it was all out of our systems we’d be drawn back together like magnets. I quite simply could never imagine my life without him in it. And I’m gutted I now have to. We still had so many good times to come and I desperately wanted to grow old with him.
Nige and I had some magical beachy camping holidays, something we tried to do every year, and when we had the kids they came along too. Nige was in his element camping; bare feet, sun, swimming, a lack of timetables, simple food. He loved it all, and I loved it with him.
He was the best father. He tried so hard and loved with such intensity. Liam and Eva meant the world to him and everything he did was ultimately for them. From cuddles and chats with his baby girl to an unwavering commitment to teach Liam everything he knew. He unapologetically and often behind my back spoilt our kids and I am so glad he did. He would have done anything for them.
Nige was proud to buy his first house in Newlands and we had many full years there, with too many gatherings of family and friends to remember. But he was always there, preparing food, lighting candles and carrying out the cake, having a few drinks and a laugh.
He never wanted or expected much from life, just good food, friends, family and enough money to go on holidays and buy ever larger TV sets. He loved to drive and truly no-one was as good at driving as he was. Honestly.
Nige did not read. It did not matter how many books you bought for him this never changed. But he loved movies and we watched them together endlessly. I’m almost sure he has watched every movie ever made.
Nige was smart but he didn’t make a big deal about it. I loved chatting to him about life. I loved chatting to him full stop. We would often have crazy conversations about silly things as we both have a whacky and slightly inappropriate sense of humour. A few nights before he died we had a great night talking and cramping up with laughter. I will treasure it although the memory fades. The result might have been a very odd Facebook profile pic of Nige dressed up as a German eating a mustard covered sausage. But that was our Nige. Full of fun and ready to do anything for a laugh.
He was generous to a fault and would have done anything for those who were lucky enough to be loved by him. He was there for me right up until the end, listening to me prattle on and giving me great advice. I felt so safe in his presence. I knew he would always protect me.
It was a privilege to be able to take care of Nige over the last 2 years, and I am so grateful for all the time we got to spend together and all the incredible things we did, including getting married in Vegas alongside a crazy looking Elvis impersonator. We packed a lot into that time. But then we were always “live in the moment/do it now” kind of people. Losing mum when I was 16 hammered it home for me that life was short and that you shouldn’t wait. All the experiences we had would not have been possible without the support we received, especially from Nige’s mum Diana and my dad Allen. Thank you both for giving us the space to make such amazing memories.
Nige you were so brave at the end I was so proud of how you behaved throughout your illness. You never gave up and you did it all with so much dignity and courage. I am in awe of you.
I could go on for hours about Nige but I’m aware there are others who loved him too, and so I pass on to them. Nige you and the kids are the best thing that ever happened to me and I am so grateful for everything we did and had. Go well now and I really hope one day I get to see your beautiful smile and be in your arms again. You were Christmas and you were fireworks and you were home. Love you babe.