Story telling from Australia
Speak your grief, that’s what Shakespeare said. Give sorrow words. Push through the emotion that chokes your throat and find the words to express how you feel.
This week I witnessed an outpouring of grief for a man whose untimely death shocked the outback community of far western NSW, northern SA and southern Queensland, where your closest neighbour might be several hours drive away.
I never met Luke Betts and I wish I had. He sounded like a good man, a fun-loving man with rubber hips on the dance floor, a ready smile, a huge work ethic, a love of country and an even greater love for his wife Nina and their four children, Toby, Jarred (tragically lost to SIDS) Korey and Jade.
Luke lived and died at Mungerannie station, a remote spot out on the Birdsville Track. The Australian Outback is sparsely populated, arid and bare compared to the densely packed coastline; empty country you might think. But you’d be wrong. This is rich country, full of heart and an overwhelming sense of community.
Some 800 people made it to Luke’s funeral, which was held in Broken Hill this week. It was a measure of the man that so many turned up to pay their respects and to support his grieving family, but it also spoke volumes for the supportive nature of the bush community.
People struggled with words of sorrow, grief, love and laughter, words of comfort and of pain. It took courage for each person to speak.
Nina was the last to address the assembled mourners. She asked that anyone who knew Luke, or who had ever met him, write down what they remembered of him. In years to come Nina will read those stories to their children, and they will know something of their father that way.
I hope Nina receives an outpouring of stories, words to treasure and share in the years ahead.
RIP Luke Betts 2/7/1980 – 18/11/2013